Officials from my Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and Kilkenny County Council met recently with Galmoy Mines Ltd., representatives of the parent company Lundin Mining, and their expert hydrogeological and geotechnical support, to review initial investigations into the recent appearance of a sinkhole on farmland overlying part of the former underground workings of Galmoy mine. I understand the three Statutory agencies are reassured by the progress on the company's approach.
I am advised that the preliminary findings of this investigation show it was most likely caused by the following:
- the presence of natural near-surface cavities;
- the increased potential for washout in the existing fissure caused by the lowering of the water table during historic mining activity; and
- the recent exceptional rainfall.
The company proposes to remediate the sinkhole in liaison with the local landowner at the landowner's convenience. Further investigations and assessments are continuing and it is expected that these will be completed by the end of March. The technical assessment undertaken to date indicates that there are no further public safety issues arising. The position will continue to be monitored at least until investigations are completed.
With regard to the inspection of operating mines, AMEC Earth & Environmental (UK) Ltd are contracted by my Department to undertake on-going inspections of mine sites and records. This includes regular physical inspections of mining operations, both on surface and underground, to monitor mining activities and examine plans and records, to ensure compliance with terms and conditions of those leases and licences and adherence to best practice.
Biannual inspections are undertaken of each of the main State Mining Facilities, including the closed Galmoy mine. The next scheduled inspection will be undertaken in April. In addition to this statutory inspection regime, my Departmental officials continue to monitor mining operations on an ongoing basis.