Monday 12 March 2018,
Ionad Cultúrtha an Phiarsaigh, Ros Muc, Conamara, Co. na Gaillimhe, H91 DW9A
I welcome the opportunity to speak at this afternoon's launch of the latest release of data from the national Tellus programme, here at Ionad Cultúrtha an Phiarsaigh / visitor centre, and I would like to extend my thanks to the staff of the centre, the OPW and Geological Survey Ireland for hosting this event this afternoon.
It is obvious when we look out of the window here why Patrick Pearse would be drawn to this unique and beautiful landscape and it is the local geology that helps us understand this captivating landscape.
My Ministerial brief spans two very different Departments but both of which are aligned at this event today. Natural Resources is represented by the work of the Tellus Programme and the Geological Survey which provides greater detail and information on the rocks, soils and waters that make up the land around us and under Rural Affairs I am also delighted today to hear about the on-going geoheritage work being carried out by the Geological Survey in conjunction with the County councils heritage office to help protect and promote sites of geological importance which we are fortunate to have enriching our landscape. This work is not only scientifically important but can also assist the development of geo-tourism products for the local community.
Tellus Programme, run by the Geological Survey Ireland from my own department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, is a national programme putting Ireland at the forefront of geological mapping. The survey measures both the physics and chemistry of the land through its low flying aircraft which was a familiar site to many in the area and its teams of ground samplers. The survey aims to give us an unprecedented view of our country and the geology that forms our landscape but also to support work which will help in the management of our natural resources whether that be water, mineral or soil.
Geology is however often out-of-sight and certainly out-of-mind for many of us. However, it's responsible for the soil where we grow our food, much of our drinking water, the rocks and stones that builds our houses and roads and the minerals and resources we need to function as a society. Therefore it is critical to map and understand if we are to manage our resources in a sustainable way.
The data released here today particularly the new airborne geophysical data collected over counties of Mayo and Donegal, reveal in great colour the complex structures of the local geology in the west of Ireland and serve to emphasise how we need modern, state-of-the-art surveying techniques to understand the ground beneath our feet.
During the survey in 2017, an area of over 2 Million acres was covered and since the beginning of the Tellus survey in Northern Ireland a staggering 14 Million acres of land have been mapped.
All published results are available free of charge without delay on tellus.ie so that the benefits of the work may be immediately realised by data users.
Along with the scientific data provided by the Tellus survey the Geological Survey Ireland also runs a number of other programmes, which aim to provide a wide range of information which allows for fact based decision making in terms of planning, development, agricultural management, human health, mineral exploration, environmental protection and Geoheritge.
In fact while the aircraft was flying in the skies above, geologist were on the ground mapping and recording a huge variety of sites for inclusion in the county development and herniate plans. The most significant of these will be recommended to the National Parks and Wildlife Service for potential future designation as Natural Heritage Areas.
Tellus is also planning on developing new products and uses for the data by working with other agencies such as Teagasc, EPA, and researches to provide benefits to the agricultural, environmental, health and education sectors. In particular;
- helping farmers understand their soil chemistry to better manage their soil nutrient and fertility,
- identifying new radon gas risk areas
- leveraging significant 3rd level research funding to help Ireland become a world class research player in geosciences and the knowledge economy
The next piece of the jigsaw
This event also marks the 50% completion of the survey, with the northern 50% of the country now mapped in glorious detail. As we look back over the last 6 years and the 100's of thousands of kms flown by the Tellus survey aircraft and the thousands of fields and farms visited by the ground samplers we must also look ahead to the next few years and the completion of national coverage of the Tellus.
The Tellus plane in 2018 will now turn southward with plans to survey parts of counties of Limerick, Tipperary and Cork. This has been co-funded by exploration companies who are eager to see the benefits of the Tellus survey brought to these areas.
Last week at PDAC in Toronto, Canada, the world's largest mining conference, I saw first-hand how Irish and international companies are using the Tellus data and heard them acknowledge the value of the programme. I also heard the companies stress the importance of community engagement and effective communications and again this is an area where Tellus ae providing a lead in their approach to informing people of their activities.
In closing I would just like to thank again all who have come here today, our hosts and the Tellus team at Geological Survey and wish them the best of luck on the upcoming field season.