The general manager at Tara Mines in Co Meath has stressed that they are working tirelessly to get an increased flow of water to the mine under control as soon as possible amid a suspension of production onsite.
The volume of water is flowing in to the mine at a faster rate than it can be pumped out. It occurred when workers were drilling a hole for a ventilation shaft.
Gunnar Nystrom, general manager at Tara Mines in Co Meath told Morning Ireland on RTÉ Radio 1 that it was a “very significant” water flow. Mr Nystrom stressed that they have a “solution” and a “plan” in relation to the water flow.
“The water flow that comes in exceeds our pumping capacity in the mine.No the mine (is not flooded) at the moment. We are preparing at the moment to protect the infrastructure in the mine and so on. Moving equipment and our main focus is to close drain holes and stop the water flow.
“Hopefully we will stop the flow in the coming days. Everyone is at work. The shifts are going on as usual. We have a very engaged and skilled workforce here at Tara and all employees are needed in activities we are doing at the moment.Safety is of course our number one priority. We have all the risk assessments done. “
Mr Nystrom offered workers and their families assurance in relation to job security.
“We need all the employees if we are to continue that work. Everybody needs to be in work as usual. We don’t (envisage suspensions) happening at this time. “
He emphasised that it was too early to say whether the situation can be got under control within days.
“It is at present unclear how long the the production stop will be due to the water. This is the first time with this amount of water.”
Mr Nystrom added there was no environmental concerns in relation to the incident, but it is something that they “are keeping track of” onsite.
Tara Mines is the largest zinc mine in Europe and has 580 direct employees. Meath East TD Peader Tóibín of Aontu says that hundreds more people are indirectly supported by economic activity around the mine. He has been hearing from concerned constituents about the incident.
“The first concern from people I have spoken to is obviously that the workers are safe. But they are also concerned obviously that any suspension would have an impact on the incomes of families. They are hopeful and have confidence in management of the mine.
“We are hopeful that this won’t be a prolonged experience. But there is a concern amongst some people in the town that if is a prolonged experience what effect that would have on the economy of the county and of the town.
“Navan and Tara Mines have almost a symbiotic relationship economically. Much of the economic energy. Much of the livelihood in the town and in the county are dependent on Tara Mines staying fully functional.”
In a statement, mine owner Boliden said the increased water flow “resulted from drilling of a pilot raise bore hole for a ventilation shaft”.
Production has been stopped to “focus on protecting infrastructure and equipment”, whilst also eliminating unnecessary additional water into the mine.