Zinc and lead at site that could potentially house Ireland’s second-largest mine, writes Gavin McLoughlin.
Mining giant Glencore has re-started drilling at its Pallas Green prospect in Limerick, the Sunday Independent has learnt.
The project had been put into abeyance for a number of years, but Glencore has moved eight rigs on to the site in recent weeks.
The company, which has had a turbulent run on the back of falling commodity prices and a large debt pile, recently declared “job done” on efforts to cut its debt.
A Glencore spokesman confirmed that the company had engaged a local firm for drilling at Pallas Green.
“The objective is to better understand certain aspects of the deposit,” the spokesman said, adding that any decision about building a fully-fledged mine at the site was “a long way down the road”.
A 2013 Glencore report said that the site could potentially have as much as 42 million tonnes of recoverable resources. Lead and zinc are present there.
If that figure proves accurate, a mine there would be the second-largest in Ireland after the famous Tara mine near Navan in Meath, Europe’s biggest zinc mine.
That mine is owned by Swedish company Boliden, which said earlier this year that it was investing €44m to deepen the mine and boost its lifespan by six years.
The price of zinc has soared 70pc in the past 18 months, leading to a material uptick in activity in the Irish sector. Irish minerals explorer Unicorn Mineral Resources is in talks to sell itself to a Canadian-listed company, in a deal that could value it at some €7m. It is also considering listing in Canada via a reverse takeover of a cash shell.
In addition, Canadian-listed Hannan Metals has started drilling at a prospect in Kilbricken in Co Clare.
“Our team has worked hard to extract as much information as possible from the extensive project and regional databases that took previous explorers more than €16m to acquire… we are wasting no time in getting a drill rig turning at this highly prospective base metal property,” Hannan chief executive and chairman Michael Hudson told the market earlier this month.
Canada is one of the world’s biggest mining hubs, and another Canadian company has taken a stake in Dublin-based zinc explorer Group Eleven Resources.
The investment by Vancouver-headquartered MAG Silver in the Irish firm was part of a wider fundraising that saw the company raise almost €1.1m from backers to develop zinc projects in this country. Investors in the company include former Davy corporate finance boss Hugh McCutcheon.
Group Eleven ceo Bart Jaworski was previously an equity analyst at Davy.
The company has Limerick prospects south of the Pallas Green site, and received €500,000 from MAG Silver.
Stock market-listed MAG Silver develops silver mines in Mexico. It has a market capitalisation of around CAD$1.3bn (€864m).