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Following 3 days of conference sessions, a panel, chaired by John Ashton comprising Murray Hitzman, Colin Andrew, Dave Blaney and Jamie Wilkinson lead discussion on insights gained from IAEG 50. Below you can find their comments, along with other contributors, summarised.

We encourage our members to contribute to this discussion which you can do by posting your points and suggestions in the space provided at the bottom of the page. This page will be updated as we receive contributions to the discussion by email.

Murray Hitzman  - iCRAG

  • Better understanding of basement - let's work with clever geophysicists to see how we can better sense it. Get DIAS really involved.
  • Exploration - ALL deposit types that could be here. where are more Cu deposits? at approx 1% Cu some of the known ones should be relooked at.
  • Some ITs have relatively hi Ge, perhaps recoverable - why the differences in deposits??? (basement or fluid controlled?)
  • Why can't we work with Bord na Mona to explore under bogs before they are all re-wetted??
  • Which non-Ireland examples gave folks the most food for thought at the conference and why?

Colin Andrew - Independent Consultant

  • Problem of misunderstandings in what is an Irish-type deposit. Nobody hasever said that they were ONLY exhalites. The key issue is that they are syndiagenetic and shallow.
  • Are MVT and SedEx the extremes or end members? Does Irish-type cover the syndiagenetic middle ground. Irish-type generally have zoning both temporally and spatially with iron and barium early. Understand the geology and controls of this zoning.
  • Brecciation is clearly important but many types exist from intraclastic and soft sediment gel breccias to mass or debris flows and on through localized collapse to karstic. Thus the criticality is to recognize exactly the breccia type. BMB not a helpful term as it lumps many types together based essentially just on colour.
  • Understand the geology first rather than obtaining dates and then try to make the geology model fit the data. If the dates don’t make sense believe the geology first. Examples - palaeomagnetics and K-Ar or real world geology for unconstrained isotopic dates.

Jamie Wilkinson - London Centre for Ore Deposits and Exploration (LODE)

  • “A remarkable place to reconstruct a major, regional scale, mineralising flow system”
  • As primary source of metals and first order structural control, we need a better understanding of LP rocks and structure. Regional geophysics: can we image large alteration/reaction zones?
  • Better and more widespread geochronology with good geological/petrographic context. Duration, episodicity.
  • Wider understanding of fluid thermal and compositional heterogeneity. Is there a N-S divide in fluid T / salinity / composition (and if so, why?) Other thermometers?
  • Geologically realistic, predictive fluid flow models

Dave Blaney - BRG Ltd.

  • Exploration in Ireland – How to Promote?
    - Needs to be linked to Green Transition and EU initiatives - Green H + Green Zn
    - New techniques/databases – joint industry-academia-government initiatives
  • Diversity of potential deposit types is a key point as is lateral thinking on target types. Should we be looking for the next IT deposit or ANY new deposit ?
  • Deposit development, what is needed to turn exploration success into active mines.
  • Pallas Green / Kilbricken / Ballywire / Kildare / Stonepark – it is over 24 years since last discovery became a mine!
  • Exploration company profile => Majors – Mid Tier – Juniors. Deep drilling, innovative modelling, geophysics require big budgets, we need to attract companies that have the financial clout to fund and maintain this scale of investment.
  • Regulatory challenges an ever-increasing cost in terms of time and money to doing, even basic, fundamental exploration activities – current system very cumbersome.
  • Locally based exploration expertise and skills and services, essential to the industry, are dependent on active mining, Tara cannot reopen soon enough for everyone involved in the industry or these skills may be lost or move away.

Gerry Stanley 

Generalised statements

  • 1.       Minerals sector is more than geologists

The minerals sector involves more than the geological sciences, e.g., geosciences of all disciplines, mining engineers, metallurgical engineers, environmental engineers, instrument developers for all disciplines, financiers/ entrepreneurs, social scientists, etc.

  • 2.       Mineral sector is different
  • a.       A long-established activity
  • b.       Minerals are where you find them
  • c.       Can be a basis for economic development of a region
  • d.       Mineral ownership issues
  • e.       Regulation
  • f.        Taxation matters
  • g.       Exploration and mining as different activities
  • h.       Capital intensive
  • i.         Environmental and social issues
  • j.         Legacy issues


Funding – risk capital for exploration

Introductory statement

An increasing difficulty for the junior exploration sector is access to funding.  Junior exploration companies typically do not have an income stream.  A traditional source of funding has been the stock markets but at best this is cyclical depending on the attractiveness of each investment sector, e.g., pharma, IT, minerals, etc.

Possible actions

  • 1.         EU Grants (see separate document).
  • 2.         Taxation measures (Colin Andrew’s suggestion of flow through shares as operated in Canada).


Introductory statement

The implications of this European Initiative will be widespread and hopefully positive in the short to medium term.  One of the targets is for each country to identify what raw materials are critical to their economy and to have an indigenous source of these.

Possible action(s)

  • 1.         Mineral exploration should not be the remit of a government agency.  However, government does have a role to play which would involve collaboration between government, academia and MOST IMPORTANTLY industry.  A possible model for this collaboration is the ‘Targeted Geoscience Initiative’ operated in Canada (see below).  This action is more about knowledge and intelligence development.  There would also be a significant training component.

Technology development

Introductory statement

This is an area where Ireland, in my opinion, has traditionally been weak.  Some breakthroughs have been made such as the Holman flow-thru sampler and the Hilliard drill rig.  In recent times there have been some IT derived solutions which have potential.  Progress in both areas is possible but only through collaboration.

Possible action

  • 1.         The Collaborative Research Centres model, as operated in Australia, for addressing specific problems is worth considering (see below).  These are more for the development of specific technologies – be they drilling, geophysical instrumentation or remote technologies and involve considerable engineering development.  There should be an emphasis for the development of technologies that are rapid as well as being accurate and effective.

Capacity, capability and competence in minerals administration

Introductory statement

Most jurisdictions in the EU and indeed at EU level do not have either sufficient capacity or capacity/ competence in the administration if minerals exploration or development.  This extends to an understanding to minerals endowment, minerals development, minerals markets and economics, financing of minerals exploration and development, environmental and social aspects of minerals exploration and development.

Possible actions

  • 1.         A one-year course at either diploma or degree level should be developed and run at a number of centres throughout Europe.  This course should be designed to enable future administrators to understand the sector they are dealing with and to make sensible decisions that affect the sector.
  • 2.         It should be mandatory that all administrators working in such bodies should employ personnel with the above-mentioned diploma/ degree.  This does not exclude the possibility or necessity to have other specialists, such as economic geologists, engineers, environmental or social personnel also employed.  The availability of consultants is not a solution, in my opinion, although their expertise should be called upon when necessary.


Introductory statement

Today, and in the recent past, much public opinion is driven by information obtained through ‘social media’.  Social media content is not in any way peer reviewed, checked for accuracy veracity, fact or truthfulness.  Much can be misleading and as we see harmful, particularly to the young, disadvantaged or vulnerable groups.  Some influencers have singular personal agendas which in no way see the ‘public good’ as being important or indeed relevant.

Possible actions

  • 1.         Within each jurisdiction and at EU level there should be a forum responsible for providing informed information not only to the administration but also to the general public.  Such fora should be responsible for producing reliable accurate and up-to-date information on matters related to mineral exploration.  It should not engage in hyperbole and should not avoid presenting information in a balanced way so that a true picture is available.
  • 2.         Within each jurisdiction there should be a body which meets on a regular basis to discuss areas of interest and concern to the minerals sector.  This should include as many stakeholders as possible.
  • 3.         Acting in consultation with other industry groups, such as EuroMines and/ or Eurometaux, the geological community should provide greater input to and advice to European agencies.
  • 4.         Consideration should be given to holding a ‘Citizen’s Assembly’ to develop government policy for the natural resources sector.  This might include, mineral raw materials, hydrocarbons including peat, aggregates and forestry.  It might also include mineral ownership.
  • 5.         Legislation should be in place to ensure that parties who make public statements on whatever media platform are subject to the same standards as companies i.e., they must have carried out independent studies to support their statements.  If they are found to be wrong or misleading there should be some mechanism for them to acknowledge their errors and to correct the record.

Financial support/ taxation measures for mining

Introductory statement

Currently mining corporate taxation, in Ireland, is at a rate of 25% whereas other industries are levied at a rate of 12.5%, soon to be raised to 15%.  In addition, mines pay royalties.  With the recent large increase in energy costs due to the uncertainties of the supply of natural gas, the Irish government introduced a reduced rate for the supply of electricity for many sectors with the exception of mining.

Possible actions

  • 1.         Introduce a rate of corporate taxation at the same level as for other industries, i.e., 12.5% (or 15%).
  • 2.         Introduce the same rate for electricity as for other industry sectors.

Targeted Geoscience Initiative (TGI)

The Targeted Geoscience Initiative (TGI) is a programme operated in Canada since about 2000.  Each initiative has lasted about 5 years and to date there have been five such initiatives.  It is directed towards providing next generation knowledge and methods to facilitate more effective targeting of buried mineral deposits. The program aims to enhance the effectiveness of exploration for major mineral systems by resolving foundational geoscience problems that constrain the liberation of metals from their source region, as well as identifying the geological processes responsible for the transportation and eventual deposition of these ore metals.

TGI was established in 2000 as a national, collaborative programme under the aegis of the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC).  Grants are offered, on a competitive basis to researchers working in collaboration with industry, and using GSC data and expertise, to address and understand particular exploration problems.

The high-level objectives are:

  • 1.       Help Canada’s mineral exploration industry identify and develop future mines across the country by reducing risk in exploration activities.
  • 2.       Help attract international and domestic investments in the metals exploration and extraction industry.  (There is a 7.3x economic return on investment for every dollar invested in the Canadian programme).
  • 3.       Potentially extend the life of established mines in Canada.
  • 4.       Develop next-generation geological knowledge, leading-edge tools, innovative techniques and predictive models of Canada’s mineral potential for key commodities, including critical minerals.
  • 5.       Provide integrated, multi-scale scientific knowledge of source-to-ore formation to guide new exploration approaches and support the sustained discovery of mineral resources at depth (often with the help of artificial intelligence applications).
  • 6.       Identify and develop novel indicators and parameters to guide exploration in emerging and existing mining areas.
  • 7.       To train the next generation of mineral specialists.

The TGI programme integrates geoscience data and knowledge on Canada’s major mineral systems from locations across the country and enhancing the exploration industry’s effectiveness in detecting economic minerals.

Cooperative Research Centres

The Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) Programme is an Australian Government initiative that was established in 1990 and funds industry-led collaborations between industry, researchers and end users.

The CRC Program links researchers with industry and government with a focus towards research application, and offers support through two elements:

  • 1.         Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) grants – supporting medium to long term industry-led collaborations, up to 10 years.
  • 2.         Cooperative Research Centres Projects (CRC-P) grants – supporting short term, industry-led collaborative research, up to 3 years.

In Australia, CRCs must

  • 1.         Be a medium to long-term industry-led collaborative research programme.
  • 2.         Aim to solve industry identified problems and improve the competitiveness, productivity and sustainability of Australian industries.
  • 3.         Include an industry-focused education and training program, including a PhD programme that builds capability and capacity.
  • 4.         Increase research and development (R&D) capacity in small to medium enterprises (SMEs).
  • 5.         Encourage industry take up of research

Applicants must at least match the amount of grant funding sought through cash and/ or in-kind contributions.

Some examples of recent, minerals related CRCs include

  • 1.       Deep Exploration Technologies CRC
  • 2.       CRC for Landscape Environment and Mineral Exploration
  • 3.       CRC for Mining Technology and Equipment
  • 4.       CRC for Optimising Resources Extraction (CRCORE)
  • 5.       MinEx CRC

Click here to read Support for Mineral Exploration in Europe - Concept Note

Tim Coleman - ex British Geological Survey

Recommends the Solway Basin in UK:

  • Above Iapetus Suture
  • Deep Faults (>4km)
  • Lwr. Carboniferous volcanics (e.g. Cockermouth lavas)
  • Oil exploration drilling has confirmed anhydrite
  • Minor Zn/Pb/Cu Ba
  • Goldfields + BP drilled S side but not deep enough (500m)
  • BGS desk study (1999): “Development of exploration criteria for buried carbonate-hosted ore deposits” (J.Plant)
  • (UK Access and Mineral Rights are a hurdle)

Dave Plunkett


  • Curiosity rather than needing to be right!
  • An independent panel of experts should be set up to design a proposal for a regional magnetotelluric survey of the ore-field (see Geoscience Australia examples)
  • Chemostratigraphy (+ wire line, hyperspectral?) - related to faulting/facies changes and basinal/hydrothermal fluid flow (exhaust signature in the calp)
  • Look for interactions between different elements of the deposit model causing better potential for detection.
  • Promote and share technological advances - particularly environmental ones like UV treatment of drill water and drill water recycling. 

Research and Innovation 

  • What are the basement terranes + configuration beneath the Midlands?
  • What are the potential sources (or pathways, depositional environments?) of metals causing heterogeneity between deposits?
  • What causes the volcanism in the Irish Midlands?
  • What causes the waulsortian to form, change, thicken and thin?
  • Quantify target and alteration footprint and what non prospective depth is. Can technology improve this?

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