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Latest Tellus survey unearths the secrets of Waterford's rugged coastline

Latest Tellus survey unearths the secrets of Waterford's rugged coastline

  • ​New state-of-the-art data expected to stimulate mineral exploration
  • Extent of ancient island-arc volcanoes revealed
  • Geological importance of Copper Coast reinforced by findings

The deeply buried geology of the Waterford region has been revealed in new detail as the results of the most recent phase of the Geological Survey of Ireland’s Tellus Programme are published today at the UNESCO Copper Coast Global Geopark in Co. Waterford.

Complex geology data collected and analysed by the Tellus programme has unveiled island-arc volcanoes, similar to those found in Japan, but which formed some 460 million years ago.

A major geological fault running north-south through the region from Tramore to Mullinavat has also been uncovered in unprecedented detail. These findings will assist economic mineral exploration, as well as contribute to updated geological maps of the area.

Additionally, previously unmapped buried igneous bodies were revealed east of Portlaw and offshore in southern Co. Waterford.

Already known for its rugged coastline and rich geological makeup, the latest findings from the Tellus survey shed more light on the Bunmahon region’s copper mining industry which peaked in the mid-19th century. The area is now recognised for its geological diversity and mining heritage by UNESCO in the Copper Coast Global Geopark designation.

Taking almost 6 million geophysical measurements, the Tellus Survey aircraft traversed the sky over eastern Waterford, southern Kilkenny and neighbouring parts of Tipperary and Wexford in May earlier this year. A familiar sight to many in the region, the plane flew 6,560 km – the equivalent of travelling from Waterford to Canada and back – collecting data that will feed into Ireland’s first seamless cross-border geoenvironmental mapping project which began in 2004.

Funded by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE), Tellus aims to have surveyed 50% of the country by the end of 2017 and has plans to complete all-Ireland surveying in the coming years. This latest airborne phase of the survey is a partnership between DCENR and Unicorn Mineral Resources Ltd, an Irish mineral exploration company that co-funded this phase.

Speaking today at the launch of the new data at the UNESCO Copper Coast Geopark visitor centre in Bunmahon, Co. Waterford, Minister for Natural Resources Sean Kyne TD said:

“I’m very pleased to see today the results of this very ambitious survey of the Waterford region by the Tellus team. The significance of the region for geological and mining heritage is recognised internationally by UNESCO and it continues to attract mineral exploration companies who are interested in the area’s rich mineral potential. Tellus data stimulates investment in areas already mapped across Ireland and we hope to continue to support the mineral exploration industry, the tourism industry and local economies in Waterford and eventually nationwide in coming years”.

Koen Verbruggen, Director of the Geological Survey of Ireland thanked the local community at the event:

“We’re delighted to have successfully completed the latest phase of Tellus surveying and would like to thank the local community, particularly farmers and horse owners, for working with us to ensure the smooth operation of the low-flying aircraft”.

Previous phases of Tellus have prompted significant international interest in mineral exploration and provided information for more detailed radon risk maps. The results are set to be of particular interest to the Copper Coast Geopark in Waterford where today’s survey results are set to be displayed.

The new airborne geophysical data from this phase and previous phases of the Tellus Survey are available, free of charge to view and download, at The airborne survey team is currently active in Galway and parts of neighbouring counties, alongside the geochemical survey team which is collecting soil samples in the west of Ireland.