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Mining Ireland: sourcing for sustainability

IQMS Mining Ireland conference to examine sustainability of the sector and Ireland's role in global markets

The Mining Ireland conference will examine the scale of Ireland’s mineral potential, mining and mineral exploration projects, and the role Irish companies play in global markets. 

The Irish Mining and Quarrying Society (IMQS), in collaboration with Geoscience Ireland, will host the Mining Ireland conference in Dublin on October 8. "If it is not grown, it is mined - a much-used adage, but one that still holds true. With the Paris Agreement 2016 and the Government of Ireland Climate Action Plan 2019, we are transitioning toward greener energy sources, many of which are dependent on the metals, and it is our responsibility to extract minerals in the most environmentally sustainable way possible," stated the IMQS ahead of the conference.

The production of electric vehicles, solar panels, and wind turbines will require a host of base metals and rare earth metals. The World Bank Group (WBG) reports that a 3MW wind turbine alone requires 4.7 tonnes of copper, 3 tons of aluminium, 2 tons of rare earths (85% of global supply is produced by China) and 335 tons of steel. Demand for resources to develop our social and civil infrastructure, including towns, cities, ports and transport networks (the contribution of zinc in protecting steel from corrosion is essential for the sustainability of our civil networks), and the tools we consider essential to daily life, including mobile phones, batteries and even silverware, continues to grow.

For energy technology, the WBG notes that our demand for lithium is expected to grow by 965% by 2050, cobalt by 585% (over 60% of today’s supply originates from DR Congo) while copper and aluminium demand is expected to grow by 7% and 9% respectively for this sector alone; new wind power installations expecting to use 550 kilotons of copper per annum up to 2021

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Mining companies are now focused on working out how to source primary and recycled raw materials as efficiently and sustainably as possible. 

"Mining is a worldwide activity, with much of it being undertaken in places such as South America, Australia and Africa. Relying on distant resources is unsustainable given the climate impact associated with global supply chains, and therefore, we have an obligation to search for critically important resources within Europe. It is also important to reduce reliance on raw materials from other countries with the potential for geopolitical instability, and environmental and labour standards at odds with European and international codes," said the IQMS.

Ireland has a strong history of mining and could continue to supply today’s demand and the country's future ambitions of renewable energy infrastructure and connected smart towns and cities. Resource and mine development during the 1960s and 70s contributed to economic growth and provided employment at a time when Ireland was witnessing the widespread emigration of its people.

Today, Ireland has one active metal mine, the world-class Tara zinc mine near Navan, Co Meath. The production of zinc and lead is a significant economic sector in Ireland and supports the employment of 1,262 jobs (fte) and has an output of over €550m (Geological Survey Ireland, 2017). These figures contribute to Ireland’s wider geoscience sector which is worth over €3.2 billion and supports almost 25,000 jobs. 

About IQMS

The Irish Mining and Quarrying Society is a small voluntary, membership-funded, non-profit-making organisation which was founded in 1958 to provide a focal point for all those working in the extractive industry in Ireland.

"Our aim is to promote, safeguard and represent the natural resources and extractive industries. The membership is drawn from individuals and companies across all sectors of the industry, ranging from exploration geologists to equipment suppliers. This website has been developed to provide an online resource for members and other stakeholders."

 

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