The Potential for Economic Reprocessing of Mine Waste in Ireland
Ireland was once the biggest producer of lead and zinc in Europe but has dropped down the rankings since the Lisheen and Galmoy mines closed. Mine waste is both a potentially valuable resource and, in some cases, an environmental hazard, and represents an opportunity for Ireland to move its mining industry into a new phase.
While modern mines have operated to the highest international environmental standard, those standards were not in place during the lifetimes of the older mines.
From preliminary discussions with EPA, it was clear that processing of secondary waste from many sectors is a significant goal of their sustainability pillar, while cleaning up legacy mine waste falls within their water pillar. SLR built on work by other researchers, including the EPA and Geological Survey of Ireland to conduct a study that indicated:
• The total in-situ value of mine waste in Ireland could be up to €1.5b;
• The most prospective sites include a mixture of late 20th and mid-late 19th century zinc-lead-silver mines;
• There is significant potential to develop a small but important sub-sector within the mining sector.