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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 October 2007, 11:29 GMT 12:29 UK
Tapping into NI's steaming asset
The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa near Reykjavik
Iceland has abundant geothermal energy
A source of geothermal energy found in County Antrim could have the potential to provide heat and electricity for Northern Ireland's towns and cities.

Scientists have discovered a subterranean water source 3,000 metres under Larne which reaches temperatures close to boiling point.

The energy source was found during the Tellus Project, which was undertaken to assess the potential of Northern Ireland's natural resources.

Garth Earls, Director of Geological Survey NI, said hot rocks deep under the surface of the earth had heated the natural groundwater at the site near Magheramorne to about 90 degrees Celsius.

"Other parts of the world use that power to heat and to power their cities - Paris, for example, is mostly heated by geothermal power," he said.

"Part of the indications of the survey we have done is that we are more likely to find hot water at depths than we were before.

"So it is all about narrowing down where private sector companies should look and assess the potential for this."

Platinum and gold

The Tellus Project means Northern Ireland is one of the most mapped areas on the planet and took two years to complete.

Magnetic, electromagnetic and radiometric mapping techniques were used to map the country from low-flying aeroplanes during the project carried out between 2004-2006.

Other interesting discoveries include traces of platinum and gold.

Particles of platinum were found across Northern Ireland, but the site with the most potential for mining was discovered in Fermanagh.

Nine exploration and mining companies from Canada, South Africa, Britain and Northern Ireland have taken out licenses to investigate further.

Their work is expected to see at least 20m put into the Northern Ireland economy.

"Will we find another precious metal mine? I would like to think we will, Mr Earls said.

"I would be disappointed if we didn't find another bedrock gold occurrence."

The project's 6.3m costs were paid by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI), and through an EU rural development programme.

Economy Minister Nigel Dodds said its finding would help boost investment in Northern Ireland.

The findings of the Tellus Project will be presented at a two-day conference at the W5 centre in the Odyessy complex in Belfast on Wednesday and Thursday.

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