GeoGathering
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GeoGathering
Gerry Stanley - GSI

Throughout 2013 a tourism initiative known as The Gathering 2013 was run to invite the Irish international community to return home to meet their friends and family. To celebrate the contribution of Irish geoscientists to the advancement of geosciences internationally in exploration, palæontology, geo-policy, mining, hydrogeology, engineering, geo-tourism and finance across academia, society and business, four of Ireland’s leading geoscience organisations (GSI, IAEG, IMQS and the IGI) organised the Geo-Gathering over the weekend of 19-20th October 2013 at the Menlo Park Hotel in Galway.

There were nine extremely interesting and informative talks covering most areas of the geosciences but in particular resources (minerals and hydrocarbons). The meeting was opened by GSI Director, Koen Verbruggen who thought that many of us "looked like extras from ‘The Quiet Man’ before we left Ireland some 30 years ago". He went on to provide a summary of the exciting geology that is taking place right across the wide spectrum of the geosciences in Ireland.

Speakers at the GeoGathering
Speakers at the GeoGathering: back row (left to right) – Christian Schaffalitzky (Eurasia Mining), Kevin Quinn (Tullow Oil), Adrian Black (Newexco Services), Derek Briggs (Yale Peabody Museum); front row (left to right) – Koen Verbruggen (GSI), Murray Hitzman (Colorado School of Mines), Maeve Boland (American Geosciences Institute), Eibhlin Doyle (EMD), and Dale Hendrick (Hendrick Resources)


Dale Hendricks presented a lifetime of experiences in the minerals sector (over 60 years) ending with some very interesting insights into salting (a practice of enhancing exploration results).

Eibhlín Doyle summarised the recently delivered report on the "Assessment of Economic Contribution of Mineral Exploration and Mining in Ireland" carried out by Indecon. The sector contributes a handsome €809m economy-wide expenditure impact employing over 3,000 people with a broad geographic spread.

Derek Briggs explored the weird and wonderful world of fossils and fossil communities with examples from the famous Burgess Shale site in Canada. His talk was illustrated throughout with 3D reconstructions of some of the most intriguing life forms ever recorded on our planet.

Maeve Boland presented a most interesting talk on how we interact with decision makers, communities and politicians. The basic tenet of her presentation was that we needed to be more proactive with these groups as they ultimately make policy, pay our bills or lead our lives.

Murray Hitzman reported on the recently published National Academy of Sciences (of America) report into carbon dioxide capture and storage and hydraulic fracturing (fracking). The basic message was that once properly carried out and policed fracking can be safe and contributes significantly to energy supply and security. With respect to carbon dioxide storage the Academy recommends that extensive and careful studies on the rocks into which the carbon is to be placed need to take carried out before carbon dioxide is injected into the reservoir.

Kevin Quinn spoke about the success story of Tullow Oil. One of the factors contributing to that success is the philosophy the once you discover an oil or gas accumulation production will follow or put more succinctly "discover – and production will take care of itself". Tullow operates in several African countries and prides itself with excellent community relationships with many programmes aimed at providing assistance to their neighbours.

Adrian Black, working in Australia, presented a case history of discovery. In his case he was discovering nickel in Western Australia in an area which had been explored previously. His take home message was "keep drilling and work as a team". These are his essential ingredients for success and his company Newexco won the coveted "Discovery of the Year Award" in Australia in 2008 and the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies "Prospector of the Year Award" in 2009.

Christian Schaffalitzky rounded up the talks session with a wide ranging discourse touching on many of the topics covered in the earlier talks and spoke about the Future of Irish Geology. He showed and intriguing image from the air of a windfarm and a fracking installations from Germany – it was really hard to see the fracking installation. Christian mulled over the recent move away from the use of the words geology and geologists and made a heartfelt plea not to call ourselves Earth Scientists!

There was an evening dinner followed by music and ‘dancing’. However, as Margaret Browne put it best, we demonstrated that we definitely cannot do the ‘Siege of Ennis’.

On the following day some 30 survivors went on a field excursion to the Burren lead by John Murray of NUIG where he demonstrated both geological and archaeological wonders of the region.

A special word of appreciation should go to Margaret Browne (IAEG) who coordinated the event with assistance from Noeleen Fox (IAEG), Roy Coates (IAEG), Mark Patton (IAEG), Siobhan Tinnelly (IMQS), Sean Finlay (IMQS), Deirdre Lewis (IGI), Marie Fleming (IGI), Laurena Leacy (IGI) and Gerry Stanley (GSI and IGI).

Reaction to the event was really positive and all agreed that as a formula for future meetings it was one worth repeating – perhaps at an interval of 5 years.