National University of Galway (NUIG), 11th January 2018
Good afternoon. Thank you for the introduction. I am delighted to be present at the first ever Irish Geoscience Early Career Symposium iGEO2018 held here in my Alma Mater, NUIG.
I extend my warm thanks to the iGEO2018 organising committee for inviting me to speak to you today.
I understand that iGEO2018 is a geoscience event organised by, and designed for early-career geoscientists and that the symposium is a 2-day event designed to cultivate scientific debate and foster the development of early-career geoscientists. The event is the first of its kind in Ireland and I am pleased to see the large number of attendees. As the Minister of State for Natural Resources, I am happy to support all sectors of the geoscience community and to demonstrate that the development of early career geoscientists is highly valued here in Ireland.
A recent report from Indecon International Economic Consultants, that I launched in November 2017, on the Sectoral Economic Review of the Irish Geoscience Sector, concluded that …and I quote
- " The Economic Review puts a value of €3,277m on the overall Economic Impact of the sectoral outputs for 2016, across the areas of Geotourism & Geoheritage, Groundwater, Extractive Industries, Geoscience Research and Geohazards" and
- Employment (FTE's) figures calculated for the same year, across the same subsectors, comes to 15,110 Directly employed, with a further 9,628 Indirect and Induced, giving a total of 24,739".
The findings illustrate the importance of the geoscience sector to Ireland's society and to the economy.
I can give some direct examples from my portfolio - for example the Corrib gas field offshore Mayo, that came on production in late 2015, provided over 55% of Ireland's gas demand in 2016. Indeed, the introduction of Corrib gas was a key contributor to Ireland's energy import dependence falling from 88% in 2015 to 70% in 2016. The Boliden Tara mine is the largest Zinc mine in Europe. The mine has been operating since 1977 and is a significant employer in Co. Meath employing some 700 personnel.
The same INDECON report indicated the value of the INFOMAR marine mapping programme, which is carried out by my Department through GSI and costs €4m p.a. but generates 6 times that in value across a range of sectors. Previous studies have also shown a positive economic impact also from the ongoing Tellus programme also being undertaken by my Department.
The iGEO2018 event held today and tomorrow, has secured sponsorship from a wide variety of sources including hydrocarbon and raw materials companies as well as the Petroleum Affairs Division and the Geological Survey of Ireland, both from within my Department .
The objectives of iGEO2018 fit well with my Department supporting the encouragement and development of early-career geoscientists, including geoscientist's entry into the research, mineral and petroleum sector and therefore the development of capacity in Ireland for all the geoscience sectors.
I understand that the aim of the symposium, through a series of workshops, group sessions, and presentations, is to:
- Provide early-career geoscientists (ECGs) with an opportunity to collaborate and benefit from the multidisciplinary nature of research across Ireland;
- To enable ECGs to take part in cutting edge scientific debate about topical issues relating to Irish geoscience including: raw materials & energy supplies, groundwater security, marine environment and the public's perception & understanding (PPU) and to
- Exchange knowledge on mythologies and research with one another, as well as with industry members and policy makers.
The event thus enables an opportunity to fostering existing and new collaborations across multidisciplinary researchers, industry and government.
My own Department employs qualified Geoscientists in the Petroleum Affairs Division, the Exploration and Mining Division (EMD) and the Geological Survey. Within my own brief, I am responsible for the regulation of petroleum and mineral exploration and associated licences and the range of work carried out by the GSI and it is critical to obtain informed professional recommendations from my specialist Geoscientists. Additionally, my Department has established mechanisms to part fund Masters programmes in Petroleum Geoscience, Environmental Geology and has vehicles in place to enable MSc Bursary Graduate placements to work within the Department and to gain first-hand experience of the role of the regulator in the public sector.
My Department is a strong advocate for Geoscience Research with PAD initiating, supporting and driving Petroleum Infrastructure Programmes (PIP) that covers geological, geophysical, engineering and environmental projects. PIP was set up by the PAD in 1997. Research under the Programme goes beyond normal licence area-specific work and is designed so as not to duplicate the efforts of other groups or of commercial contractors. It is also considered essential that local researchers should be given an opportunity to participate in the research projects. PIP is funded by oil companies with licences offshore Ireland and the PAD.
Of course geology doesn't stop at borders and I regard the collaboration between Geoscientists of Ireland and other countries to be important. The North Atlantic Petroleum Systems Assessment (NAPSA) is another research venture by PAD between officials from my Department and the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The objective of NAPSA is to foster research collaboration between Irish and Atlantic Canadian researchers that will lead to the establishment of funded scientific projects to enhance our understanding of the petroleum geology of the North Atlantic basins. The long term goal is to promote research that leads to increased petroleum exploration and development, with projects also fostering basic research to enhance the growth of scientific knowledge. NAPSA was formalised with the signing of a Letter of Intent at the first NAPSA Executive Committee in Dublin on 28 February 2007 and I was present at the Canadian Embassy in Dublin when the venture was officially renewed in November 2017 to extend for another 5 years.
Geological staff from both EMD and the Geological Survey will again collaborate with colleagues from the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland in exhibiting at the Trade Show of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada Convention in Toronto, the largest mining convention in the world. As in previous years, it is anticipated that this collaborative effort will result in increased mineral exploration interest in the island of Ireland Including Northern Ireland and we have seen how the release of Tellus data has also resulted in increased exploration activity.
In addition, my Departmental officials from the Petroleum Affairs Division, Exploration Mining Division and the Geological Survey of Ireland are actively involved in the Irish Centre for Applied Geoscientists (iCRAG) by actively participating in Technical Advisory Committees and the Industry Advisory Committee to recommend and steer research, including in the geosciences. Many of you here today will be very familiar with iCRAG and its objectives being directly involved in its activities and I want to acknowledge the key role of iCRAG staff in organising this event.
I am delighted that the inaugural symposium of iGEO2018 offers an organised structured event that is so well attended and I wish the Committee success in their venture.
There is a great necessity to develop Ireland's economic future and hence I am delighted to support the need to foster and develop the next generation of Geoscientists. I hope that many of you elect to pursue active careers in the Geosciences. It is an exciting time to be involved in the sector.