Celtic Copper Heritage
Geology Matters No. 7
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Gerry Stanley

Celtic Copper Heritage is an EU funded Interreg 3A project between the historic mining areas of Avoca in Co. Wicklow and Amlwch on the island of Anglesey in Wales. In Ireland the project partners include Eastern Regional Fisheries Board (ERFB), Wicklow County Council, Geological Survey of Ireland, Vale of Avoca Development Association (VADA), Mining Heritage Trust of Ireland, and East Coast and Midlands Tourism. The ERFB are the lead organization for the Avoca part of the project. Local engagement and support from the community is provided through VADA and is vital to the success of the project.

Miners at Avoca

The aim of the Celtic Copper Heritage project is to harness the historical copper mining heritage in Avoca, (Wicklow, Ireland) and Amlwch (Wales), as a means of generating positive economic, social, cultural, and environmental impacts in their respective regions.

The basis for this international collaboration are the features common to both areas:

  • Similar ore deposits and associated 200 years of mining history;
  • Comparable geology with the host rocks being ‘Lower Palaeozoic’ in age and comprising of volcano-sedimentary piles;
  • Development of both mines was started in the 18th century by the same company which transferred from Amlwch, at the end of its lease, to Avoca;
  • Pollution poses problems at both sites in the form of ‘acid mine drainage’ (‘AMD’), thus inhibiting future development planning.

There are two main work packages to the project, namely addressing the pollution to the river Avoca and highlighting and developing the heritage aspects to the historic mining at Avoca. The former is addressed by the commissioning of a pilot active water treatment plant to remediate the waters in the river while the latter is being dealt with through developing walking trails at he site with explanatory text in leaflet form and through the use of signage along the walk routes. In addition, a web site has been developed which provides background information to the project as a whole as well as giving information on the Avoca area (http://www.celtic-copper.eu/ ).

The pilot plant for treating the discharges from the mine to the Avoca River was installed in 2006 and a report on its operation submitted to the partners in 2007. The overall conclusion of the report was that a full scale plant could be installed on the River to treat discharges from the mine which would reduce the levels of acid drainage and metals entering the river so that fish should be able to migrate up the river once more.

The Pilot treatment plant at Avoca.
The Pilot treatment plant at Avoca.

Within in the Avoca area there are many manifestations of the past mining activity which dates back to 1720. This includes engine houses; mine adits; open pits; spoil heaps; and other mine artefacts. Through the description and documentation of these mine features it is hoped to highlight the rich mine heritage of the Valley.

Raising the profile as a visitor destination – generating a national profile is essential if the increased visitor numbers, and associated positive economic impacts, are to be realised.

The tramway arch at Avoca looking to the east with an engine house chimney visible in the distance.
The tramway arch at Avoca looking to the east with an engine house chimney visible in the distance.

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