Tellus Border environmental project delivers its results

New areas highlighting anomalous gold concentrations in stream sediments have been identified in the most comprehensive mapping project undertaken in the border counties to date, Minister Fergus O’Dowd has announced.

Significant findings from the Tellus Border Project – an EU INTERREG IVA-funded mapping project which involved the collection of scientific data on soils, waters and rocks across the border counties of Ireland – were announced today at the project’s Results and Research conference.

Amongst the most significant results from the project was the gold map which is the most extensive dataset of gold in regional stream sediments completed in Ireland to date.

Celebrating the conclusion of the major cross-border initiative, Minister for Natural Resources, Mr Fergus O’Dowd TD, commended “both the world-class science and the cross-border partnerships that underpinned the project.

“I am delighted that this new dataset is available and its results will assist mineral exploration in the border county region.

As well as highlighting known existing gold occurrences, such as Clontibret in Co. Monaghan and Glentogher and Glencolumbkille in Co Donegal, a number of new areas with anomalous gold concentrations have been identified including near Kingscourt on the Monaghan – Cavan border, Carrickmacross in Co Monaghan, Killashandra in Co Cavan, Easky in Co Sligo and several areas of the Inishowen Peninsula, and Termon, in Co. Donegal.

“Following the Tellus Survey (2004-07), which produced a gold map for Northern Ireland, mineral exploration licence applications increased significantly and it is now estimated that £32 million has been stimulated in inward investment to the Northern Irish economy,” said Minister O’Dowd.

“Since preliminary data from the Tellus Border project was released in February 2013, the border region of Ireland has seen an increase in prospecting licence applications, with a committed spend of up to €1m over a six year period in the Irish economy if the applications are successful.

“The gold map, along with other maps released today, will add to that economic investment already beginning in the Border area.”

The comprehensive sets of results from the project were unveiled by the project teams involved at a conference attended by 175 delegates at the Hillgrove Hotel in Co Monaghan.

The project, which involved a land-based geochemical survey and an airborne geophysical survey, collected a wealth of new information about the natural resources of the border region – namely counties Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan and Louth.

Managed jointly by the Geological Survey of Ireland and the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland, Tellus Border is one of the most significant mapping projects ever to take place in Ireland and, in conjunction with its forerunner, Tellus, covering Northern Ireland, makes the region one of the most surveyed on the planet.

Along with the results from the two surveys, findings from 13 applied research projects were revealed, indicating new and innovative uses for the data in environmental management, mineral exploration and agricultural productivity.

Through its extensive ground-sampling programme – with close to 21,000 soil, water and sediment samples collected – Tellus Border has also revealed information on over 50 elements in soil including those critical to animal and crop health in the border region.

Providing high resolution mapping of trace elements such as copper, molybdenum and zinc which can affect productivity, Tellus Border shows how levels vary with regional rock types – information which will be of interest to farmers, advisors, horticulturists and feed and agro-chemical merchants.

A final stand out result is the survey’s contribution to the accuracy of maps showing areas with naturally high levels of radon. Working in conjunction with the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, the new Tellus Border data has helped improve by a factor of ten the accuracy of maps, allowing for high radon risk areas to be targeted for further investigation and ultimately the protection of public health from radon risks in the long term.

Along with previously known high radon risk areas in Co. Sligo, new areas of potential risk were identified in parts of Co Donegal and Monaghan.

Discussing the importance of today’s announcements, Minister O’Dowd said: “Strategic and sustainable management of the environment and our natural resources has been our key focus throughout this survey, and it’s fantastic to see data emerging which will have a positive impact on the region’s environmental and agricultural sectors – as well as our health and economy – for years to come.

“It is crucial that we develop a greater understanding of the natural environment we inhabit, and today’s results deliver a substantial step forward in this area.”

Pat Colgan, Chief Executive of the SEUPB – the lead funder on the €5 million project – added: “These results provide an exciting glimpse into the significance of the data captured and its potential for the sustainable management of our shared environment.

“This has been an exceptional project, revealing exciting new data which shows that geology does not begin and end with borders.”

The Project
The cross-border Tellus Border project has been funded by the INTERREG IVA development programme of the European Regional Development Fund, which is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).

This is the largest of the latest awards under the Environment theme of INTERREG IVA and is part-funded by the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government and Northern Ireland’s Department of the Environment.

The project is a joint initiative between the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI), the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland (GSNI), Dundalk Institute of Technology and Queen’s University Belfast and builds on the award-winning Tellus Project which has already successfully mapped Northern Ireland.

Data collected during both surveys will be integrated with the existing data to give a cross border geological baseline.