This is the site of Ballynoe mine, which came to be known as Magcobar mine after it was taken over by the US mining company Magcobar.

In 1962, the Government of Ireland granted a license to Magcobar to operate an open-cast barite mine here at Garryard West. Barites are used in the production of drilling fluids for the oil industry. The surface area of the open-cast mine is approximately 15 hectares and the excavation approximately 70m deep with a capacity of 7 million cubic metres or thereabouts. The excavation has largely filled with surface and ground water since the mine closure in 1993. No remediation work was carried out following the closure of the mine leaving a number of spoil heaps with significant quantities of heavy metals.

Magcobar is an integral part of the water courses in the area. The main water course is the River Kilmastulla, with its source high in the Silvermines Mountains. On reaching the main valley floor, the river turns sharply to the west, eventually joining the Shannon River approximately 15km from the source. The river channel has been changed by mining activity. This has included deepening and straightening. Other changes have included river re-alignment to reduce peak flood levels and erosion, and culverting of tributary streams, such as at Magcobar.

The mining areas are drained by a number of streams feeding the Kilmastulla River: Ballygowan, south of the village, is drained by the Silvermines River; two tributaries of the Foilborrig River pass through Magcobar, and have been diverted around the Magcobar pit; the Garryard settling pond and lagoon feed tributaries of the Yellow River, and one tributary from the west of Magcobar has been diverted along the main road to avoid the Garryard plant area; an unnamed stream and its tributaries flow through the Shallee South/East area; the Kilmastulla River itself has been diverted around the perimeter of the Gortmore Tallings Pond.

In 1994 the Magcobar Quarry was purchased by Cussen Waste Disposal of Limerick with a view to developing a landfill site. This plan was resisted locally, and was not progressed any further until 1998 when Waste Management Ireland WMI (a subsidiary of Waste Management Inc., based in Houston, Texas) acquired an option on the site. Between 1998 and 1999 a huge campaign was launched by the local community and the Silvermines Environmental Action Group was formed. The dump was opposed on health and environmental grounds.

North Tipperary County Council granted a license to WMI to pump water out of the quarry, but this was overturned by An Bord Pleanála in November 2002. All plans to create a landfill site in the Magcobar Quarry were finally dropped. It was a huge victory for the people of Silvermines.

Source/ The internet, Silvermines Environmental Action Group newsletter and local conversations

Artwork/ Fiona Woods


Silvermines watercourses (drawing of watercourses by Fiona Woods); an image of Magcobar open-cast mine in the 1980’s, lent by Michael O’ Brien, and a note on the location of the Traveller’s campsite (contribution by local teenager known as Pressure).

Silvermine Images


Silvermines Environmental Action Group newsletter lent by Éamonn De Stafort.


Silvermine Images