Mining and the Environment



Programme of Remediation Works commencing 2014.

The Government has allocated €3m to address essential health and safety works which will be undertaken to make safe hazards arising from adits, shafts, and unstable spoil heaps, and provision of further fencing and signage.

A multi-disciplinary project team has been appointed for this purpose. The successful contractor is CDM Smith Ireland Ltd in conjunction with Bruce Shaw Partnership and GWP Consultants LLP. This is a three year contract that commenced on the 19th December 2013.

The role of the project team is to assist the Department in identifying work to be prioritised and to project manage all elements of the work to be carried out over the next three years, addressing the immediate health and safety hazards. The construction work will be carried out by specialist contractors.

The project team is required to liaise and consult with relevant stakeholders throughout the duration of the project.


Background about Avoca

The Avoca river, Co. Wicklow which flows southwards through the Avoca mine site is overlooked by upland areas known as the East and West Avoca mine areas. The mine area was subdivided into a number of properties in the 18th and 19th centuries, each named after the townlands in which they were located. From northeast to southwest, these were Connary, Cronebane, Tigroney on the eastern side of the river, and Ballygahan and Ballymurtagh on the western side. The East and West Avoca division is a relatively recent one.

Since 1720, mining has played a large role in the economy of Avoca, Co. Wicklow. Among the minerals produced in the last two centuries, copper has been primarily mined along with silver and to a lesser extent gold.

Pollution of the Avoca River by mine water discharging from drainage adits of abandoned copper and sulphur mines at Avoca, Co. Wicklow, Ireland, is a long-recognised problem. In addition there is diffuse flow into the river. The river is severely affected by the mine water and is considered by the EPA to be the most severely polluted stretch of river in Ireland. Many studies have taken place in recent years relating to the Avoca River and its remediation. Among these, the University of Newcastle, in connection with the Eastern Regional Fisheries Board, produced a report in July 2003 entitled Restoring the Avoca River. The preferred option for remediation was active treatment. However this can only be applied to the point discharges and does not take into account the diffuse flow and contaminated river sediments which are also contaminating the river quality.

The Camp Dresser McKee Ltd (CDM) report on the feasibility of managing and remediating the former mine site at Avoca, Co. Wicklow was completed in December 2008 and recommends active treatment of the point discharges into the Avoca River as well as treating the principal (spoil piles) cause of the contamination. This Feasibility study also recognizes the importance of the diffuse flow and contaminated sediments and provides solutions for these also.

This report can be downloaded as PDF files from the links below:

CDM Reports

GWP Report and Maps

GWP Consultants (GWP) Health and Safety Audit of Avoca Mine Site, 2007.

Environmental Monitoring at Avoca

In addition to the remediation work, continued monitoring to ensure no significant change in conditions occurs on site without detection is being provided for by way of a specialised “Environmental Monitoring” service also procured from an expert consultancy in December 2012. 


Silvermines Rehabilitation Project

In June 2000, a Report on the Investigation into the Presence and Influence of Lead in the Silvermines area of County Tipperary was issued by an Inter-Agency Group. One of the recommendations in this report specified for management and rehabilitation plans to be drawn up and implemented for each historic mine site in the area. SRK were engaged to prepare conceptual designs for the management and rehabilitation of the Silvermines region.  Please see below for SRK's reports.


Environmental Monitoring at Silvermines

Arrangements have been put in place to provide for continued monitoring of the Silvermines sites to ensure no significant change in conditions occurs without detection. An expert consultancy was procured in December 2012 to provide specialised monitoring of the sites and monitoring activities are ongoing.

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