Precious Metals

Gold & Silver in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is arguably the most prospective area of the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland for precious metal deposits. Alluvial gold has been recovered since Celtic times when it was used to produce ornate artefacts. Modern-day exploration commenced in the late 1970s. GSNI regional geochemical and geophysical surveys have greatly assisted target selection and have helped exploration companies to define licence areas. The Dalradian basement rocks of the Sperrin Mountains have been the main focus of exploration but recent work has identified additional prospective areas.
The Sperrins
The Sperrin Mountains of Counties Tyrone and Londonderry have been the most explored area in recent times. The results of the 1976 GSNI survey, over areas underlain by the Neoproterozoic Dalradian rocks (c. 590Ma) confirmed the auriferous potential of the area and in the early 1980s bedrock gold mineralisation in quartz veins was discovered in Curraghinalt Burn. Work has continued on the Curraghinalt prospect (currently licenced to Dalradian Resources) and to date, approximately 26,000 meters of drilling in over 250 drill holes has brought the NI 43–101 compliant resource to 1.56Moz Au indicated and inferred.
About 20km to the southwest is the Cavanacaw deposit. Galantas Gold have developed the first modern gold mine in the British Isles and have proven reserves of 180,000t grading 7.4g/t Au and probable reserves of 186,000t grading 7.7g/t Au. An indicated resource of 1,200,000t grading 7.0g/t Au also occurs within the mine lease area. Across the rest of the Dalradian in this area there are a number of showings and drill intersections suggesting that further economic resources remain to be identified.
In 1996, a gold metallogeny study of northwest Northern Ireland identified a number of prospective areas and determined the multi-stage history of gold mineralisation in the region.
Gold has been valued for thousands of years. In addition to its common uses in jewellery and monetary standards, it is also used in the dental, electroplating and scientific industries. Silver, also prized for centuries, was widely used in coinage and nowadays it has many uses including jewellery.
Northeast Co. Down
Extensive Au anomalies have been identified in soils and stream sediments east of Belfast in the Holywood and Newtownards areas. These anomalies occur in proximity to the Orlock Bridge Fault, and the along strike continuation of this structure intersects Au anomalies near Keady in Co. Armagh.
Southeast Co. Down
A soil gold anomaly has been identified by Tellus geochemistry stretching from Warrenpoint to Kilkeel. Gold grains have been recovered in pan concentrate samples from this area. Recent studies of these gold grains indicate that they represent a distinctive group in the Southern Uplands-Longford-Down terrain.
Co. Armagh
An extensive zone of anomalous Au in both soil and stream sediment samples confirms gold prospectivity in the Keady area. Conroy Gold and Natural Resources have identified a one million oz JORC compliant resource just over the boarder in county Monaghan. Anomalies indicate possible association with the Orlock Bridge Fault and Lower Palaeozoic stratigraphy and recent drilling has confirmed gold in bedrock in the Clay Lake area of south Armagh.
Published: 1st May 2011
Last Updated: 25th November 2011