asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce if he will investigate the possibility of providing State aid for the reopening of Ballingarry collieries, County Tipperary, in view of the greatly increased price of anthracite in recent months.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - County Tipperary Collieries.
This company is in receivership and the receiver is endeavouring to sell the collieries. Any reasonable proposal submitted by the receiver in regard to the reopening of the mine will be considered.
Would the Minister be prepared to indicate whether there is a better prospect now, in the light of the increased price of imported oil, for native produced fuel, particularly hard fuel like that produced at Ballingarry?
Yes. The Deputy will be aware that in the context of a receivership many things are confidential. I am not in a position to indicate these. The level of inquiries, though there is a lack of firm proposals, does indicate that, as one would expect, there is a change in the commercial viability due to the dramatic increase in the price of all energy and, therefore, in the price of coal. There is a changed situation in regard to the future viability of Ballingarry and of other coal producing areas.
In view of the fact that more than two million tons of anthracite is left in the mine, would the Minister set up an inquiry, from his own Department, into the feasibility of operating the mine?
I do not rule that out but from the notes I have there are some hard inquiries and a number of other inquiries that have not yet been delivered in precise form to the receiver. In my view the desirable thing is to get action as quickly as possible. If I thought that instituting an inquiry might disrupt or put off some of these proposals, it would be unwise, but if we do not see some action in the fairly near future I would be prepared to consider what the Deputy has suggested. However, I would rather leave the present inquiries to work on a little further before I make that as a firm decision.
Is the Minister aware that damage is being done to the mine continuously and, in fact, that the flooding situation is not going to improve if something is not done immediately? There is a feeling of frustration amongst the workers who tried to start up their own mining industry. They feel they are being frustrated by the receiver, officialdom and red tape. Will the Minister give the workers a guarantee that he will take immediate action in view of what the Government says is a very serious fuel situation?
The Deputy is as aware as I am of the legal position once a receiver has been put into a firm. I do not want to make a major issue out of it but I feel it is unfair to make allegations about a receiver, or anybody else, without being able to sustain them.
I am not making allegations. I am repeating them.
I appreciate that but if the Deputy has some information of the unsatisfactory nature of the performance of the receiver, or any other unsatisfactory aspects, I would be happy to have them. I have been in continuous contact with the situation in Ballingarry and I think there is at least some hope of a resolution now but I would be happy to have any information that might help that.
Can the Minister say if he knows the difference in the existing price compared with when the mine was flooded by Deputy Ryan's announcement in April, 1973? I understand that the price difference now is £50 per ton.
Without notice I cannot give a hard answer to that.