Uranium Mining in Ireland - the view from 1980


An article from 1980 that details the available information on extensive prospecting taking place in the Wicklow granites in the context of the succesful campaign  against the plan to build a nuclear reactor at Carnsore that this issue of the Contaminated Crow mostly dealt with.

Uranium Mining in Ireland

Until recently most of the energies of people in the anti-nuclear movement have been used mainly in a campaign to prevent the building of a Nuclear Reactor at Carnsore. Only now are we becoming aware of the threat of URANIUM MINING to the country. However, even now, I think, people are unaware of the magnitude of this threat. Uranium Mining, in term of its known effects, the scale of present prospecting and the speed at which this prospecting is progressing toward concrete mine plans is probably a greater nightmare than the proposed Carnsore plant.

Very few people, for example, seem to know about the extensive prospecting taking place in the Wicklow granites even though work here appears significantly further ahead than it does in Donegal.

In 1976 a company called MAUGH were given a license to prospect for Uranium and Thorium. They were allowed a 500sq miles area which included parts of counties Dublin, Wicklow and Carlow. It was a very confident beginning since even they managed at this stage to get an EEC grant to help finance their operations. Since then they have managed to grab the lions share of grants from the same source. By early 1978 MAUGH were drilling merrily away in the Carlow area (Drilling only began in Donegal last year) and have so far managed to avoid any significant publicity.

MAUGH are a French Company wholly owned by Minatome, who are old hands at Uranium hunting. Minatome is itself owned fifty-fifty by two more French Companies PECHINEY, UGINE, KUHLMAN (MINING) and CIE FRANCAISE DE PETROLES (state owned oil company). SILVERMINES have a 20% interest in this particular venture.

FINTOWN in Donegal is probably the prospecting area best known to anti-nukes. This is partly because [An]nglo-United[,] the company involved[,] are not averse to a little publicity. While this risks opposition it does wonders [for] share prices. Anglo-United are Canadian owned and operate in Fintown through a subsidiary called MUNSTER BASE METAL which is owned 27% by NORTHGATE another Canadian Company. Drilling began in Donegal last year and the results were described as `encouraging' (for them). Average mineralisation ranged from 0.61lbs Uranium per ton in their worst drill-hole to 2.12 lbs, per ton in their best. One section of a hole yielded 7.99 lbs. Uranium per ton. Around 2 lbs. per ton all things being equal, would make mining commercially feasible. (It would be terrible to leave [A]nglo-United without mentioning that they number among their directors ---- Peter McAleer, who is a brother-in-law of Desmond O'Malley. Northgate wholly own Irish Base Metal who have been prospecting for the last few years around THOMASTOWN in Co. Kilkenny. Again as in the case of Maugh there seems to be complete silence about results though Irish Base Metals also received an EEC grant last year. IBM shares offices and directors with Munster Base Metal as do TARA PROSPECTING LIMITED and Jetair [E]xploration Ltd[.] Northgate own TYNAGH GOTTRUM and TARA MINES among their other Irish interests. They are at present involved in Labrador in Canada where they are mining Uranium against fierce opposition. Northgate are in turn partly owned by WESTFIELD(can) who are heavily involved in Uranium mining in Australia.

The other two areas of interest in Ireland, Fintona in Co. Tyrone and the Allihies in Co. Cork, are being exploited by the same Company, MINAREX. This is a prospecting out-fit financed by four other companies, SABINA(can) GLENCAR (Ire) DUNGANNON (Ire) & E+B. In the Allihies it is too early to talk about test results, in Tyrone though work began in 1977 with the usual EEC grant, [h]owever as regards results the by now inevitable silence.

New interest is being shown all [the] time in Ireland[`]s Uranium prospects. In 1978 Elf-Aquitaine the French petrol giant did an ariel survey of the country. RTZ did a car-borne survey. In both cases it was announced that nothing of significance had been found. RTZ, strangely enough though, last year received an EEC grant and the trend with these grants in the past has been to give them to those who have definite results, at least from initial surveys.

It perhaps sums up the situation as regards information that one of the most brutal multinationals of the lot are prospecting in Ireland and yet it seems semi-impossible to find out where.

I feel that the priorities of the movement as regards Uranium Mining should be to try to strengthen opposition where it exists, to bring attention to the localities where no opposition exists, (in Carlow this would seem urgent), and to press for precise and detailed information about Uranium Companies, where they are prospecting and with what results, future plans etc. Meanwhile if anyone can add anything to this rather sketchy account would they please write to [C]ontaminated [C]row.

from Contaminated Crow February 1980 pg. 22