Zinc exploration takes off

Donal O’Regan


Donal O’Regan

A CANADIAN company hope their zinc exploration in County Limerick takes off once they study the data from their low level airborne survey.

A CANADIAN company hope their zinc exploration in County Limerick takes off once they study the data from their low level airborne survey.

Flashing signs were erected across Limerick weeks ago to warn people not to panic if they saw a big plane flying at altitudes of just 80-85 metres.

The survey was carried out by Teck Ireland - a Zinc exploration company, who are a subsidiary of a Canadian company.

“We’ve had a presence in Ireland for nearly five years exploring for zinc and lead. We have prospecting licences in the Limerick area and the West Meath area,” explained Teck Ireland’s senior geologist, Christopher Reed.

It is hard to understand how they can search for zinc from the sky, and not from the ground, but it is an early stage survey.

“It is a new application of old technology. It measures the changes in the earth’s gravity field. It’s totally non intrusive and totally passive.

“It doesn’t emit anything, it measures how the gravity changes. Gravity changes because the rock changes so if the rock changes you can measure it.

“It doesn’t directly show you where there would be zinc and lead. It helps you map the rocks and once you have an idea of the rocks you can then look for areas where they might be zinc and lead so it is a very early stage survey. It’s a mapping tool,” said Mr Reed.

While it was easy to see the aeroplane it was harder to hear it as the plane is much less noisy than a helicopter or jet. In rough terms the BT67 Bell Geospace aircraft covered the area between Croom and Pallasgreen and Ballysimon to Bruff.

“You want to fly the survey as straight and level as possible. We flew survey lines spaced 175 metres apart. The more lines you have, the more data you have,

“It takes the plane five to eight kms to do a turn. That’s why people would see the plane further away than from what we’re actually surveying,” said Mr Reed.

They spent around two weeks working in Limerick and the project cost “tens of thousands of euros”. They only flew in daylight hours and need low winds and no rain, which is weather not normally associated with Limerick in February.

But the survey went “really well”, according to Mr Reed.

“It’s a good time for the industry. Other companies are making discoveries and it’s a good thing for the region,” he says.

Teck Ireland are a joint venture partner of Connemara Mining, who are drilling in Stonepark, Ballybricken. In December their latest results revealed a two tier zinc deposit.

While in Caherconlish, Minco are carrying out the largest exploration programme ever conducted in Ireland. They spent €7 million on drilling in 2010.

Teck Ireland acquired the prospecting licences for Limerick and West Meath five years ago. Mr Reed said they were chosen because they are “ones that you think would be prospective for zinc and lead”.

“We’re having a very active exploration programme this year, probably one of our busiest years in the Limerick area,” said Mr Reed, who adds that there will be more follow up surveys on the ground.

Teck Ireland advertised in advance of the survey to let people know what was happening, in particular, to landowners and those who have horses or deer.