I refer the Deputy to my reply to his Question No. 9 on 5 December 1996. The position as outlined in that reply remains unchanged. It is still too early to say if the deposit will be economical to develop to the stage where a State mining facility might be considered, and I do not expect the company to be in a position to provide any information for public consumption for very many months yet.
It might help the Deputy to appreciate the situation if he considers that prospecting licences are normally issued for six year periods subject to renewal at the licenceholder's request in the event that all technical and expenditure commitments entered into have been met in full. Where an exploration company finds promising signs of mineralisation it will seek a renewal of the licence to facilitate further exploration and allow for consideration of development of a mine. It could take over two years from the time that a company is satisfied that it has a commercial deposit and a decision is made to apply for a State mining facility, together with planning permission and an integrated pollution control licence from the Environmental Protection Agency, through to opening of a mine.
Because of the amount of information which already existed about the Glangevlin deposit it was decided to limit to two years the period of validity of the current prospecting licence for the area, that is, to 31 March 1998. I would not expect the licenceholder to be in a position to make an informed decision as regards the future of the deposit before 31 March 1998. The question of renewing the licence might be considered if favourable grounds emerge and the licenceholder wishes to continue exploration there with an acceptable work programme. However, if meanwhile the licenceholder obtains a significant amount of unfavourable data over a prolonged period the licence might be surrendered.
I do not have any information available to me at this stage which could usefully indicate what the company's intentions might be in six or 12 months' time. The technical staff of my Department are, however, satisfied with the progress made on exploration of the deposit to date and will continue to monitor exploration activity by the licenceholder.