Galmoy plans a long shot in the current climate

One big change since Galmoy closed seven years ago has been the environmental agenda

Tony O’Reilly jnr at the site of the Galmoy mine in 1997. Applications have been lodged by Shanoon Resources to reopen the mine. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Tony O’Reilly jnr at the site of the Galmoy mine in 1997. Applications have been lodged by Shanoon Resources to reopen the mine. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

 

There was a time in the not too distant past when Ireland was one of the world’s biggest producers of lead and zinc, with large mines such as Tara, Lisheen and Galmoy in operation.

Mining stopped at Galmoy in 2014 and at Lisheen the following year, while Tara is Europe’s largest mine, having been operational since 1977. Sir Anthony O’Reilly and his family were previously backers of the Galmoy mine through their involvement with Arcon.

Now comes a plan from an entity called Shanoon Resources to reopen the Galmoy mine, with applications submitted to Kilkenny and Laois county councils.

According to its backers, the mine could be extended underground into Co Laois and have up to 10 years of additional mine life. They cite a global shortage of zinc as part of the business case for reviving the mine, and say 100 people could be employed there during a 12-month construction phase and 90 once it is operational.

Shanoon made a similar application in 2018 to the councils, who sought further information, before it was withdrawn the following year. It is not clear where the funding for the project will come from. Latest accounts filed for the company show it had accumulated losses of €1.9 million at the end of 2020.

There might indeed be a sound business case for reopening the mine. But there has been one significant external change since Galmoy closed seven years ago – the environmental agenda.

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warned that human activity was changing the climate in unprecedented and sometimes irreversible ways.

Against that backdrop, and with three Green Party Ministers in Cabinet, a plan to reopen and extend a mine located 150 metres underground that would operate 24 hours a day, six days a week, with three dump truck trips per hour, and “continuous” mine dewatering and backfill operations, to produce ore that would then be shipped overseas for processing, looks like a long shot. At least they don’t intend to do any blasting on Sundays or bank holidays.

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