History of the mines and rehabilitation
Mining at Silvermines dates back as far as 1298 when Italian miners came in search of Silver. The Silvermines is unique amongst Irish Mines, not only because it contains Argentiferous Lead, but it also contains commercial quantities of Copper, Zinc, Barytes & Sulphur. The longevity of mining in the area has resulted in many mining features across the greater Silvermines area including open pits, undermined areas, waste dumps, tailings dam, shafts, adits and derelict surface structures.
The Silvermines Historical Society have published very interesting papers on the historical mining at Silvermines available at www.silvermineshistoricalsociety.com
The last working mine (Baryte mine at Magcobar) was closed in 1993. The years following the closure were not without controversy. Cattle deaths as a result of lead poisoning, dust blows from the Tailings Management Facility and the possibility of a super dump all caused the local community to speak out and rally for the mining sites to be rehabilitated.
1999-2004 Inter-Agency Group
An inter-Agency Group was established to carry out an investigation into cattle deaths in 1999 and published the Report of the Investigation into the presence and influence of lead in the Silvermines area of County Tipperary in June 2000.
This report and the associated Expert Group Report can be found here:
- InterAgency Group Report of the Investigation into the Presence and Influence of Lead in the Silvermines Area of County Tipperary - Department of Agriculture, Food & Rural Development June 2000
- Expert Group on Lead in the Silvermines County Tipperary – EPA Interim Report 2002
- Final Report of Expect Group for Silvermines County Tipperary – Lead and Other Relevant Metals, EPA 2004
One very significant recommendation of this report was for management and rehabilitation plans to be drawn up and implemented for each historic mine site. The Department of Marine & Natural Resources at the time, appointed international mining & environmental consultants SRK (UK) Ltd. to carry out the necessary investigations and prepare conceptual designs.
SRK published their report in April 2002 and it is downloadable here:
Following the enactment of the Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006, North Tipperary County Council was appointed as the Ministers agent to manage the rehabilitation works.
Golder Associates were appointed to finalise the designs and manage the implementation of the rehabilitation programme.
To date, over €11 million has been invested in rehabilitation of the Silvermines sites including conservation works on 5 historic mine structures, capping of Gortmore TMF & numerous safety works on shafts, ponds, open pits etc.
The Mine Waste Management Facility is the final phase of the rehabilitation programme.
The economic downturn in 2011 resulted in this project being delayed until such time as adequate funding can be made available.
The Historic Mine Sites – Inventory & Risk Classification Project (HMS-IRC) (EPA & DCENR (GSI/EMD) 2006-2009
The EPA in conjunction with the EMD of the DCENR, identified a need to develop a systematic and consistent approach to the remediation, rehabilitation and long-term management of these historic mine sites throughout Ireland. The project resulted in the most comprehensive inventory of historic mines in the Country and assists Ireland to comply with Article 20 of European Directive 2006/21/EU for the Management of Waste from Extractive Industries. It can also be used by Local Authorities to assist in their Planning Function. The Silvermines was one of the historic mine site investigated under this Project.
The Final Report along with the Silvermines District Report can be downloaded here:
- The Historic Mine Sites – Inventory & Risk Classification (HMS-IRC) Project (EPA & DCENR (GSI/EMD) 2006-2009
- The Silvermines District
Environmental Monitoring at Silvermines
The DCENR appointed Environmental Consultants CDM Smith Ireland Ltd. to undertake a programme of environmental monitoring for a 3yr period commencing in 2013.
This monitoring has continued beyond the initial 3year agreement and all reports are available for download at:
The Kilmastulla River and its tributaries; The Yellow River, Silvermines Stream & Garryard Stream, have been monitored at numerous stations by the EPA since monitoring began in the 1970’s. In more recent times, The Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) was agreed by all EU Member States in 2000 and establishes a framework for the protection, improvement and management of surface waters (rivers, lakes, transitional and coastal) and groundwaters. The objective of the WFD is for all waterbodies to achieve at least Good Status by specified time frames (by; 2015, 2021, 2027). The WFD sets out three monitoring programmes used for the assessment of Status and assignment of Risk, namely; Operational, Surveillance and Investigative Monitoring.
The Kilmastulla and its tributaries is divided into 5 “sub-basins”. The current status assigned to each sub-basins of the Kilmastulla (Kilmastulla_10, 20, 30, 40 & 50) are given in the table below as well as their associated “Risk” (of not achieving their objectives under WFD).
|IE_SH_25K041000||Kilmastulla_50||Good||Not at Risk|
Further details, including maps, with regard to WFD Monitoring are available at:
2017/2018 Inter-Agency Group
In early 2017, following the death of two cows from Lead poisoning in the Silvermines area, the Department of Agriculture, Food & Marine again activated the protocol for the collaboration of State Bodies responsible for public health, animal health and the environment. This reconvened IAG was not intended to carry out the same extensive work as the IAG of 1999-2004 as it was envisaged that the risk had not substantively changed but the “active management” measures may require updating given new more stringent regulations and better understanding of scientific risk assessment.
The following reports and advice leaflets were published following the conclusion of the IAG.
- Report of an Inter-Agency Group on the Silvermines Area of County Tipperary, May 2018
- Lead & your Health - HSE
- Lead & Animal Health – Teagasc
If you have any queries or comments, please feel free to email the Environment Section at firstname.lastname@example.org