Northern Ireland Is Aiming to Strike Gold; All That Glitters Could Be Gold or Diamonds and for a Number of Northern Ireland Companies Mining in Africa, the Country's Rich Mineral Deposits Are Providing a Flow of Business between the Regions. ADRIENNE McGILL Reports

Article excerpt

OUT of Africa could take on a whole new meaning for several Northern Ireland companies who could be about to strike gold or some rich mineral in the dark continent.

In early June an unusual mining sector event with a unique cross border dimension will take place in Dublin attended by at least 20 African business people involved in mining in the continent. They will join companies from the North and South of Ireland for a five day seminar to discuss aspects of mining in Africa along with counterparts from other EU countries.

The event which will run from 31 May to 5 June in Beggar's Bush at the headquarters of the Geological Survey of Ireland, has been organised by Dublin based CSA Group, one of Europe's largest consulting firms to the exploration and mining industry worldwide.

Liz O'Donnell, the Republic's Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs is due to address participants.

Irish companies have been involved in African mining for several years and include firms which are mining for gold in Ghana and Zimbabwe, for emeralds in Malawi and for graphite in Mozambique. Irish firms also supply mining expertise world-wide.

Among the companies from Northern Ireland who have already a mining presence in Africa or supply equipment used in the mining process and will be taking part in the seminar are:

Warrenpoint based Techbase Europe which provides IT mining solutions to some of Africa's major mining houses including the world's largest mining company Anglo American;

Geological Consultants Ltd in Derrygonelly, Co Fermanagh which provides satellite imagery and photo interpretation to a variety of African companies;

Kenmare Resources, based in Dublin but headed by Michael Carvill of Warrenpoint which operates a worldclass graphite mine in Mozambique;

Omagh Minerals which is licensed to operate a gold mine in Tyrone;

Masterskreen International of Dungannon, designers and producers of mobile screening equipment for mining and quarrying

Powerscreen International also Dungannon based, manufacturers of mobile screening and conveying equipment for the mining industry.

Mining companies began to emerge in Ireland in the mid 1980's and a major factor in their emergence was the withdrawal of major international mining companies from Ireland, leaving many Irish geo-scientists and minerals professionals unemployed. Some went on to set up their own companies, while gold prices were strong and stock markets buoyant.

John Gowen CSA director said this history and experience was a major factor in making Ireland an appropriate venue for the seminar.

"Irish companies are particularly well placed to show African mining professionals how to develop an indigenous mining sector from expertise clustered around international mining companies. The Irish are now leaders in the junior exploration sector, providing entrepreneurship in exploration; leading to discoveries that evolve into major mining operations. …