The forgotten Benbulben Barite Mines – Ireland3 min read
In a beautiful and remote area of Ireland are the remains of Benbulben Barite Mine.
The once industrious mine was used to unearth barite ore, a naturally occurring mineral used in cement as an aggregate, or ground down and used as a filler or extender.
It’s an agent in the sugar refining process, a white pigment in paint and paper, and used as a weighting agent in oil and gas exploration mining, among many other industrial-type things.
Due its chemical stability it can be used to give added value to a whole range of products, such as paints, plastics, pottery and others. Moreover, It blocks radiation and, not by chance, atomic power stations and x-ray rooms are plastered with a protective coating of barite.
Easily ground into a very fine white powder, a mixture of barite, called a Barium meal is also common in medicine, taken orally, and used to assist in the x-ray of soft tissues of the stomach.
Here barite mining was carried out from 1894 to 1979.
The barite was brought down Benbulbin, a large rock formation that is a part of the Dartry Mountains, to Tormore on the south side by a cable car arrangement, the pylons and wire ropes of which can still be seen running up the hillside.
Starting in 1894, it was pulled out of this limestone-rich monolith for more than 80 years before the well ran dry, more or less.
Despite the buildings are long gone and the equipment has groaned to a rusty halt, the mine leaves an interestingly large amount of decaying structure to be seen.
Moreover, a good portion of the 1940s turn-style remains, as well as wooden planks covering deep pits that once held ore, along with the concrete structure that holds the rubble of what was once the rock crusher.
Geologically speaking, these mountains are mostly limestone, with the Benbulben formation transitioning into shale. There are fossilized seashells all throughout every layer, and even some coral in the lower sections. In the mines themselves you can still see calcite and quartz-lined cavities and, if you look up from the rocks and out into the landscape, Crockauns summit can be seen in the distance.
Author’s notes: be careful. The mine is a very unsafe location, and the mine access track is on strictly private property. And trespassers are not welcomed.