Disused Mines and Shafts
Disused mines and shafts can be a major problem in many parts of Ireland. In the past, a common practice was to close mining sites, with little consideration given to the need to make these sites fully safe. With better regulation and the existence of the Environmental Protection Agency it is hoped that this practice is a thing of the past.
Old mining sites or abandoned mines which have not been reclaimed when operations ceased can pose risks to the general public and lead to serious land degradation and environmental pollution.
The risks posed can also increase with time as large abandoned tailings facilities, rock dumps, shafts and underground workings gradually deteriorate and where no consideration is given to long-term maintenance and aftercare of the closed mines. As disused mines are generally not places of work, they will not fall within the remit of the Health and Safety Authority. They are however dealt with by other agencies in conjunction with Local Authorities.
Historic Mine Sites (HMS)
The Historic Mine Sites - Inventory and Risk Classification (HMS-IRC) Project is a joint project of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR).
Having completed an environmental assessment of closed and abandoned mine sites the HMS project conducted a safety audit of mining sites. This work has identified those sites with mine related features which cause or may cause a safety hazard to the public. This joint project created an inventory of Irelands Historic Mine Sites. The investigations assess the potential risk posed by these sites to humans, animal health and the surrounding environment.
Read the Executive Summary of the Report
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The objectives of this work were:
- to identify any significant risks to the environment, including human and animal health risks, at these historic mine sites so that these risks ultimatley can be managed and the sites made safe.
- to plan for the forthcoming EU Directive 2006/21/EC on the Management of Wastes from the Extractive Industries.
This Directive will, among other things, require EU Member States to prepare an inventory of closed waste facilities within their jurisdictions by 1st May 2012. The HMS-IRC project assists Ireland to comply with Article 20 of the European Directive. The inventory does not include closed stone, sand and gravel quarries, which also require management under the Directive.
Volume I of the HMS-IRC project addresses the Geochemical Characteristics and Environmental Matters of Ireland's historic mines. A total of 32 mine sites and districts were investigated. Of these 27 mine sites/districts (encompassing 82 individual sites) were scored relative to each other. It is important to note that this is not a risk assessment, but rather the sites have been ranked on a risk basis so as to determine a relative ranking for possible future actions.
The project has resulted in the most comprehensive inventory of historic mines in Ireland that includes a detailed geochemical analysis. It gathers together all the existing information on historic mine sites in Ireland along with significant new information derived from site investigations that will point the way towards future rehabilitaion work on mines in Ireland