Planning for mine closure and restoration starts at the earliest stages of new mine development and has become a core part of doing business. Wherever possible, reclamation is carried out while mining is still active. Today, closure plans must include social, economic, and environmental parameters as well as community engagement to find ways for the mine to provide lasting value to communities.
Galmoy Mines in Ireland located in County Kilkenny, 110km south west of Dublin, is owned by Lundin Mining and is in the final stages of mine closure. The closure process began with discussions between the mine and stakeholders including government ministries, local councils, and environmental groups. Several opportunities for land use were identified. Industrial lands would be sold for continued industrial use, agricultural and forestry lands would be removed from the mines licensed boundary and retained as such, the tailings storage facility would be remediated and future use determined with input from the community.
The tailings storage facility is located in a predominantly agricultural area and was remediated in two phases. The first phase was for agronomic end use, resulting in the creation of agricultural grassland paddocks that were enhanced by native hedging. Grasses were planted and the area was used for agricultural grazing and harvesting. Phase two included creation of a wetland within the footprint of the mining area and tailings storage facility. Several bunds were constructed to separate the wetlands into five distinct ponds to regulate water flow. The wetlands were sequentially planted and, one year later, are well established.
Early indications are that the wetlands are functioning well as wildlife habitat. The breeding density of curlews, lapwig, swallows and sandmarks have increased dramatically. The presence of swans, kestrels, water hens, mallards, lesser black backed gulls, pied wagtail, meadow pipit, pheasant, snipe, dunlin, teal, swallows, stonechat, robin, wrens, crows, ravens, goldfinch, green sand piper, redwing, fieldfare and redpoll have been noted.
The redwing and fieldfare are winter migrants from Scandinavia. The Ringed Plover, Dunlin, and Green sandpiper are autumn migrants which bred in the arctic and land while moving/migrating. A barn owl and an eagle have also been observed.
A number of sky larks and curlew have been noted on the wetland and remediated tailings facility. The curlew was added to the Global Red List category as near threatened by IUCN (International Union of Conservation of Nature) in 2009.
The Lesser Black backed Gulls have roosted in numbers in excess of 900 which far exceeds the threshold for national importance. This gull is on the amber list.
A pair of Little Ringed Plover were observed during a survey in 2010. There were also a pair of Little Ringed Plover present on the wetland in 2015 during final construction and commissioning. These birds are rare in Ireland, with the first record of this species breeding in Ireland in 2008. (Collins K.). A nest with eggs was recorded during a recent survey which is extremely rare.
Other wildlife are abundant around the tailings facility and surrounding area such as fox, rabbit, hare, voles, mice, and stoats.
As the mine’s active closure phase comes to an end, Galmoy is demonstrating that careful planning and engagement can lead to successful remediation and closure with former mine lands being put to long-term productive use benefiting local communities.
Manager Corporate Social Responsibility