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Latest Tellus Survey findings unearth ‘building blocks’ of Ireland

  • Survey results set to assist mineral exploration industry 


19 February 2016

The long-buried geological history of the Dublin, Meath, Kildare, Wicklow, Offaly and Laois region has been revealed in new detail as the results of the most recent phase of the Geological Survey of Ireland's Tellus Programme are published.


Taking almost 30 million geophysical measurements over a 5,810km2 area, the low-flying Tellus Survey aircraft traversed the sky over Eastern Ireland from June to October last year. Flying over 32,000 km – the equivalent of travelling from Ireland to Australia and back– the survey aircraft collected data which will feed into Ireland's first seamless cross-border geoenvironmental mapping project which began in 2007.


The geophysical magnetic maps reveal the join between two ancient continents which collided 400 million years ago, to form Ireland as we know it today. The complex fault lines of this collision, located in a wedge-shaped area in Co. Meath between Navan and Drogheda, are highlighted in new detail. The location of Europe's largest zinc mine, operated by Boliden Tara Mines Ltd, is shown to be at a junction of these ancient fault lines. It is anticipated that further study of the data by geologists will enhance exploration for base metals and other natural resources across Ireland.


Minister for Natural Resources, Joe McHugh T.D. said:

"The economic value-added contribution of the mining and mineral exploration industry to the Irish economy is considerable and far-reaching. A core strategy of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources is to support this important industry by producing high-quality geoscience information and I am pleased to see the latest Tellus data serving this purpose".


Ray Scanlon, Principal Geologist at the Geological Survey of Ireland, explains that the resulting maps detailing magnetic, natural radioactivity and conductivity properties of the rocks and soil in the area can also support better environmental decision making, radon mapping and smart agriculture:  

"The Tellus Survey airborne programme, which has now successfully mapped 33% of Ireland, continues to reveal interesting and previously unknown detail on Ireland's geological landscape. This geological understanding is vital for environmental, health and economic reasons, and the data will be welcomed by a broad range of stakeholders for agricultural, radon prevention, groundwater protection and mineral exploration purposes."


Flying at 60 metres over rural areas and 240 metres over urban areas, technology used on the survey aircraft sensed geological features not apparent from conventional mapping techniques, effectively 'seeing through' Ireland's often deep glacial deposits and extensive peat cover.


Tellus aims to have surveyed 50% of the country by the end of 2017 and has plans to complete national surveying in the coming years.  The airborne survey team will be active in Waterford, Galway and parts of neighbouring counties this year, with flight plans to be announced in the coming months.  The Tellus Survey also encompasses a geochemical survey with a team of agricultural scientists gathering soil samples every 4 km2. Details of this year's geochemical survey are also to be shortly announced. 


The new airborne geophysical data for Eastern Ireland and previous phases of the Tellus Survey are available, free of charge, to view and download at The new data released today will be shown at a major geological conference, the 59th Irish Geological Research Meeting, at the National University of Ireland, Galway on 19-21st February 2016.



Notes for Editors

  • The Geological Survey of Ireland is the National Earth Science Agency. It is responsible for providing geological advice and information, and for the acquisition of data for this purpose. GSI produces a range of products including maps, reports and databases and acts as a knowledge centre and project partner in all aspects of Irish geology. GSI is a division of the Department of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources (DCENR).
  • Findings from this new phase of the project will be merged with existing Tellus data to make seamless maps which will be available free of charge online to all.
  • 'Tellus' was the Roman goddess of the earth, also called Terra Mater.


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