Explorer Erris starts zinc-drilling programme in Sligo
Exploration firm Erris Resources has started drilling for zinc in Co Sligo.
It's the latest effort by exploration firms to locate commercially-viable deposits that would cement Ireland's position as one of the world's biggest producers of the base metal.
Erris Resources said it's begun testing acreage at Skreen for high-priority targets.
The AIM-listed company has also applied for 18 new contiguous prospecting licences in an area east of Galway. The licence application covers 673 sq km. It's about 40km west of the now-defunct Tynagh Mine, a zinc resource that operated from 1965 to 1981.
Erris Resources CEO Merlin Marr-Johnson said that the licence application covers a block that's linked to a zinc trend in the midlands.
"This type of new project generation is in line with our stated objective to identify low-cost opportunities that have the potential to create shareholder value," he said.
The Skreen prospect in Co Sligo is located in the Abbeytown district, and Erris Resources will undertake a 1,500m drill programme there.
It will also drill at other locations, including Lugawarry, Streamstown and Abbeytown.
Erris listed on London's Alternative Investment Market last December, raising £4m (€4.5m) to develop its zinc assets in Ireland, as well as gold projects in Sweden.
It said at the time that zinc remains in a period of "sustained supply deficit while demand continues to grow". The company pointed out that Ireland has a history of large-scale zinc production.
Zinc and lead are mined commercially at Tara Mines in Co Meath, while the Lisheen zinc mine in Co Tipperary, owned by Vedanta Resources, closed in 2015.
Tara Mines, owned by Swedish firm Boliden, is the eight-largest zinc mine in the world.
In 2016, it generated a pre-exceptional profit of €1.3m, compared to a €22.7m loss before exceptional gains in 2015.
The average price per tonne of zinc during 2016 rose 8.7pc to $2,095.
The average price per tonne of lead was $1,872, which was 4.9pc higher than in 2015.
Tara Mines, which employs about 700 people, produced 2.6 million tonnes of ore in 2016.
The mine opened in 1977 and accounts for half of Boliden's total zinc concentrate output. Last year, Boliden said it will invest €44m in the mine after finding additional reserves.