In Committee on Finance. - Minerals Development Bill, 1940—Committee and Final Stages.

Question proposed: "That Section 1 stand part of the Bill."

I raised a couple of questions. Will the Minister, when replying, deal with them, or will I mention them again?

The Deputy may raise those points now.

I am satisfied if the Minister deals with them on the Committee Stage or a subsequent stage.

The Deputy might raise them on the sections to which they are relevant.

They are general questions.

It would therefore be better if the Minister replied now to the questions at issue.

They are relevant to the Bill as a whole. The Deputy asked if a mineral which might be profitably developed is found, will a duty be put on the supply from other countries. Obviously that is a question I could not answer.

It could arise.

It is a question I could not answer. It could not arise except by another Act of this House.

I was assuming that that could be done and that a situation such as that might arise.

It could not arise under this Bill.

But then the matter that I dealt with would arise, namely, that you would be handing over the control of the entire industry to a person who would be protected by a tariff and I wanted him confined to his own end of the business. It is a matter that I hold very strong views upon— I do not know whether the Minister agrees with me or not—that a person engaged in mining should stick to that and not invade other branches of the industry.

As I have said, we have no power under this Bill to impose a duty. If a duty has to be imposed it could, of course, be imposed under the Emergency Imposition of Duties Act. The order would then have to come here for confirmation by the House. If it were imposed in the ordinary way under the Budget, it would have to secure the assent of the House before it could be imposed. In that connection the Deputy mentioned the question of coal. Coal—we have not very much of it— is, I suppose, the one mineral deposit for which there would be an immediate sale in this country and which seems to afford possibilities of early development, but the quantity of coal which we should be producing here would certainly not warrant the imposition of any duty in order to keep out supplies from abroad.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 2 stand part of the Bill."

The definition of "working" in this section differs from the definition in the Act of 1931, inasmuch as it is now made to include searching for minerals. That is the only change.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 3 stand part of the Bill."

In this case also, the definition is in essence the same as that used in the 1931 Act, but it is more specific. It now excludes the agricultural surface of the ground, and also turf or peat.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 4 stand part of the Bill."

The general purpose of this section is to define as exhaustively as is reasonably possible the minerals, mineral compounds and mineral substances which would become vested in the State through the operation of the Land Purchase Acts. We do that by setting them out in the Schedule.

In the third last line of sub-section (2), there are the words: "as amended by Section 2 of the Act of 1931". Why are they put in, having regard to the fact that we are repealing the 1931 Act? Surely, if we are going to repeal that Act, we ought to finish with it and not keep it alive for the purpose of one particular section.

On that point I should have to consult the Draftsman; but it is merely to ensure that the provisions of Section 2 of the 1931 Act are definitely carried over.

Why not put them in? I object to saying that we are repealing an Act which, speaking from recollection, contains some 70 or 80 sections, and saying, at the same time, that we are going to keep that particular sub-section alive. Why not put it in and have done with it? Sub-section (3) goes on to say that: "notwithstanding the repeal by this Act of the Act of 1931", but that does not matter as it deals with the Land Acts.

In fact, that section which the Deputy has mentioned simply repeats the references (a), (b), (c) and (d) which now appear in the Bill.

Does the Minister not admit that, on its face, it is an irregular proceeding to repeal an Act and still to keep a particular section alive? In one part the Act is repealed, but, on going through the Bill, you find that a portion is kept alive.

On that I have to be guided by the Draftsman who has adopted this as the way of doing it. I do not think I could improve on it.

The Minister could not make it much worse.

I might. The Deputy does not know what mistakes I might make.

I want the Minister to consider that point, if he is going to bring the Bill to the Seanad, and to get it altered there.

I shall do that.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 5 stand part of the Bill."

This again is very much the same. Here we are making the Minister's power in relation to minerals under foreshore to rest on this Act and not on the Foreshore Act.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 6 stand part of the Bill."

Paragraph (c) is an addition to the list of ancillary rights given under the 1931 Act, but the section is otherwise the same. The new paragraph gives the right to construct, operate and maintain roads and railways for the conveyance of minerals.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 7 stand part of the Bill."

This is in substitution largely for Section 13 of the 1931 Act, which provided for a right of entry and prospecting by the Minister. Here we give a right of entering and prospecting for minerals.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 8 stand part of the Bill."

This is a new provision authorising the Minister to issue prospecting licences.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 9 stand part of the Bill."

This section sets out the regulations which the Minister may make. It will be noted that it contains a provision requiring every applicant for a prospecting licence to furnish evidence as to his character, financial standing and technical qualifications and to give security for the due fulfilment of his obligations under such licence.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 10 stand part of the Bill."

This section provides for compensation for damage under this part of the Act. The following section safeguards the property of the owner of the minerals, and makes it an offence for anyone to whom a licence is granted to work minerals or remove larger quantities than are reasonably necessary for analysis or experiment.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 11 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 12 stand part of the Bill."

This section gives power to revoke or terminate a prospecting licence.

Sub-section (2) says that a prospecting licence shall terminate, if the licensee is an individual, on his death. What about his estate? If a man has spent a few hundreds of pounds—his work may be at the point of completion or at that point at which he has made his large distribution of money—why is it now proposed that, on his death, his widow and children should not get the benefit of saleable rights, if there be any, or the opportunity of getting another person who would be interested in taking over and paying to the family whatever sum might be considered to be a fair discharge?

I think the case there is that the prospector has merely had a right to enter on the land and, at his own risk, to prospect for minerals thereon. Naturally, if he is successful, his enterprise is bound to be taken into consideration when he asks for a mining right. I assume that the Minister, in the ordinary way, would have regard to the requirements of justice, and if a person, having sunk a sum of money in prospecting, died, and if the results of his enterprise were fruitful, he would have to consider the claims of his heirs. I think it might be left to the Minister.

The Minister has no right in that case.

He has not, it is true. I will look into the point.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 13 stand part of the Bill."

This is a repetition, in a slightly different form, of a provision in sub-section (2) of Section 11 of the 1931 Act.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 14.
Question proposed: "That Section 14 stand part of the Bill."

This is the new provision which I have mentioned. Where it appears to the Minister that there are minerals on or under any land and that such minerals are not being worked, or are not being worked efficiently, and the Minister is of opinion that it is desirable in the public interest, with a view to the exploitation of such minerals, that the working of such minerals should be controlled by the State, he may, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, by Order compulsorily acquire such minerals or compulsorily acquire an exclusive mining right in respect of such minerals. I think that that meets the case which Deputy Cosgrave mentioned earlier, where a person acquired those rights merely for the purpose of jobbing, as, if a person acquires a right and does not operate it, the Minister can come in.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 15.
Question proposed: "That Section 15 stand part of the Bill."

This merely prescribes the publicity which the Minister is to give.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 16.
Question proposed: "That Section 16 stand part of the Bill."

This provides that the Minister shall be liable to pay compensation.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 17.
Question proposed: "That Section 17 stand part of the Bill."

In Section 17 (4) there are the words: "false or misleading in a material respect". That may be innocently false or innocently misleading. The penalty is £50.

I assume that the difficulty there is one of proof.

It may be a very innocent mistake.

I shall examine that also.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 18.
Question proposed: "That Section 18 stand part of the Bill."

This merely provides for the surrender of right.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 19.
Question proposed: "That Section 19 stand part of the Bill.".

This deals with the compulsory acquisition of land and ancillary rights.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 20.
Question proposed: "That Section 20 stand part of the Bill."

This deals with notices in respect of mining facilities acquisition orders.

Will the Minister consider, in connection with such notices, the solicitor of the person concerned? It is impossible sometimes to find the solicitor who is looking after the interests. In a time of war there may be quite a number of alterations in the ownership of the place.

The section says that he shall "serve on every person appearing to him to have an interest in such land notice of his intention to make such order and publish at least once in each of two newspapers circulating in the neighbourhood of such land a like notice of his said intention."

Would the Minister look into this matter? I have heard of a case where an estate passed into different hands three times in ten years.

Is the difficulty likely to arise in this country in view of the widespread ramification of the Land Commission?

There are some of our people in various parts of the world.

Would the Deputy suggest a precaution?

Insert: "any person or the legal representative of the estate."

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 21.
Question proposed: "That Section 21 stand part of the Bill."

This deals with compensation for mining facilities.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 22.
Question proposed: "That Section 22 stand part of the Bill."

This deals with licences in respect of State-acquired minerals, that is, where an acquisition order has been made the Minister may grant to any person a right to work such minerals. This will be exercised probably only in exceptional cases and then only when there is a corporation or concern possessing the requisite finance, technical resources and marketing arrangements to work the mineral.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 23.
Question proposed: "That Section 23 stand part of the Bill."

This sets out the regulations which may be made.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 24.
Question proposed: "That Section 24 stand part of the Bill."

This sets out the form and contents of licences in respect of State-acquired minerals.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 25 agreed to.
SECTION 26.
Question proposed: "That Section 26 stand part of the Bill."

This repeats the provision of Section 11 of the 1931 Act, and permits renewals which were not permitted under that Act.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 27.
Question proposed: "That Section 27 stand part of the Bill."

In sub-section (3) (b) there are the words: "knowingly furnishes any such information which is false or misleading".

The Deputy would like that to be dealt with in the same way as in Section 17?

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 28.
Question proposed: "That Section 28 stand part of the Bill."

This is a mining permission, where an application may be made to pick up rejected ore from dumps and ore workings to ascertain whether, in fact, further prospecting would be attractive.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 29 to 32, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 33.
Question proposed: "That Section 33 stand part of the Bill."

This repeats Section 6 of the Act of 1931.

Will the Minister consider now, in view of his experience in connection with the Act of 1931, whether it is necessary to have such a board as this?

The board does not sit permanently, and, taking it in connection with the Act of 1931, I think that on consideration the Deputy will, perhaps, agree with me that in cases like this, where questions of title arise, it is desirable to have a lawyer on the board. In fact, he will be chairman. There has also to be an arbitrator, as he has a knowledge of the value of land and is expert in the valuing of property. There is also a third person: I think that the Act of 1931 prescribed an officer of the Minister responsible for the administration of the Act, as he would be familiar with the code and general policy of the Department and would, perhaps, treat the Act from the point of view of the public, as a checkup. The board is not expensive. We have had nine hearings, I think, before the board in a period of nine years. The board granted mining rights in eight cases; one case was settled by agreement without having to go to the board. The board settled compensation in six cases. In addition, the board is only paid by fee for each sitting, and the number of sitting has not been many. I think it is as cheap and equitable a way of settling these questions as any other that could be devised.

The Minister has raised a very nice question about title. I was a member of the Dublin Corporation for about 18 months when I discovered that in connection with one plot of land the compensation was assessed at £9, but the cost of proving title was £59. There arises in connection with this, the question for the Minister's consideration, when he is bringing this Bill before the Seanad, as to whether he should not take a short-cut through title and have it in the Land Commission. It is ridiculous to have to pay £59 in order to prove title when there is only £9 compensation. Presumably the arbitrator will hear counsel on both sides, and if he is able to be satisfied in regard to title I think that should be sufficient.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 34 stand part of the Bill."

This is a repetition of the provisions of Section 7 of the 1931 Act.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 35 stand part of the Bill."

This repeats Section 8 of the original Act.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 36 stand part of the Bill."

With the exception that "person" is substituted for "officer of the Board", this is Section 9 of the original Act.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 37 stand part of the Bill."

This is Section 10 of the 1931 Act.

Is not that a very elaborate machinery for a very small amount of work?

Of course, the secretary would be an officer of the Department who would be dealing with the Act.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 38 to 47, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 48 stand part of the Bill.

This contains some of the provisions of Section 23 of the 1931 Act.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 49 stand part of the Bill."

This is a repetition of other provisions of Section 23 of the original Act.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 50 to 52, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 53 stand part of the Bill."

This is practically the same as sub-section (5) of Section 23 and Section 33 of the 1931 Act.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 54 to 58, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 59 stand part of the Bill."

Would the Minister say what is the meaning of paragraph (b)? The Land Commission is given a right to decide something there—"such compensation or so much thereof as is payable under such agreement to the Land Commission shall, when received by them, be applied by them, as they think fit, either in discharge of the arrears (if any) of such land purchase annuity or towards the redemption of such annuity or in both of those ways". The first charge there is the arrears. I have no faith in the honesty of any public Department of State—none whatever. If there are arrears there they let them go and get every penny for themselves, and the county council then has to be at the loss. The ratepayers are at the loss.

Not once the arrears are discharged.

I know. They must first apply them to the discharge of the arrears.

Not according to the section—"either in discharge of the arrears (if any) of such land purchase annuity or towards the redemption of such annuity". Of course, they obviously could not apply them towards the redemption of the annuity without providing for the payment of the arrears, too. I think the one is inclusive of the other.

The Minister has no experience of the Land Commission. If there is only enough money to wipe out the annuity, they will do that. If there is a little over, they will discharge a little off the arrears. If there is enough to do both, they will do so, but they will do it in that order, leaving the arrears last.

If they are going to redeem the annuity it means that they must pay to themselves all the capital debt outstanding to the Land Commission.

And leave the arrears there as a liability?

They could not redeem the annuity without extinguishing the arrears.

Ah, could they not? The Minister does not know much about the Land Commission.

Perhaps they could but I do not think it is possible.

There is no provision made for the payment of the arrears there. There is provision for ensuring that the Land Commission will get its last penny. Why the distinction?

I cannot say.

Will the Minister look into it before bringing the Bill before the Seanad?

I will, yes.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 60 to 64, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 65 stand part of the Bill."

Under this section, if the amount of compensation is not sufficient to pay up the Land Commission annuity, the occupier of the land in that case will not get 6d. We will assume there was an advance of £1,000. £200 is paid off, leaving £800. The arbitration board fixes £600 as compensation. It is not sufficient to amortize the Land Commission advance. Apparently there is nothing then whatever for the occupier. Is not there something wrong there in proceeding to mine land to make it less valuable than it is? At the moment the occupier is getting a living out of it. The Land Commission are getting their money. An arbitration board, consisting of a barrister and an officer of the Minister's Department, decides that the value of all this is less than would pay out the advance that has been made by the Land Commission. Obviously, in a case of that sort it would be better not to mine that land at all. Would the Minister look into that point?

I will, but I think the Deputy is stating an extreme case. It is difficult to conceive that the compensation given for a mining right that would affect a whole farm would be insufficient to extinguish the land purchase annuity on the farm. I am not prepared to say that that is not a possibility, but it is difficult to conceive that it would happen.

The question is who conceived it, if the Minister is not guilty of conception? It is a case for the draftsman.

In fact this repeats Section 41 of the 1931 Act and, as I say, we did not want to change it. However, I will look into the point.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 66 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 67 stand part of the Bill."

There is a question raised in sub-section (b) concerning the period of ten years prior to the passing of this Act. Does that mean that a person who bought 11 or 12 years ago is excluded from receiving compensation?

It does not debar him from receiving compensation. It means that if he bought more than ten years ago and had not worked it since he would have to be content to take compensation by way of royalty on the actual minerals raised. In the other case, where he purchased within ten years, or where a person has to pay rent or make an annual payment the board may award compensation in the way of a fixed sum or royalties or in any or all of such forms. It merely goes on the basis that if a person had mineral rights, which were not exercised for a prolonged period, then he is only entitled to get compensation by way of royalties on the actual quantity of minerals raised. If, however, his right is subject to the payment by him of a rent, then the Mining Board will take that into account, and presumably provide for the payment of the rent and equal the rent which he is paying. On the other hand, if he bought property within ten years then they could provide for some alternative form of compensation.

It appears to me that if he bought it for its value 11 years ago he would still have the same moral right.

I will look into it, but I should like the Deputy to remember that he is as familiar as I am with the sort of jobbing that has gone on from time to time in relation to mineral rights. The moment that a favourable opportunity seems to offer to rig a deal in mineral rights we have a number of people who get busy, and this is one way in which their activities might be curbed.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 68, 69 and 70 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 71 stand part of the Bill."

This is a new provision which the Revenue Commissioners ask us to introduce. It is only to provide that where the Minister has to pay compensation the State has the right to receive payment of any debts due to the State.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 72 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 73 stand part of the Bill."

This provision prohibits the irregular working of minerals. It has led to a lot of trouble and, in one case, to a fatal accident.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 74 stand part of the Bill."

Can the Minister say if the provisions in this section have been in operation previously?

They did not operate. Farmers and local authorities boring for wells never had to give any notification.

Not in the case of wells. I am not clear, though, if that was so where a hole was bored extending to less than 30 feet below the surface.

Some of them go to 100 feet and no notification had to be given. Perhaps they were breaking the law unintentionally.

When it is not for mining it does not apply.

The section definitely refers to the sinking of a bore hole.

It has to be read in connection with this Bill.

Whether sunk for the discovery of minerals or for some other purpose.

If they are discovered on the way a person would not break the law to pick them up.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 75 to 82, inclusive, and the Schedule agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Bill received for final consideration and passed.