INVESTIGATIONS are under way after a massive sinkhole up to 20ft deep appeared on a farmer's land near a recently closed mine.
Eddie Cavanagh had been working in his tractor in the field in Galmoy, Co Kilkenny, last Thursday evening.
Just over 24 hours later he discovered that a crater measuring an estimated 30ft wide by 20ft deep had appeared there.
His wife, Mary Hilda Cavanagh, said they were "shocked" to spot the deep water-filled hole from their family home early on Saturday morning.
Mrs Cavanagh, who is also a Kilkenny county councillor, told how they chose not to sell their farm – which has been farmed by their relatives for hundreds of years – to the mine owners when they first began work on the ore site more than 20 years ago.
"We were told there was absolutely no danger of subsidence," she said, adding they were advised the shafts would be back filled and mixed with low grade cement.
The sinkhole emerged above old mine workings for the underground Galmoy Mine, which closed recently after more than a decade extracting lead and zinc ore.
Mrs Cavanagh said that particular part of the site had not been mined in many years.
A number of large sinkholes have been reported in the UK following the recent heavy rainfall. Mrs Cavanagh said they had not been told if there was any link between the recent heavy rains or whether it was coincidental.
Mr Cavanagh and his son Brian were spreading excess water on the land. Heavy silage machinery had also been driven over the field in recent years.
Mrs Cavanagh said that like a "near miss with a car accident, you would be shaken afterwards".
International exploration mining giant Lundin Mining, which operated Galmoy mine, confirmed it was working closely with the state agencies to "agree next steps", after it learned of the sinkhole on Saturday.
"We were alerted to the appearance of a sinkhole on farmland overlying part of the former underground workings of the closed Galmoy mine," said Steve Gatley, vice-president of technical services at Lundin Mining.
Mr Gatley said independent hydro-geological experts would now be consulted in relation to the cordoned-off area of land.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been holding meetings with Lundin Mining, the Department of Natural Resources and Kilkenny County Council.
And early probes from the EPA estimate the hole measures 25ft by 30ft wide and may be as deep as 20ft.
The Department of Natural Resources said that the hole appeared some 300m away from the mine office buildings and nearest infrastructure, but they did not believe there were any public safety issues involved.
Officials are visiting the site to examine the scene and stability of the ground, and the company has installed 24-hour security as a precautionary measure.
Following the inspection, Kilkenny County Council also closed the road at a distance of 200m away as a precaution.
Lundin Mining said that underground mining finished at Galmoy in October 2012, and an agreed closure plan had been under way since then.
"This process is now well advanced and we have already dismantled the mill building and backfilled or capped all the mine openings," it stated.
Meanwhile, in Co Clare, a 19th Century sea wall is at risk of collapsing on to the beach at Kilkee, while the Strand Line beside it continues to sink after being damaged in recent storms.
ESB crews are continuing to work from dawn until dusk in some areas to reconnect power, but they've warned it could be Friday before some customers are reconnected.
Last night, 20,000 customers were still without power and progress was frustratingly slow because of the scale of the damage and difficult conditions.