A seam of gold was discovered on the Reek in the 1980s: overall grades of 14 grams (0.45 ozt) of gold per tonne in at least 12 quartz veins, which could produce 700,000 t (770,000 short tons) of ore — potentially over 300,000 troy oz of gold (worth over €300m).
There are still many remnants of the gold mining prospectors high on the Reek, over twenty-five years after they were forced to abandon the project.
In 1989 plans to mine for gold on Croagh Patrick drew huge opposition from the local community in Mayo, who launched a campaign to save the mountain, which had been a place of pilgrimage for centuries. British environmentalist David Bellamy spoke at a rally in Westport at the time. Bellamy said Ireland was “the greenest country in the world”, but lagging behind the rest of Europe on environmental issues and that he hoped Croagh Patrick would be a turning point. If Croagh Patrick and its magnificent scenic hinterland was in any other country, he said, it would undoubtedly have been designated a world heritage site. He described as “rank vandalism” the politicians passive stance in allowing the area to be “put up for grabs” for prospecting licences. Even if the company did extract the gold with the least amount of damage, he said, the ecological and environmental cost would be intolerable.
Paddy Hopkins, Chairman of the Mayo Environmental Group and its secretary Seán O’Malley were determined to protect Croagh Patrick and its environment for future generations.
The campaigners would succeed in preventing gold-mining. Mayo County Council elected not to allow mining, deciding that the gold was “fine where it was”. No attempts have been made to mine the mountain since.
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