Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Limerick Coalfield.

asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce if he will state what steps have been taken to examine the potentialities of the coalfield situated in Glin (County Limerick) and the surrounding neighbourhood, and, if so, whether it is his intention to exploit these coalfields and to begin production at an early date.

In recent years, officers of the Geological Survey have been engaged in revising the geology of the coal-bearing areas in West Limerick. The facts so far ascertained suggest that there are greater potentialities in some of the other coalfields in Ireland, and, accordingly, I have no present intention of attempting to establish a colliery in the neighbourhood of Glin.

Will the Minister say if any of his inspectors have been to Glin in recent years?

The Deputy must not understand the position. The commercial development of mineral deposits is primarily a matter for private enterprise. The function of the Government is to make available to private enterprise all the information reasonably procurable. The Geological Survey has carried out investigations in respect of the coal areas of Munster and that information is available to any person concerned with their commercial development. The Government has established a company for the carrying on of coal mining activities here but the situation that now exists requires that the entire attention of that company be given to coal deposits in other areas which offer better prospects of successful development.

On what is the Minister basing his opinion that other coalfields offer better prospects of successful development?

On the information in the possession of the Geological Survey.

The records of an Irish commission of 120 years ago?

Will the Minister tell me the date of the latest information on which his opinion is based? Could he not have a boring made and a test carried out as to whether the development of this coalfield would be successful or not? I can find no record of any inquiry made either by the previous Government or this Government in respect of this coalfield and the Minister's information must be based on records in the possession of the Geological Survey which are 120 years old.

The Deputy should visit the Geological Survey and find out what information is available there.

Is the Minister satisfied that our mineral deposits will be developed by private enterprise only?

In present circumstances, with the scarcity of skilled workers and the even greater scarcity of equipment, the amount of development that can be undertaken is limited.

Is the Minister satisfied that that development will take place by private enterprise only?

I shall debate that with the Deputy on another occasion.