Written Answers. - Minerals Industry.

Noel Treacy


130 Mr. N. Treacy asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the number of recommendations from the National Minerals Policy Review Group report, implemented to date; the number to be implemented in 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4027/97]

My 1997 priority in regard to the minerals industry is to progress the permitting of further responsible new mining projects by private investors, leading to worthwhile new job creation, and my Department's endeavours are directed accordingly in close association with the other permitting authorities. My Department will also continue to proactively encourage minerals explorationists to focus more on identifying further commercial mineral deposits for development. Our commitment to maximising responsible mining and exploration is clear and sustained.

I am proposing that responsible mining and exploration will also obtain strong Government endorsement in the National Sustainable Development Strategy which will be published in the coming months by the Minister for the Environment. The review group's recommendations 1, 33, 34 and 35 refer. I will also be reviewing with that Minister the permitting arrangements for mining projects in the interests of further improving the permitting processes and minimising delays to mine start-up and job creation. The review group's recommendations 29 to 32, 39 (part) 40, 42 and 43, and also paragraphs 6.21 to 6.23 of Partnership 2000 as recently agreed with the social partners refer.

To date, 20 recommendations of the national minerals policy review group have been implemented, with significant benefit for the minerals industry and the public. The following table gives details.

I indicated, in answer to Question No. 14 on 5 December 1996, as reported at column 1049, volume 472, No. 5 of the Official Report, that I am favourably disposed to legislating in due course in relation to recommendation No. 14 concerning section 20 of the 1979 Act. Other suggestions made by the review group for new legislation involve complex legal issues which require further consideration as and when other priorities permit. The Finance Bill 1997 will give effect to the recent budget provision for a further reduction in the standard rate of corporation tax, from 38 per cent to 36 per cent, and a reduction from 30 per cent to 28 per cent in the corporation tax rate applicable to the first £50,000 of taxable income of companies. Any further reduction in corporation tax rates or new or enhanced tax allowances for the minerals industry are matters for consideration in the ongoing review of tax policy.
I do not propose to give effect to recommendations Nos. 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 15, 16, 18, 21, 22, 25, 26, 37, 50 and 51. My Department has no funds at its disposal to give effect to recommendation No. 46, as I explained in reply to Question No. 163 on 4 December 1996, as reported at column 954, volume 472, No. 4 of the Official Report.
Recommendations Nos. 47 and 48 are essentially matters for the minerals industry to pursue.
Recommendations of the National Minerals Policy Review Group which have been implemented to date
Twenty of the 52 recommendations have already been implemented, notably:
— enactment of legislation to provide for renewal of minerals prospecting licences (R.9);
— retention of Minister's exclusive right to work minerals (R.13) and holding of meetings with minerals industry representatives (R.23);
— provision of incentives to direct attention to underexplored ground (R.19);
— more flexible arrangements for approval of joint ventures between minerals prospecting firms (R.20);
— further environmental protection at both minerals prospecting and development stages (R.17, 27, 28, 36, 38, 39 (part), 44 and 45);
— streamlining of the mine permitting process through closer co-operation between the permitting authorities, namely, the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications, the Environmental Protection Agency and the local planning authority — this applies for example to the detailed assessment of two mine projects, at Lisheen, Co. Tipperary and Kilbreckan, Co. Clare, currently requiring permits (R.41 (part));
— development of financial services for the mining sector (R.49);
— responsibility allocated to Geological Survey of Ireland for promoting the Irish minerals industry at home and overseas (R.2 and 24);
— ongoing review of levels of taxation etc. affecting the minerals industry (R.3) and of potential viability of evolving smelter technologies (R.52);
— 1996 Finance Act provision of a tax allowance for mine rehabilitation expenditure (R.5 (part)); and
— 1996 Finance Act reduction in the standard rate of corporation tax (R.4 (part)) from 40 per cent to 38 per cent, and to 30 per cent in the rate of corporation tax applicable to the first £50,000 of taxable income of companies: The 1997 Finance Bill will provide for a further reduction in the standard rate of corporation tax from 38 per cent to 36 per cent and from 30 per cent to 28 per cent in the rate of corporation tax applicable to the first £50,000 of taxable income of companies.