Precious gold and, for the first time, platinum, deposits have been discovered in streams and rivers in south Leinster, according to the Geological Survey of Ireland’s Tellus Programme.
The discovery was made by applying modern testing methods to stream samples collected in the 1980s.
The most notable levels of platinum are found mainly in the area to the southeast of the towns of Aughrim and Tinahely on the Wicklow-Wexford border.
Platinum, which is rarer than gold, has never before been discovered in stream sediment from the south Leinster region.
It is a particularly valuable metal, not only for jewellery but also for industrial use in electronics, medical applications and catalytic converters in cars.
As well as reconfirming high levels of gold in streams near the Goldmines River and Avoca regions of Wicklow, the new data identifies high gold values in streams that flow across and along the edges of the Leinster granite, a complex area long thought to be a source for the gold mineralisation in the region.
The new geochemical data for south-east Ireland and all previous phases of the Tellus Survey are available, free of charge, to view and download. The new data released today (2 March) will be showcased next week at a major international convention, the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) in Toronto on 7 March.
Ireland has a Gold Coast – who knew?
High gold values in streams have also been identified in Co Waterford, in the Dungarvan to Stradbally area, locally known as the “Gold Coast” and is thought to be sourced from 450m-year-old volcanic rocks in the area.
The recently reanalysed data from the Tellus Survey team also highlights a broad zone of gold in Co Wicklow, north of the Sugar Loaf region, where only small traces of the precious metal have been found previously.
The big question is just how much gold and platinum can be salvaged from the streams and if this will present a major industrial and economic opportunity for Ireland.
It is hoped that this new data, along with additional data from samples due to be released later this year, will offer a fresh perspective on Ireland’s natural resources, with the scope for further exploration attracting additional inward investment.
“The mining and mineral exploration industry’s contribution to the Irish economy has been considerable over the past five decades,” said Koen Verbruggen, director of the Geological Survey of Ireland.
“The industry is currently suffering from a major global downturn due to low commodity prices, which coupled with a scarcity of recent economically significant discoveries has seen Ireland’s indigenous production of metals retreat with the closure of a number of mines.
“A core strategy of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and that of the Geological Survey of Ireland is to support investment and development of this important industry by producing high-quality openly available geological information to identify new areas for exploration. I am pleased to see the latest Tellus data highlighting new insights, and opens new possible opportunities for investment into our underexplored country.”
Tellus aims to have surveyed 50pc of the country by the end of 2017 and has plans to complete national surveying in the coming years. A geochemical sampling survey will be undertaken with a team of agricultural scientists gathering stream samples across the west, midlands and east of the country over the next two years.
The Tellus Programme also includes an airborne survey, which will be active in the Waterford region later this spring and Galway later in the year.
Gold image via Shutterstock