Ireland has a diverse geology for its relatively small size that is prospective for a range of mineral commodities.
The Lower Carboniferous carbonate rocks of the Irish Midlands host one of the great orefields of the world. Since 1960, a number of significant zinc-lead deposits have been discovered, including the giant orebody at Navan. Industry has ranked Ireland first in terms of zinc discovered per kilometre squared, and second with respect to lead. High metal grades, shallow occurrences and the clean metallurgy of orebodies, all result in a relatively low cost of mining for the 'Irish-type' zinc-lead deposits.
A large area of Ireland is underlain by metasediments and metavolcanics of Proterozoic and Lower Palaeozoic age. These contain significant copper-(zinc-lead) mineralization (e.g. at Avoca) and gold-bearing quartz veins. There is exploration interest for these minerals particularly in Counties Cavan, Donegal, Galway, Monaghan, Wexford and Wicklow.
Ireland's varied geology makes it prospective for a number of commodity types. In addition to gold and base metal potential, recent exploration has been carried out for the following commodities:
- Platinum Group Metal (PGM) mineralization associated with mafic intrusive complexes in northeast Ireland.
- Rare Earth Element and speciality metals (e.g. lithium, tantalum, tungsten and tin) associated with 'pegmatite' intrusions that cross-cut the Caledonian Leinster granite batholith in southeast Ireland.
- Nickel and chromite associated with ultramafic intrusions in the west of Ireland
- Diamonds and other gem minerals associated with the Pre-Cambrian rocks of Inishowen, Co. Donegal.
There is significant potential for industrial minerals. In recent year's gypsum, dolomite, silica sand, brick shale and fireclay have all been mined. Additional modern day exploration has also identified deposits of coal, barytes and talc.
Our publications contain more information; you may also be interested in visiting the Geological Survey website