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Ross Island Mine,showing dam embankment

'Besides the beauty which Nature has so bountifully scattered over the surfaces of this island, she has buried immense treasures in its bosom. Here lead and copper are to be had in great abundance...' (G.N. Wright 1822).

Ross Island, on the eastern side of Lough Leane, saw the mining of copper and other metals at different times over the past four thousand years. Copper mining began here at the dawn of the Bronze Age (c.2400-1800 BC) when metal was first used in Ireland. The discovery of Beaker pottery links this mine to the very beginnings of Irish metallurgy in the final Neolithic period. Mining resumed here in the early Christian era around the eight century AD, and subsequently at different times during the 18th and 19th centuries. This culminated in large-scale industrial operations between 1804-1829 when some 5000 tons of copper ore were sold to smelters in England.

    Blue Hole Mine,1829 Drawing                         The Blue hole Mine Today

In all periods at Ross Island mining focused on a copper-rich horizon within the local limestone geology. This rich mineral deposit is confined to a small part of the southern coastline where copper minerals streak the blue limestone rocks. This mineralisation extends to a maximum depth of only 13-16m along the lake shore and could be mined with relative ease, water levels permitting.

The mine is located on a bed of copper-rich limestone (the Western Mine), principally containing the yellow mineral chalcopyrite (CuFeS2) and the grey tennantite ore (Cu12As4S13). This bedded deposit is bordered on the eastern side by a vein-type structure (the Blue Hole) containing a rich deposit of copper, lead and zinc ore. The mineralisation at Ross Island also has a significant silver content which may have been extracted in ancient times.