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In Search of Irish Gold

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It is believed by some, that Ireland could potentially hold more gold than the rest of the British Isles combined. Both the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland could hold a large, unknown quantity of this most precious of resources. As the gold price continues to soar, the desire to acquire it will continue to be a wise and solid choice. The Emerald Isle is rich in many types of ore and precious metals, it has long been speculated that Ireland may hold more precious material per square metre than most known locations across the globe. Ireland's varied geological makeup, allows miners to bring different and valuable earth elements up to the surface.

We have historical evidence of the equipment used by the early peoples of Ireland to extract the precious gold. We are quite fortunate that Irish Archaeologists have found the tools that previous generations used to smelt the Irish gold and the spoilage from the process was well preserved under several feet of the bogs peat material.

There are a couple of major mining companies active in along both sides of the Irish border. These companies search for profitable and long-lasting streams of Irish gold.

Ireland is a major source of ores besides gold and among the resources that are exploited in the Emerald Isle are copper, zinc, alum, lead and gypsum. As recent as 2010 there has been much talk of a potential Gold Rush in Ireland. The last major Irish Gold Rush was nearly 150 years ago, so perhaps the Emerald Isle may be overdue another bite of the cherry.

Irish Gold was often carried in this way as a form of currency.

Irish Gold was often carried in this way as a form of currency.

The Use of Irish Gold.

One of the major uses for Irish Gold was in the use of furnishing the Irish High Kings and other royalty with jewellery to advertise their status and power. Archaeologists have found a few good examples of the Celtic royalties possessions and they are now on show to the public in several Irish museums. Along with the discovered royal artefacts, they have found a lot of evidence of human sacrifice throughout the region. It is believed that the symbolic offerings of Irish Gold and other precious materials were important in their burial rites.

Much of the early Celtic Pagan religions would have used the native gold in creating statues and artefacts. There have also been numerous finds of ancient Irish tribal jewellery discovered which would have used native gold in their construction. The mines of Ireland probably supplied the gold materials to fellow Celtic peoples in modern-day Wales, England and Scotland. The trade of gold from Ireland to the British mainland would likely have reduced after the Roman Invasion of Great Britain.

When Ireland converted to Christianity the majority of the artefacts not buried as offerings to the old gods, would have been reused in Christian crosses and other religious icons. Many of these Christian symbols would eventually find their way into the hands of Vikings who raided many of the Irish Monasteries or they would have been hidden in other religious sites across the British Isles.

Panning the local Rivers could yield a nice return of valuable gold.

Panning the local Rivers could yield a nice return of valuable gold.

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The History of Ireland's Mining

Ireland has a long recorded history of mining, we know that the Irish peoples had mines that date back to the Bronze Age. The south-west of Ireland was a rich source of copper production and Irish Gold was mined from neighbouring mines for the workings of ancient gold artefacts. Archaeologists in Ireland have found several machines throughout the North and the South, which would have been used in the extraction of many types of Ore. The most common place for finding the ancient mine equipment is in river beds and the sodden peat bogs.

According to written records, we know that there have been Two Irish Gold Rushes in the last couple of centuries. The most well known Irish Gold Rush occurred in 1796 and it lasted for over 2 years, it is estimated nearly 10,000 oz of Irish Gold was extracted from around the River Aughrim. The waterway where the Irish Gold rush began, has now become known as the Gold Mine's River.

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The most common way to find the Irish Gold was from the material deposited in the countries streams and rivers. The gold-bearing material was often found in the Alluvial gravels of the river beds and banks. This allowed the regular gold prospector a chance of earning from the deposits for a small outlay. When the gold was found on Gold Mines River, the surge of gold-hungry Irishmen led the Government to take control of the resource.

The River Aughrim, County Wicklow

The River Aughrim, County Wicklow

Northern Ireland

In 1999, an opencast Gold mine was established at Cavanacaw in Northern Ireland, The gold is located in the veins of Quartz crystal that run through the area. The further development of the mine is subject to the cost of extracting the gold and silver reserves from the deep deposits of the precious resources. To reach these deep seams, specialized drilling equipment has to be used to size up the potential rewards and how long the gold supplies will last for. Modern-day gold prospectors use expensive Diamond tipped drills to get through tons of earth and molten material.

In County Tyrone, Geologists have used aerial photographs to identify significant quantities of gold-bearing rocks in the countryside. The aerial photographs have provided miners with prime locations to investigate for reserves of Irish Gold.

Northern Ireland is also a location with gold material laying under the peat bogs which are scattered around the country. One team of gold prospectors has taken the initiative and imported technology from the USA to help search the bogs for the valuable gravel bearing gold. The machines search for areas under the layers of peat, which return an unusual signature. The devices detect anomalies which could point to something unusual in the ground, hopefully, these anomalies turn out to be associated with finding gold-rich deposits.

The future exploitation of the Irish Gold on an industrial level will depend on the availability of the reserves and the cost to extract the gold-bearing material. With gold continuing to be a commodity that maintains and increases in value, the mining companies will likely look to exploit every seam that they discover. This will lead to more jobs in the local area but could come at a great environmental price. With an interest in the gold deposit's by large mining companies, it could mean modern-day pioneers will be left to seek their fortune in the rivers and streams of the Emerald Isle.

Evidence of Gold in Irish Place Names.

Irish nameMeaning 


Glen of Gold



Hollow of Gold



Little Hill of Gold



Mountain of Gold


Republic of Ireland

The Republic of Ireland has more potential locations where gold deposits could occur, the south of the area has a wide variety of rocks from different levels of the crust and mantle. Many pointers to Ireland's gold mining history lay in Southern Ireland. There are several gold-bearing areas, these include the counties of Wicklow and Wexford in the East of the Republic. There have been discoveries of ancient smelting associated with gold mining in Tipperary, County Galway and Limerick. Many of the rivers in this area could prove ripe for the prospective gold pioneer.

We even have historical evidence that to the South of the Republic's capital Dublin, there were smelting works in the old woodlands. Wherever there are smelting works, there is bound to be a source of ancient Irish Gold. Smelting works are set up in areas close to the location of gold deposits, this would cut down on transport of the raw material and be more efficient.

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Andrew Stewart


Andrew Stewart (author) from England on June 23, 2019:

Hello there, there have been about 4 new gold mines found/started in the Irish Republic since 2016. All gold found in the Irish Republic is the property of the state and is extracted under licence.

The Irish Republic is getting much more attention from international gold prospecting firms as there is believed to be a rich seam of gold that covers an area taking in Cornwall, Wales, Ireland and parts of Western Scotland. on June 23, 2019:

I found your article interesting. However it did not satisfy my current need which was To obtain information on current gold mining efforts in the Republic of Ireland. Any ideas?

Andrew Stewart (author) from England on August 02, 2017:

I am not too sure. I am sure that it will be regulated by both Dublin and Belfast. I did see that Scotland is going to grant fresh permits to mine for gold too.

John R Wilsdon from Superior, Arizona on July 09, 2017:

Great news about the potential for a lot of gold in Ireland. I often wondered where the gold for Celtic jewelry came from. Where can you pan in Ireland, or do you need a license from the government?

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