An industry where many have reaped the benefits

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Eamonn Grennan addressed the socio-economic and environmental impact of mining in Letter to the Editor in The Irish Independent.

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An industry where many have reaped the benefits

I wish to address the socio-economic and environmental impact of mining. The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment recently published an assessment of the Galmoy mine, in Co Kilkenny, and Lisheen mine, in Co Tipperary, in this context.

The intention was to provide information on how a rural community might be affected.

The mines produced about seven million tonnes of zinc and lead concentrate between 1997 and 2015. They also gave jobs to over 550 people, 75pc of whom lived within 30km of the operations. They supported nearly 800 other jobs in the wider economy.

This contributed over €300m to the national exchequer, adding €1.6bn to our economy.

Yet while there has been much emphasis on the metals required for a low-carbon future, such as lithium for electrical vehicles, it is often forgotten that there will also be increased requirements for ‘traditional’ metals, like, zinc, copper and lead.

For the past 60 years, our country has been a significant supplier of zinc and lead to European industry. Over the years infrastructural development – necessary for the operations – led to direct benefits for locals.

These included road improvements and telecommunications and power upgrades. All of these developments supported the establishment of other businesses – during operations and post-closure – including a 30-turbine wind farm at Lisheen, which supplies power to 14,200 homes.

As with any industrial development there were too some unavoidable impacts. Depression of the local groundwater table during operations was mitigated by replacement water supply schemes.

As an industry with the potential for fatalities and serious injuries, mines must operate under strict health and safety standards.

While no fatality or accident is acceptable, their record bears comparison with those in agriculture and construction.

Eamonn Grennan

Co Sligo

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