Natural resources of the Republic of Ireland

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The primary natural resources of the Republic of Ireland include natural gas, petroleum, peat, copper, lead, dolomite, barite, limestone, gypsum, silver and zinc. Key industries based on these and other natural resources include fishing, mining, and various forms of agriculture and fish farming. The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources is charged with the legislative protection of the Republic of Ireland's natural resources.


Further information: Mining in Ireland

The historic and archaeological record of the island demonstrates a history of mining dating to Bronze Age Ireland, when the south was an important copper producer - including from sites at Ross Island, Kerry, Allihies, Cork and later Bunmahon, Waterford.

Mining become more industrialised during the Industrial Revolution,[1] and gold mining experienced some growth - including a "gold rush" in the late 18th and early 19th centuries at Gold Mines River, Wicklow.[2] Later 20th and 21st century gold-mining plans were met with significant opposition owing to the expected environmental impact.[3][4]

By the late 20th century, Ireland became a significant player in the industry, ranking highly in a Fraser Institute survey.[5] As of 2007, Ireland produced 38% of Western Europe’s zinc and 25% of its lead,[6] from lead and zinc mines including Lisheen Mine, Tipperary, Tara Mine, Meath, and Galmoy Mine, Kilkenny.

As of the 21st century, mining companies operating in Ireland include Anglo-American plc,[7] Arcon,[8] New Boliden,[9] Conroy Diamonds and Gold,[10] Hereward Ventures plc,[11] Minco Mining & Metals Corporation,[12] and others.

Primary raw material industries in Ireland include those involving steel, lead, zinc, silver, aluminium, barite, and gypsum mining processing. Heavy industry relying on these materials is centered around key port cities such as Dublin, Cork, and Belfast (the latter in Northern Ireland).

Energy sources[edit]


Peat has been Ireland's staple fuel for centuries and as of 2005 still provided about 9% of the country's energy needs.[13] Peatlands cover approximately 17% of the area of the Republic of Ireland,[14] and Bord na Móna (the "Peat Board") is a semi-state company charged with the mechanised harvesting of peat - extracting more than 4 million tonnes annually.[citation needed]


Further information: Corrib gas field and Corrib gas controversy

Major fossil fuel finds include the Kinsale Head gas field and Corrib gas field. The latter entails the extraction of gas from a natural gas deposit off the northwest coast of Ireland. The project includes a development of the Corrib gas field, and constructions of the natural gas pipeline and a gas processing plant. The Corrib project attracted significant and sustained controversy[15][16] owing to concerns about its environmental impact, safety issues (due to proximity to residential areas), alleged planning irregularities, debate on the conditions in which private interests benefit from state resources, and the perceived poor contribution that the project returns to the economy.[17][18][19] A number of groups, notably the Rossport Five and Shell to Sea campaign, gained national attention for their opposition to the project.[20]


An Irish oil exploration company called Providence Resources announced in July 2012 that it had discovered a field with in excess of 1 billion barrels of oil at the Barryroe oil well, 70 km from the coast of County Cork.[21] Providence later revised the amount of oil obtainable to approximately 300 million barrels, worth several billions of euro.[22] Providence has interests in other Irish oil and gas fields, including one off the coast of Spanish Point in Clare.[23][24]

Renewable resources[edit]

Ireland's experience with state-sponsored renewable energy projects dates from 1925, and the Ardnacrusha project. Other new and renewable energy projects include hydroelectric, solar, and wind power initiatives, including one of the country's first wind farms at Bellacorick in 1992.[citation needed]

Agriculture, aquaculture and forestry[edit]

Farming (including livestock rearing, dairy products, cereals, potatoes), is a key contributor to the Economy of Ireland. In 2005, the Republic of Ireland exported approximately €7.3 billion worth of agri-food and drink (about 8.6% of its exports), mainly as cattle, beef, and dairy products, and mainly to the United Kingdom (including Northern Ireland).[25] Agriculture products include turnips, barley, potatoes, wheat, beef, and dairy products.

The fishing grounds around Ireland's territorial seas and waters include the Irish Conservation Box - a 100,000km2 zone specifically protected from overfishing.[26] In addition, Ireland has many thousands of kilometres of fish-bearing rivers and lakes. These freshwater habitats support native fish species including char, eel, brown trout, perch, pike, pollan, and roach.[citation needed] The North Atlantic Drift warms the waters off the islands on the west coast so that the channels support greater than 60 types of warm and cold water fish and shellfish.[citation needed]

Ireland has amongst the lowest forest cover of all European countries, with 11% coverage compared to a European average of over 30%.[27][28] Coillte is the state-sponsored entity responsible for forestry management - it is responsible to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Minister for Finance.

Legislation affecting natural resource management[edit]

Wildlife Act of 1976[edit]

The Wildlife act of 1976 sought to protect certain wildlife (including game) and flora. Under its terms, the "Wildlife Advisory Council" was established – known officially in the Irish language as "An Chomhairle Fhiadhulra". This body (later abolished in 1987) was responsible for wildlife reserves, protection of breeding grounds, herd management, and migration. The act also covered new legislation relating to land, inland waters and territorial waters.[29] The act was amended several times. The first in 1985 sought to manage and protect birds, and the second in 1986 added controls on wild bird species. The "Wildlife (Amendment) Act, 2000 (Act No. 38 of 2000)" provided protection for Natural Heritage Areas as well as legislation relating to hunting of birds in protected forests.

Forestry Act of 1988[edit]

The Forestry Act of 13 July 1988, made provisions for the enlargement of forestry in the state, and provided the establishment of a company – later named Coillte Teoranta – which was mandated with the management of state owned forests, and with providing grant aid to commercial and privately owned forest farming and planted woodland.[30] It was amended on 15 August 2000.

Sea Pollution Act of 1991[edit]

Originally constituted on 11 August 1959, the Sea Pollution Act set out to prevent the pollution of the sea, gave effect to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, and related matters.[31] Also included was the maintenance of marine pollution, oil pollution, and waste water.

Protection of the Environment Act of 2003[edit]

The Protection of the Environment act of 14 July 2003, provided for the execution of Directive 96/61/EC concerning integrated pollution prevention and control. It also amended the Environmental Protection Agency Act of 1992 and the Waste Management Act of 1996 and the Litter Pollution Act 1997.[32] It mainly sought to prevent water pollution and protect land and soil quality.

Fisheries acts[edit]

The Fishery (amendment) Act of 2002, sought to modify and extend the Fisheries (Amendment) Act of 1997; to confirm fees for certain fish culture and aquaculture licenses.[33] A more detailed act followed in 2003, and sought to support the United Nations Convention on The Law of The Sea. This related to the conservation and management of fish stocks; licensing of sea-fishing boats, to amend the Foreshore Act of 1933, the Fisheries Acts 1959 to 2001 and the Merchant Shipping (Certification of Seamen) Act of 1979.[34]


  1. ^ "Mining in Ireland". Exploration and Mining Division (EMD) of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. Retrieved 19 October 2015. 
  2. ^ "The Wicklow gold rush". Irish Times. 21 March 2013. 
  3. ^ "Controversy over plan for gold mine". Irish Times. 3 December 2007. 
  4. ^ "Huge opposition to 1989 plans to mine Croagh Patrick". RTÉ. Retrieved 19 October 2015. 
  5. ^ "Ireland first in the world for attractiveness of mining policy to industry". Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. 19 March 2015. 
  6. ^ "Irish Zinc Industry". Connemara Mining Company. Retrieved 19 October 2015. 
  7. ^ [1] Archived 20 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ "Arcon International Resources plc". Archived from the original on 23 May 2006. Retrieved 11 September 2006. 
  9. ^ "Boliden Mineral AB". Archived from the original on 23 May 2006. Retrieved 11 September 2006. 
  10. ^ "Conroy Diamonds and Gold P.l.c.". Archived from the original on 23 May 2006. Retrieved 11 September 2006. 
  11. ^ "Hereward Ventures Plc". Archived from the original on 23 November 2005. Retrieved 11 September 2006. 
  12. ^ - Minco Mining Archived 14 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^ "We are burning money when we use peat for electricity". Irish Independent. 11 August 2005. 
  14. ^ Burning peat in Ireland : an electricity market dispatch perspective (PDF) (Report). University College Dublin Research Depository. 2009. 
  15. ^ "Corrib Controversy: Gas flow not the end of community's struggle". Irish Examiner. 18 May 2015. 
  16. ^ "The Corrib legacy: what the protests achieved". Irish Times. 29 June 2015. 
  17. ^ Shell is ordered to re-route 'risky' Corrib gas pipeline. (4 November 2009).
  18. ^ "SIPTU criticises Government action on Corrib gas find". Irish Times. 25 September 2000. 
  19. ^ "Big oil, small village... was it worth it?". Independent News & Media. 26 October 2014. 
  20. ^ Pipe Down on Vimeo. (11 January 2010).
  21. ^ "Providence Resources finds 'more than 1bn barrels of oil' off Irish coast". BBC News. 25 July 2012. 
  22. ^ Andy Martin (10 October 2012). "Ireland 'close to oil billions'". BBC. 
  23. ^ "Providence aims to complete Spanish Point farm out in 2016". Irish Independent. 28 October 2015. 
  24. ^ "Providence to sell 32% stake in Spanish Point licence". Irish Times. 27 October 2015. 
  25. ^ "Agri-Food Sector – Factsheet - Irish Food Board". Bord Bia. 2005. Archived from the original on 23 November 2005. 
  26. ^ "Fish Stock Assessment: Presentation". Joint Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources Debate. Oireachtas Hansard. 19 November 2003. 
  27. ^ "Ireland now has the 'second-smallest' forest area in Europe". The Journal. 20 August 2012. 
  28. ^ "A Brief Overview of Forestry in Ireland". Teagasc. Retrieved 11 November 2015. Ireland has the lowest forest cover of all European countries: approximately 11% compared to an European average of well over 30% 
  29. ^ "FAOLEX". Retrieved 2014-02-26. 
  30. ^ "FAOLEX". Retrieved 2014-02-26. 
  31. ^ "FAOLEX". Retrieved 2014-02-26. 
  32. ^ FAOLEX - Protection of the Environment Act 2003
  33. ^ "FAOLEX". Retrieved 2014-02-26. 
  34. ^ "FAOLEX". Retrieved 2014-02-26.