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Unipure Trial Treatment Plant

One of the objectives of the Celtic Copper Heritage project is to protect and environmentally enhance the river at Avoca in Co. Wicklow. In pursuit of this objective, a portion of the funding was used to install and run a series of pilot treatment trials at Avoca. The purpose of this was to establish whether it is possible to treat acid mine drainage into the river on a small scale and what the parameters of a full scale treatment plant might be. The trials were in place for 3 months from February to May 2006 and both the acid mine drainage from Ballymurtagh and Tigroney adits were treated separately and together using a high density sludge process.

The trials showed that, if the results could repeated from a full scale plant, an active treatment system would very significantly reduce the overall metal concentrations in the outflow from the mines. This might enable the Avoca River to achieve salmonid fishery EQS standard for all metals except zinc. This would depend, of course, on the impact of other pollution sources and their treatment. This report, entitled ‘Celtic Copper Heritage Project, Avoca Mines Pilot Plant Treatment Trials’, was produced by UK consultants, Unipure Europe Ltd.

The Unipure report estimates the capital cost to build a full scale treatment plant at €3.6m (ex VAT) with an annual operational cost of €0.5m (ex VAT). Of the annual operational cost, €300,000 would be required for sludge disposal.

The remaining objectives in the Celtic Copper Heritage Project project, which will continue until June 2008, relate to the conservation and sustainable development of mining heritage at Avoca. These specifically involve the development of walkways, storyboards and signage and the development of the miners memorial park. A website will be created and brochures and educational material will be published on the industrial heritage at Avoca as a means of attracting tourists to the area and raising the profile of Avoca as a visitor destination.

Government Decision to fund Study for Integrated Management Plan for Former Mine Sites (GSI/DCMNR)

The Avoca mine sites have a variety of challenges associated with them, of which acid mine drainage is only one. One of these has been the variety of studies undertaken to address individual issues, and the lack of coordination between them. The Government therefore decided in 2005 to fund a major new study at the former mine sites, estimated to cost over €500,000. The purpose of the study is to prepare costed integrated conceptual management and remediation plans for the Avoca Mining Area, and the separate tailings facility at Shelton Abbey, along the lines of that currently being implemented at Silvermines. This is important as the Government has a duty of care as much of the mining site land is in the ownership of the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources or the Minister for Finance.

This study is being managed by the Geological Survey of Ireland in close association with Exploration Mining Division of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and Wicklow County Council.

Consultants Camp Dresser McKee (CDM) have been appointed for this work which is now underway and is expected to run for 14 months. The brief for the consultants includes drawing on all previously recorded data, including the above studies under the Interreg project, and filling in any identified information gaps so that realistic options for remediation and management of the sites can be produced and costed to feasibility study level.

The study will include a safety audit and risk assessment for mine stability, human health, animal health and the wider environment. This risk assessment will identify deficiencies in existing information and a programme will be developed to fill these gaps. It will take into account the unique character of the site with respect to human and animal health, the environment, specialised habitats, material assets, heritage, tourism, potential future developments (including mineral) in the area, and other potential polluting sources in the area. Consultation with stakeholders will be an important part of the feasibility study. The feasibility study will be completed by mid 2008. The results of the Unipure trials will be a major input to this study.

Download the report

Avoca Mines Pilot Plant Treatment Trials: A report to Celtic Copper Heritage [.pdf, 3MB]

For further information please contact:

Dr. Aidan Doyle, Project Co-ordinator, Tel: 0402 30500 / 085 7845784, email:

Ms. Josie Mahon, Eastern Regional Fisheries Board, Tel: 01 278 7022 / 087 6538202, email:


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