Historic Mine Sites

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Historic Mine Sites
Gerry Stanley, Minerals Section - GSI

Ireland has a rich mining history dating back to the Bronze Age. GSI’s minerals localities database, known as Minlocs, has over 5,000 entries which include both metallic and non-metallic commodities. Of these entries almost 1,500 are for metallic minerals and over 450 are described as mines.

There are numerous types of mineral deposits and Ireland has examples of many of them that have been worked over the years. Of the 450 mines listed in Minlocs some 220 had significant production of metals (for example lead or copper), non-metals (for example, gypsum used in the manufacture of plaster) and coal. Many of the deposits that are described as mines were often trials – an excavation into the ground exploring for minerals. The map shows the main mineral deposits in Ireland.

Main Mineral deposits

The closed mines can be classified according to the mineral worked and the time in which they operated:

  1. Underground and surface mining operations for coal since the 18th Century.
  2. Workings for non-metals prior to the 1920s.
  3. Metal bearing veins worked for the most part prior to the 20th Century but some workings operated into the 1950s.
  4. Modern workings for non-metals (latter half of 20th Century).
  5. Modern metal operations mainly from the latter half of the 20th Century.

 Shaft at Dysert Coal Mine  Powder House at Dhurode copper mine
Shaft at the Dysert Coal Mine,
Kanturk, Co. Cork.
Estimated depth of shaft 26m.
Powder House (explosive store) at the Dhurode copper mine on the Mizen Peninsula, Co. Cork.

The Environmental Protection Agency worked with the GSI to examine the risks of waste materials at these sites and the results of this work were published in 2010. Work is ongoing at the Geological Survey to examine the extent of old workings at these sites and to identify any hazardous features such as, buildings, adits (horizontal entrances into mines), shafts (vertical openings into mines) and other features. It is expected that this latter study will be published next year.