A statue made in Co Wicklow will soon depart for the US, where it will form the centrepiece of a memorial to more than a thousand Irish immigrants who are buried in unmarked sunken graves in Leadville, Colorado.

The statue, depicting a miner on one knee playing a harp, was created by Terry Brennan at his home in Kilmacanogue.

Mr Brennan said: "It gives me great pride to be involved in this project. The elements are; you have the miner with his axe, the harp is the long-held symbol of Ireland, there are four strands on the harp to represent the four provinces. Then there are two Celtic symbols on the harp.

"The harp will sit into a rock that will be mined out of the Rocky Mountains over there. It will sit on a circular plinth, that will have the hands of a compass pointing towards Ireland so the connection will be made."

Thousands of Irish immigrants went to Colorado in the 19th century to work in the mines during the silver boom.

Many of them are believed to have come from mining communities in the Beara Peninsula in Cork.

Irish American historian James Walsh estimates that there are 1,200 Irish people buried in the pauper section of the Catholic cemetery in Leadville, and that the average age of those buried there is 23.

"It represents an example of how hard industrial labour was for people in North America and for 19th century Irish immigrants," Mr Walsh said.

"They were buried between 1879 and 1890 for the most part, all of the adults buried there would have memories of the famine, in some ways it represents people who survived the famine, were famine orphans. They made their way to Colorado for the silver rush and they died young.

"This memorial will be a space to remember and recognise that struggle. It's also a space for reclaiming the stories of the people buried there. We are naming and recognising them. Their families did not know what happened to them, they were simply lost. The reclaiming of people's ancestors has already begun. It's rewarding, it's significant and it's meaningful."

Mr Brennan's statue will be sent to the US and cast in bronze.

The Irish Network Colorado plan to have the memorial completed by March 2022.