Featured Article 02 Oct 2020

ALS Loughrea (formerly OMAC) is proud to announce its 40th year of providing geochemical analyses of samples generated by the mineral exploration and mining industries in Loughrea, Co Galway. ALS is a major employer in Loughrea with about 200 employees and also has life sciences laboratories in Ireland including Portadown, Co Armagh; Little Island, Co Cork; Portlaoise, Co Laois; and Clonmel, Co Tipperary.

The history of the laboratory can be traced back to 1957 when Pat Hughes began a five-year exploration programme in Ireland. By 1959, Tara Exploration and Irish Base Metals had active exploration projects in the Galway and Clare regions. Newly developed mineral exploration techniques such as soil geochemistry and geophysical techniques were introduced into Ireland by Irish Base Metals.
The lab was originally located in the old Loughrea boy’s school on Piggot Street which was also the office of Irish Base Metals. The lab was managed by Jackie McHugh in the latter part of the 1970s with consultancy input from Michael O’Neill, the chief chemist at Tynagh.

The lab was taken over by O’Neill-McHugh Laboratories, with OMAC subsequently being officially founded on 7 July 1980. Equipment was updated and the client base expanded to include clients in Europe and the companies in the Northgate group.
In the mid 1980s, the old Hohner Harmonica facility at Athenry Road was acquired, leading to a substantial increase in capacity. Further services were added and client base expanded to include Africa and Scandinavia.

Labs in Ghana and Tanzania

By this stage, Finbarr O’Shea had joined as a director having directed the business affairs of the company from the start. Satellite labs were set up in Ghana and Tanzania to assist our clients in those areas.

At that time there were four other competitor laboratories based in the UK. Despite this competition, OMAC built a first-class reputation and became the preferred laboratory for several major mining companies for their work in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

In 1999, competitor laboratories in Canada and Australia began to consolidate into three major groups, while the local UK laboratories ceased operations in the exploration field. Faced with stiff competition from this consolidation, OMAC joined Alex Stewart Assayers as its principal exploration laboratory. The worldwide network of laboratories and offices of the ASA Group gave ASA/OMAC greater exposure on the larger exploration stage.

Gaining accreditation

In 2007 the company achieved the significant milestone of gaining ISO:17025 accreditation and has successfully maintained it throughout the years.

OMAC joined Australian listed ALS in 2011 as its principal geochemical laboratory (Hub Lab) in Europe which serves Europe, North Africa and central Asia. ALS Loughrea now operates a state-of-the-art laboratory from a 3,000 sq metre premises on Dublin Road. It’s the largest and best equipped such laboratory outside of the Americas and Australia and is well known for its very high quality.

Most of ALS’s laboratory personnel are qualified in analytical chemistry and have substantial experience working with the company. Some staff also hold postgraduate degrees and are responsible for the management and quality control. The laboratory has room and the infrastructure required to allow installation of additional equipment on a ‘plug and play’ basis, facilitating an increase in analytical capacity at any given time.

The lab is fully equipped with the latest technologies available in the market to provide our valued customers with a wide range of analytical services such as:
•             Core Cutting Service
•             Sample Preparation (Pulverising rocks, sieving soil samples)
•             Fire Assay (Melting down samples to test for precious metals)
•             ICP-MS/ICP-OES/AAS (Technique used to determine ultra-low concentrations of elements)
•             XRF (Used to test Iron Ore & Bauxite samples for their elemental composition)
•             Carbon & Sulphur Analysis

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