Tara Mines: ‘Very significant’ water flow halts production

Water enters zinc mine faster than it can be pumped out after hole drilled for ventilation shaft

Tara Mines in Co Meath: ‘very significant’ water flow at the zinc mine. File photograph: Irish Times

Tara Mines in Co Meath: ‘very significant’ water flow at the zinc mine. File photograph: Irish Times

 

Production as Tara Mines in Co Meath has halted as staff work to get a “very significant” water flow under control.

The issue at the zinc mine occurred when workers were drilling a hole for a ventilation shaft, and water is now flowing into the mine at a faster rate than it can be pumped out.

Gunnar Nystrom, general manager at Tara Mines, told Morning Ireland on RTE Radio 1 that they have a “solution” and a “plan” to tackle the water flow.

“The water flow that comes in exceeds our pumping capacity in the mine.No the mine [is not flooded] at the moment. We are preparing at the moment to protect the infrastructure in the mine and so on. Moving equipment and our main focus is to close drain holes and stop the water flow.

“Hopefully we will stop the flow in the coming days. Everyone is at work. The shifts are going on as usual. We have a very engaged and skilled workforce here at Tara and all employees are needed in activities we are doing at the moment,” Mr Nystrom said.

“Safety is of course our number one priority. We have all the risk assessments done.”

Mr Nystrom offered workers and their families assurance over job security. “We need all the employees if we are to to continue that work. Everybody needs to be in work as usual. We don’t [envisage suspensions] happening at this time.”

He said it was too early to say whether the situation can be brought under control within days. “It is at present unclear how long the the production stop will be due to the water. This is the first time with this amount of water.”

Mr Nystrom added there was no environmental concerns but that it is something that they “are keeping track of”.

In a statement, mine owner Boliden said the increased water flow “resulted from drilling of a pilot raisebore hole for a ventilation shaft”.

Production has been stopped to “focus on protecting infrastructure and equipment”, while also eliminating unnecessary additional water into the mine, the statement said.

Tara Mines is the largest zinc mine in Europe and has 580 direct employees.

Meath East TD Peadar Tóibín of Aontú said hundreds more people are indirectly supported by economic activity around the mine .

“The first concern from people I have spoken to is obviously that the workers are safe. But they are also concerned obviously that any suspension would have an impact on the incomes of families. They are hopeful and have confidence in management of the mine.

“We are hopeful that this won’t be a prolonged experience. But there a concern amongst some people in the town that if is a prolonged experience what effect that would have on the economy of the county and of the town,” Mr Tóibín said.