SEG Ireland Fieldtrip
The Bristol SEG Student Chapter field trip, entitled "Base and Precious Metal Mineralisation and Mining in Ireland", ran from the 2nd to the 6th September 2017 and explored the historical and ongoing extraction of minerals in Ireland.
The trip included visits to the Arigna Mining Experience and Giant's Causeway, as well as the oppurtunity to have a detailed look into the operations of both the Galantas gold mine in Omagh, and the Boliden Tara Mine in Navan.
All photographs can be viewed on the events gallery, while a selection can be viewed along with the field report below. The Bristol SEG would like to thank all those that made the trip possible and everyone who came.
Between the 2nd and 6th September, the Bristol SEG Student Chapter sent 11 members to visit the best of Irelands mines and prospects. The trip took us in a clockwise loop around Ireland, starting and finishing in Dublin. The visits varied from visiting old coal mines in Arigna, scrambling across the world-famous Giant's Causeway and watching a controlled explosion at Galantas gold mine. The trip was interspersed with opportunities for the members to relax, including a social with Trinity College Dublin SEG in a local Dublin pub.
Arigna Coal Mine
The first stop was the Arigna Coal Mine. All the
tour guides were former coal miners which
provided an excellent insight into the life of coal
mining. The logistics of coal mining were
introduced, followed by the tools and work life of
the miners. A highlight of the tour was a coal
cutting machine, crudely described as a
'sideways chainsaw', in which our tour guide
described the frantic struggle to guide the
dangerous equipment. We were also treated to
a mine blackout which put into perspective the
conditions the miners used to work in. The work
put in by our previous generation really was
inspiring, and showed that a bit of elbow grease
can get you a long way in life.
A fortunate break in the blustery weather allowed the SEG members to get a good look at Ireland's most famous natural attraction. We were treated to some in-house knowledge of relating the striae in columnar basalts to their cooling histories by SEG president Oliver Higgins, and even the bizarre mythology behind the causeway from SEG treasurer Rory Colville. The surrounding sites, such as the Organ, were explored, complimented by appreciable amounts of geological discussion. The causeway proved to be a worthwhile homage to the University of Bristol igneous petrology department.
Galantas Gold Mine
The inconspicuous mine site of Galantas gold
was visited during a stage of underground
expansion. The size proved to be deceiving as
Bristol SEG were treated to an excellent talk
bout the mines geology, the extraction p
ocesses and its future development. It became
clear that the mine had a great deal of potential
after further underground veins were tapped
into. We also learnt about the extensive
chemical exploration being done in the areas
with newly purchased licences.
A quick tour of the mine followed, including a
view into the beginnings of the underground
tunnel where the miners were loading
explosives into the face. During a trip to the mill
we were fortunate enough to get hands-on with
the finished ore product, taking care to wash our
hands due to the elevated levels of cadmium and arsenic! Galantas also showed us the drill-core shed, and taught us the tell-tale signs of ore in drill core. Observing a controlled explosion was an excellent end to a great mine visit.
Boliden Tara Mine
As the largest Pb-Zn mine in Europe, Boliden contrasted dramatically with the Galantas mine site. Upon arrival, we were treated to an in-depth talk from senior mining geologist Rob Blakeman, who explained the history, mine plan and, most importantly, the geology of the deposit.
As the mine was in production, the mill tour was especially interesting. Bristol SEG were given full protective equipment including some fetching white overalls to prevent contamination. The whole process from feed to finished product was observed, including the intricacies of the control room. The ball mill spun loudly in one corner, the floatation vats bubbled in another and the products were being constantly compressed in another. Our guide had worked at Tara mine since it opened about 30 years ago and treated us to his wealth of experience.
After a generous lunch from Boliden, Bristol SEG drove to the exploration office to learn about drill-core logging. Rob Blakeman narrated the whole geological history of the area he had taught earlier as we walked along the extensive drill core store. As this was the first in-depth look at drill-cores for most of the attendees, it proved a valuable experience of a fundamental geological skill. We learnt that a short drill-core can be interpreted as a surprisingly long geological story.
Following this, the members were taken to the tailings site to learn about the environmental aspect of the mine. After we were given the keys to some battered 4x4's, the Bristol SEG drove around the tailing sites to learn about the treatment process. This varied from massive reservoirs to small, experimental wetlands where the waste was slowly treated by flora and fauna. At a high vantage point, our guide explained the success of previous remediation and showed us the land now being grazed by local animals. Overall, the day spent at Tara mine was fascinating and will be a life-long memory for the members involved.
On our travels, we were fortunate enough to visit Ireland's oldest whiskey distillery and the Guinness factory. In the evenings, the emphasis was good food, good drink and good company. After the customary 'what are you doing here in this tiny place?' exchange we would befriend some of the friendly Irish locals. All in all, there was a good social aspect to the trip which was appreciated by all the members involved.
The Bristol SEG Student Chapter would like to thank the SEG and MinSouth for their generous contributions and great advice. Without them it would not have been possible to run such an educational and entertaining trip.
Members of the SEG are shown the 'chainsaw' which cut through coal layers.
The group poses for a photo at the Giant's Causeway.
Bristol SEG group photo inside the drill-core container at Galantas Gold Mine.
Drill core was watered down to show the geology more clearly.