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Rehabilitation and construction issues for Silvermines, Ireland

Rehabilitation and construction issues for Silvermines, Ireland

The Silvermines area in County Tipperary, Ireland comprises an area of around 5km2 plus a 74ha tailings facility. A number of abandoned open pits and underground mines were worked there, mainly from the 17th to 20th century, for lead, zinc, copper and barites with some silver. There is a legacy of health and safety issues, as well as potential mining heritage, with tourism and educational interest.

The challenge is not only to remove or minimise health and safety risks, and achieve Water Framework Directive requirements, but to optimise the expenditure while considering what should be conserved or protected in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders.

Progressively, over a number of years, a rehabilitation project has been carried out and is now in the final design and construction stage.

A key issue of dust from tailings has been resolved by capping and vegetation. Targeted sources of contaminated water have been addressed by evaluating the water balance, assessing contributing contaminant loads, and identifying the key sources of contamination for removal. Various small mine waste dumps will be consolidated into a single constructed hazardous waste storage facility using a passive water treatment system to collect and treat mine water.

SRK has been involved in developing concepts for closure over a ten-year period, carrying out site investigations and negotiating with all stakeholders to determine the best solutions for rehabilitating the Silvermines abandoned mine sites. SRK developed the preliminary designs, prepared relevant planning applications and is currently contributing its expertise in the final phases of design and contract management.

Richard Connelly:

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