Lucrative and plentiful, but costly to mine
Published 06/01/2013 | 06:00
It's not just oil and gas that could help cure our economic ills. There's gold in them thar hills, with the precious metal found in more than 20 locations across the country.
And taking it out of the ground could prove highly lucrative. Gold trades for about €1,280 an ounce today, having reached new heights despite the global recession.
It's seen as a safe bet by investors as it's so rare – all the gold mined in the history of the world would fit into a crate just 20 metres cubed.
If the stuff beneath our feet could be extracted, it could help put us back on the road to recovery. Dozens of sites have been identified across the country, including two which suggest significant – but as yet untapped – sources.
Exploration firm Conroy Gold and Natural Resources is planning on mining a field at Clontibret in Co Monaghan – discovered in 1982 – while the IMC Exploration Group claims to have found "exceptionally high" levels of gold during exploratory drilling in Co Wexford.
Such is the interest in tapping into the resource that a quarter of the State's landmass is now covered by an exploration licence.
Some 34 companies are in the hunt, but all face the same problem even if drilling proves successful – getting it out of the ground.
It costs about €550 an ounce to mine gold, and the price must be high before financiers will agree to fund operations.
It is high, having quadrupled in the past decade, but is that going to last? Only time, and the success of IMC and Conroy Gold, will tell.