The Tellus Project was planned to make more detailed maps of the geology and resources of Northern Ireland.

Tellus - the background

The Tellus Project is the most concentrated geological mapping project ever undertaken in Northern Ireland. The Project is making a completely new range of new geological and geophysical maps, using the latest technology. These maps will extend and deepen our knowledge of the geology, natural resources and natural environment of Northern Ireland.

Tellus is managed by the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland. The project is financed by the Department of the Economy (DfE) and by a retrospective contribution in 2005 from the Rural Development Programme under the Northern Ireland Programme for Building Sustainable Prosperity.

The project began in 2004 and the results will be made widely available after the project is completed in 2007.

Project goals

The project has these goals:

  • to provide the essential geological information we need to plan and manage the sustainable development and management of our natural resources
  • to measure and assess the environmental well-being of Northern Ireland, using modern mapping techniques, and provide a standard for the future

New maps

Detailed maps of the bedrock geology and the overlying soils already exist, thanks to the work of GSNI scientists over many years. The new Tellus maps will augment existing maps by providing scientists and engineers with more detail on the chemistry and physical properties of rocks and soils.

Modern techniques now allow us to measure and map this information more accurately and in more detail than ever before. This information is vital to planning and managing any activity on or development of the land. Tellus will help to:

  • map mineral resources and manage their development
  • map any chemical deficiencies or concentrations in or on the earth that might affect animal or human health
  • map contamination of groundwater from man-made or natural sources
  • map the geological conditions that might result in geohazards, such as land subsidence


By generating this new information, Tellus will benefit our economy, environment, agriculture, land management and health.

The economy

The project will provide the key information necessary to any development of, in, on or under the earth in Northern Ireland. These new detailed data will enable more reliable and confident management or land-based resources.


With the new results of chemical analyses of soils and waters we shall be able to understand the quality of our soils and water resources and identify sources of pollution. Biologists will be able to assess the quality and health of soil and water in areas where unique habitats are preserved, like heath land, bog, and fen.

Pollution affects our flora, fauna and habitats, and has implications for our health, tourism and countryside recreation. Where human activities affect these habitats, we can plan their protection, maintenance and preservation.

Mineral development

Mineral resources are essential for construction and development. To manage the inevitable development in the years ahead we need to know the extent and value of our resources. Tellus will help us detect, map and quantify our resources of:

  • construction materials, like limestone, sand and gravel
  • industrial minerals
  • oil and gas resources
  • metallic minerals


The Tellus Project will identify and analyse soil for a wide range of elements. A balanced soil chemistry is essential to the health of animals and crops and these results will quickly identify where there are regional deficiencies. Soils in some parts of Northern Ireland, like many parts of UK, are know to be deficient in some important minerals, such as selenium. This work will help us to understand these deficiencies better.

Land management

Tellus data will contribute to our understanding of natural and man-made hazards, such as landslides, flooding, radon gas and landfills. Analysis of these data will help to inform policy makers when making land management and planning decisions. Health and the chemistry of the environment.

Tellus surveys will detect contaminating chemicals and minerals that may be a threat to animal or human health. Some contaminants, like lead, arsenic and radon, occur naturally. Others are man-made, such as:

  • heavy metals, like arsenic, mercury, cadmium
  • organic compounds, including herbicides and pesticides
  • petroleum products, particularly waste oil, tar, and solvents

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