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Tellus Project

Northern Ireland has some of the most diverse and interesting geology of any area of its size in Northern Europe. The region is rich in minerals, mined since the Bronze Age and known resources include vein gold, base metals, conventional and unconventional hydrocarbons, salt, construction materials and geothermal energy.

The Tellus Project was planned to make more detailed maps of the geology and resources of Northern Ireland and was the most concentrated geoscience mapping project ever undertaken here. The project, managed by the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland, comprised detailed geochemical surveys of soils and streams and a low-level airborne geophysical survey. The surveys were completed between 2004 and 2007 and analysis of the results continues. This information supports the exploration for, and development of, mineral and energy resources, informs land-use planning and provides a country-wide ‘baseline’ of terrestrial geochemistry. The results are available to all and have been widely used by government, industry and the academic research community.

The geophysical results provide new insights into Northern Ireland’s geology. Delineation of faults, dykes and the major volcanic complexes has been greatly improved. The complementary imagery of magnetics, electrical conductivity and radioactivity facilitates mapping of soils and rock types; reveals a high level of structural detail beneath a veneer of glacial cover; delineates variations in ground conductivity of both and anthropogenic origins; and maps levels of terrestrial radiation with high resolution.

The geochemical results provide a new and consistent baseline standard for some 55 elements and compounds across rural Northern Ireland and in the main metropolitan centres. New geochemical anomalies in gold, platinum group elements and base metals have been mapped and the characteristics of known mineralised trends are further defined.

The survey prompted an increase in mineral exploration in Northern Ireland. Since the results were released in 2007, the area licensed by DETI for mineral exploration increased from 15% to 70% of Northern Ireland. Mining companies that licensed the data invested more than £30 million in mineral exploration in Northern Ireland between 2007 and 2012.

The project was co-funded by DETI, DoE, and the EU’s ‘Building Sustainable Prosperity’ fund of the Rural Development Programme of DARD.

The value of the project was acknowledged by several national awards:

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Tellus Border

The success of the original Tellus project has resulted in a further £4 million grant from the INTERREG IVA programme of the European Regional Development Fund to extend the surveys into the Republic of Ireland, to widen the analysis of Tellus data and to amalgamate the new and original datasets. The project ispart-funded by the Department of the Environment (Northern Ireland) and the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government (Republic of Ireland).

The new project, which runs from 2010 to the end of 2013 is named ‘Tellus Border’ and is led by GSNI in partnership with the Geological Survey of Ireland, Queen’s University Belfast and Dundalk Institute of Technology.

Tellus Border builds on the original Tellus Project, and continues the acquisition, analysis and application of existing data in the border counties of Ireland to inform issues such as management of the environment, mineral exploration, and land use planning. The combined datasets provide a rich resource for health research and public health management, for example through improved mapping of natural radon gas and of the distribution of potentially harmful elements in soils.

The scope of the Tellus Border project includes:

In 2012 the project received two CIPR Northern Ireland PRide Awards: ‘Gold’ in the Community Relations category and ‘Silver’ in the Public Sector category.

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