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Northern Ireland: The Next Gold Mining Frontier?

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Northern Ireland may soon become the focus of a gold rush, as decades of plans to develop precious metal deposits began to finally take shape in 2014. The existence of gold reserves in Northern Ireland is nothing new to industry insiders, but a long-time ban on explosives in that country had historically stalled development of those reserves.

Dalradian Resources, a Canadian mining company, has secured the mineral rights to more than 80,000 hectares (197,684 acres) in Northern Ireland, including a deposit in Curragihinalt. That site has been identified as one of the top ten undeveloped gold deposits by grade in the entire world. According to their projections, Dalradian hopes to contain 3.5 million ounces of gold, yielding 160,000 ounces annually over the next 20 years.

A Boom for Jobs in Northern Ireland

According to BBC reports, the underground exploration phase of the project will employ around 300 people locally, for both mining and support positions. Dalradian had thought about keeping the support positons in Canada, but Northern Ireland’s business-friendly tax code and the support of local officials swayed them to locate the jobs near the mine.
Dalradian has been conducting exploration in the area since 2010, with a skeleton staff of around 25 people. Those efforts identified over 3.5m ounces of gold, and led the company to start ramping up their efforts. Their findings will determine how many jobs are ultimately created, but representatives from Northern Ireland’s business development agencies tell the BBC they are looking forward to the new jobs, and ultimately the money that will be pumped into the local economy from the mine.

In August 2014, Northern Ireland’s Enterprise, Trade and Investment minister Arlene Foster threw financial support behind the project, providing an investment of £326,000 ($511,432.06) to support job development. In the announcement Foster stated, “I first met with Dalradian Resources last year on a visit to Canada and I very much welcome that those initial talks, combined with the company’s attendance at the Northern Ireland Investment Conference last October, have led to this investment. The company is looking to develop the first underground gold mine in Northern Ireland and this offers a unique opportunity to introduce specialist skills and sophisticated international resource investment into our important professional services sector.”

Relaxing Northern Ireland’s Ban on Explosives

Small-scale mining has been underway near the Curraghinalt site at the nearby Galantas open pit mine for several years, and produced around 1,400 ounces of gold in 2013. Curraghinalt would be the first industrial-scale mine ever in Northern Ireland.

There have been attempts to mine the site since the 1980’s when gold and other precious mineral deposits were first discovered, but efforts have been limited to exploration and small-scale production thanks to explosives restrictions enacted during the political upheavals in Northern Ireland. Those restrictions made it far too difficult to explore and mine underground. However, mining companies have been lobbying the government consistently over the last 15 years in an effort to access the deposits.

Dalradian’s explorations have yielded such positive results, that the government is considering granting the company permission to utilize explosives to build out their site.

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