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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 28 Aug 1940

Vol. 24 No. 24

Minerals Development Bill, 1940—Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The Bill now before the House repeals completely the Mines and Minerals Act of 1931, but —it is important to note this—reenacts the essential provisions of that measure. Many of the changes which are being introduced in the existing code by the new Bill affect matters of detail only, but as these changes are numerous it has been thought desirable to prepare this Bill in the form of a consolidating measure so that those who may contemplate availing of the provisions of it may be absolved from the need to refer back to the earlier measure in order to ascertain what their rights are or what facilities may be available to them.

Possibly, the clearest way of explaining what it is sought to do in the Bill is to summarise part by part the main provisions of the 1931 Act and then to indicate how the provisions of this Bill differ from the provisions of that Act. The Act of 1931 was framed on the assumption that the development of the mineral resources of this country was mainly, if not indeed wholly, a matter for private enterprise only. Under that Act, therefore, it was not necessary to do more than to authorise the Minister for Industry and Commerce to give leases of the minerals which were in State ownership and to provide facilities for the acquisition of the right to work minerals which were in private ownership. Experience has shown, unfortunately, that the fundamental conception underlying the existing Act was not justified and that more comprehensive powers are required to enable such mineral resources as we possess to be developed efficiently and effectively. The present Bill proposes to confer the necessary powers.

Part I of the 1931 Act dealt with the meanings of the terms employed therein and provided also a means for settling the very difficult question of the substances which passed into the ownership of the tenant farmers on the sale of estates through the Land Commission and what substances were reserved to the Land Commission as minerals. The House is, no doubt, aware that on the sale of estates under the Land Acts of 1903 and 1923 minerals were, as a general rule, reserved to the Land Commission, the tenant purchaser being granted the ownership of the stone, gravel, sand and clay on his holding. Difficulties sometimes arose as to whether particular substances were minerals reserved to the Land Commission or were the natural stone, gravel, sand and clay of the locality where they occurred. Furthermore, under the Land Acts to which I have referred, the mineral rights acquired by the Land Commission extended only to deposits which were not being worked on the "appointed day" and the question of fact as to whether or not particular deposits were being worked on the "appointed day" was one which was very difficult of ascertainment.

As a solution for these difficulties, the Act of 1931 empowered the Minister for Industry and Commerce to refer questions of title to the Land Commission. An appeal lay under the existing Act from the Land Commission to the Judicial Commissioner of the Land Commission and from him to the Supreme Court. For a person proposing to work the deposits this reference to the Land Commission, with subsequent rights of appeal, meant delay and, in one case, at least, expensive litigation in which the tenant purchaser was involved. In the proposed Bill the remedy which it is sought to apply is that the Legislature shall declare that all the mineral substances set out by name in the Schedule to the Bill were and always were substances over which an exclusive mining right vested in the Land Commission under the Land Purchase Acts. This would seem—and I think on consideration it will be generally admitted—to be the most practical and businesslike way of overcoming the difficulties to which I have referred. Depending on the completeness of the list contained in the Schedule, this method should dispose completely of many of the troublesome doubts that now infect questions of title to mineral deposits. With the exception to which I have just referred, Part I of the Bill roughly corresponds to Part I of the 1931 Act.

In Part II of the 1931 Act there are contained provisions for the establishment and constitution of the Mining Board. This Board advises the Minister for Industry and Commerce as to the reasonableness of the claims made for mining rights, rights, that is to say, to acquire and develop minerals which are in private ownership. The Board also assesses the compensation to be paid for any such rights under the Act. The Board is constituted of three persons one of whom, the chairman, must be a barrister or solicitor of at least ten years' standing, a second person who must be skilled in land values and a third who must be an officer of the Minister for Industry and Commerce.

Part V of the Bill re-enacts the substance of Part II of the existing Act in regard to the Mining Board. The constitution of that Board will not be altered by the Bill. The general nature of its functions will not be altered either, but cases coming before the Board for determination may be more numerous, depending altogether on the extent to which the powers vested in the Minister under Part III of the Bill will be exercised.

Part III of the 1931 Act contains provisions regarding the terms on which minerals in State ownership might be examined by or leased to persons who wished to develop them. Part IV of this Bill re-enacts Part III of the Act but it introduces in addition the following new principles: First of all the Minister will have authority to give facilities to take from State-owned mineral deposits small quantities of the deposits without putting the applicants to the expense of obtaining a formal lease of them and, secondly, the Minister will be authorised to work mineral deposits as a State enterprise.

The arrangements most suitable for working the minerals by the State, either directly or through a semi-State organisation, will be for consideration in each particular case. So far as it may prove necessary, the Dáil will be asked to provide financial assistance in the form of repayable advances, but I should like to emphasise that the intention is that any mineral development project which will be undertaken by the State will be of such a character as to be capable of maintaining itself within a reasonably short period.

In Part IV of the Act were the provisions under which the Minister or private persons might get authority to work minerals which were in private ownership. These facilities were called "mining rights". Part V deals with the general way in which the minerals shall be developed, or rather with the way in which they shall not be developed. There are provisions in this part of the Bill making it an offence to work minerals in such a way as to deprive of the necessary support any building or other structure on the surface of the ground. The provisions of Parts IV and V of the 1931 Act are embodied in Part II of the present Bill. This is the part which contains the provisions for securing facilities for the working of minerals which are in private ownership. In the Bill they are called unworked mineral licences. In the Act of 1931 these provisions were called mining rights. In this part of the Bill also are the provisions which make it an offence for the person working mineral deposits to work them in such a way as to deprive of necessary support those buildings and other structures which may happen to be on the surface of the land.

Part VI of the existing Act is concerned with the fees to be paid on applications made to the Mining Board, and with the general question of the costs and expenses of that board. Generally corresponding provisions will be found distributed throughout the several parts of this Bill in which they are most appropriate to the general context. Part VII of the Bill lays down for the guidance of the Mining Board the general principles on which compensation for mining rights shall be assessed, and the persons to whom compensation shall be paid. Part VII of the present Bill, likewise, deals with this question of compensation. Compensation will be possible in respect of the following: (1) Land damaged by prospecting; (2) Mining rights acquired by compulsory acquisition orders; (3) Ancillary rights acquired by compulsory acquisition orders; (4) The exercise of the right of entry and user of land which is sought to be conferred under Section 31 of the Bill; (5) Unworked mineral licences or ancillary rights licences granted under Part VI in accordance with Section 53. In default of agreement the compensation due to the rightful owner of the deposits will in all cases be determined by the Mining Board. In fixing compensation the Mining Board must have regard to Section 66 and 67 of the Bill, which provide, inter alia, that the board shall assess compensation on the basis of what would be fair and reasonable as a consideration for a bargain between a willing grantor and a willing grantee; and furthermore, that, in the case of compensation for State acquired minerals or compensation in respect of unworked minerals licence compensation shall, as a general rule, take the form of a royalty rent. It is my opinion that in general the owners of deposits will be sufficiently compensated by a royalty on any minerals which an efficient mining undertaking may succeed in winning from the deposits. This is a form of compensation which is fair to the former owner of the deposit and from the point of view of the new owner the least onerous method of paying compensation.

Part VIII of the existing statute contains general miscellaneous provisions. We propose to repeat these in Part VIII of the Bill, amending one of them which prescribes that information has to be furnished to the Minister for Industry and Commerce about the strata passed through by certain shafts or bore holes. We propose, also, to add a new provision, which is set out in Section 73, making it an offence to work mineral deposits without lawful authority. We have found that a provision of that sort is necessary, because unskilled and inexperienced persons trying to work what they assumed to be mineral deposits have sometimes created conditions which are dangerous to other people and we have, in fact, on record one case where, because of a non-skilled attempt at mining, a life was lost. The provisions I have detailed constitute the principal parallelisms between the several parts of the existing Act and those in the proposed new measure. The latter, in addition, however, contains two important new features to which I now propose briefly to refer. The Act of 1931 made no practical distinction between prospecting for minerals and the working of minerals. The result was that any person who wished to examine mineral deposits for the purpose of ascertaining the extent or the richness of the deposits was faced with almost the same degree of formality and expense as if he had already made up his mind to develop the deposits. Part II of the Bill, the provisions of which, in the main, are new, makes that distinction and it is hoped will facilitate the investigation and evaluation of our mineral resources.

Part III of the Bill introduces another new principle. It authorises the Minister for Industry and Commerce with the consent of the Minister for Finance to issue orders vesting in the State any minerals which are not being worked efficiently in all cases where it is in the public interest that such orders should be issued. It is necessary to ask for the powers sought in this part of the Bill because experience has shown that if their development be left to private enterprise alone, there is a possibility that such of the mineral deposits in this country as may be worth exploiting may never be exploited at all. In the interest of the State, and of the community as a whole, it is important that such mineral resources as we have should be exploited, where possible. Apart from the fact that work of this kind would give much needed employment, the minerals raised would help to feed essential industries with raw materials at times such as the present when, for any cause, the flow of such raw materials into this country is likely to be interrupted.

Another factor which has, to some extent, impeded the development of the mineral deposits in this country is the exaggerated value placed on the deposits by the owners of some of them. It is important to ensure that the efforts of the State to develop mineral deposits should not provide the owners of the deposits with an opportunity for demanding for their interests prices which would make the exploitation and development of these deposits utterly uneconomic. I need scarcely say, however, that there is no desire on the part of the Government to confiscate private property and the Bill, as I have already indicated, provides in Part VII that compensation shall in all cases be paid to the dispossessed owners for any deposits acquired under the provisions of the Bill.

It may be helpful to the Seanad if I try to summarise briefly the various orders and licences for the issue of which provision is made by the Bill. These various orders and licences may be classified into four main groups. First of all, are the orders by which the Minister will be empowered to acquire mineral deposits and to acquire the facilities needed for their development. The orders in this group are (1) Minerals Acquisition Orders, such as would be issued under Section 14 of the Bill, which would vest in the State mineral deposits which are not being efficiently developed. In the same group are what are known as Mining Facilities Acquisition Orders, to be issued under Section 19, which would enable any land or other ancillary right needed for the convenient exploitation of minerals acquired by the State to be likewise acquired.

The second group of orders would authorise prospectors and other private persons to acquire rights against third parties. In this group would come the Prospecting Licence issuable under Section 7 to authorise any person to prospect for minerals whether owned by the State or by private persons. In this group would come also the Unworked Minerals Licence issuable under Section 38. This would authorise any person to work minerals which are in private ownership. It is equivalent to the right called a "Mining Right" in the Act of 1931. In this group there is also the Ancillary Rights Licence, to be issued under Section 40, which would authorise a person who has authority to work mineral deposits to acquire the ancillary rights necessary to enable him to work these deposits effectively.

In the third group are the orders which authorise the Minister to dispose of mineral deposits or of mining rights which are or, under the Act, may become vested in him. The principal orders in this group are three in number—(1) the State Acquired Minerals Licence, issuable under Section 22, which authorises any person to work minerals acquired by the Minister under a Minerals Acquisition Order; (2) the State Mining Lease, provided for by Section 26, which would demise by way of lease any minerals vested in the State; (3) the State Mining Permission, which would enable the person who gets such a permission to remove from State-owned mineral deposits trifling quantities of such deposits for inspection or examination or in certain circumstances, for use.

In the fourth group are the orders which would empower the Minister to secure that mining operations should not be carried out in such a way as to endanger other property. The only order in this group is the Preservation of Support Order, issuable under Section 42. That order prohibits mining operations which might in any way interfere with, or endanger, the stability of buildings or other structures on the surface of the ground.

To sum up, the general purposes behind this Bill come under the following heads—(1) it seeks to authorise the Minister for Industry and Commerce, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, to acquire compulsorily minerals in private ownership which are not being worked effectively or efficiently; (2) it seeks to authorise the Minister to work mineral deposits as a State enterprise; (3) it introduces certain amendments to the existing mines and minerals code, which amendments I have summarised for the information of the House. These, as I have said, are the essential purposes and main provisions of the Bill which has been accepted by the Dáil. On the Committee Stage of the Bill, I propose to introduce, following the discussion which took place in the other House, four amendments. These amendments will affect Sections 17, 59, 64 and 67 of the Bill.

I do not propose to hinder the passing of the Second Reading of this Bill, although it is the type of Bill that I thoroughly dislike. I think it was the 1931 Act to which the Minister referred. It was made necessary by an Article in the Constitution in its original form, Article 11, which had the effect of seriously handicapping any development of mineral working in this country. I did not like the Act. At a later stage I was a member of a committee looking into a particular mining matter and I was quite shocked at the way that Act worked out. It seemed that people could walk on other people's property and hunt around to see if there were any minerals there and, if they could make a case, they could negotiate in London, let us say, in order to sell something, in which they had no rights whatever, at a high price. I objected to that.

When the Minister talks about the State having power, whenever it thinks that a private owner does not work minerals efficiently, to intervene, the assumption is, and it is very much in our legislation now, that nobody in this country is capable of being even nearly as efficient as the State. I object very much to State interference of this type. I would rather people owned things or did not own them. The assumption is that nobody knows anything except the State. A farmer thinks he owns his own farm, but some person comes along and goes prospecting there in order to see if it is possible to get minerals and the State can dictate to the farmer as to what is going to be done with his land. The Minister has referred to a man losing his life. That is the sort of thing that can be dealt with by powers dealing with dangerous structures. Nobody has the right to carry out mining development under conditions dangerous to people and nobody should have the right to interfere with his neighbour's property.

I object to the general principle of the Bill. There seems to be more and more of State interference in this country. We have here an example of a general movement towards socialism; there is this general assertion that the State rights are so absolute and human rights have no real definition at all. I understand we are dealing only with the Second Reading and that there will be certain amendments introduced by the Government before the Committee Stage is reached. It may be that we may want to propose certain amendments too. I could not miss this opportunity of getting up to point out that nearly every enactment brought in by the Government tends to suggest that the people of this country are not able to live their own lives and manage their own affairs, and we have got to have the Government intervening in the management of our affairs down to almost every minor detail.

I have always understood, in the case of land annuitants, that a reservation was made in relation to mineral rights. When the land annuities sinking fund has been completed I should like to feel that every farmer would know he really owned his land and that you would not have the Government saying it thought there might be minerals there and he was not capable of working them efficiently. The main point is that the Government, if it does not think a private owner is working the minerals efficiently, is to have the power to say that it will take over his property, thereby assuming that everything the Government does is done efficiently and everything the private owner does is inefficient. That is one of the outstanding points in a huge Bill containing about 80 clauses.

People love to believe that there are all sorts of concealed wealth under the surface of the soil in this country. It is always politically useful to come along suddenly and say that the Government is bringing in a Bill to develop—I suggest imaginary—mineral deposits in our soil. I remember a few years ago at Slieveanierin, in County Leitrim, an examination was carried out in connection with a proposed iron works. Some thousands of pounds were spent, but I do not think anything of a remunerative nature came out of it.

It seems to me that a Bill like this will tend to have the effect of inducing some people to put pressure on the Government and, if there is any mining work to be carried on in the country, the Government will either directly or indirectly be the employers of the miners. There will be a tendency to have that type of pressure put upon the Government. It may be that a local patriotism will urge some people to think that there is gold or iron in their districts and they will be encouraged to put pressure on the Government to get minerals taken out of the soil for the benefit of the people.

We are moving in the direction of an extension of Government powers and the assumption that nobody is capable of doing anything except the Government and Government Departments. The whole movement of Socialism is a movement tending towards the assumption that the people are inferior. This, I suggest, is a movement to make the people inferior. It would not matter a great deal, as far as one can judge the mineral resources of our country, if the exploitation of our mineral resources was delayed a few years. I would much rather see ordinary private ownership operating rather than have the State controlling everything, claiming rights over property that men believed belonged to them, claiming the right to arbitrate and to decide what compensation should be paid to those men and directly or indirectly making itself the exploiter and the employer in connection with any mineral works that may be operated in this country.

I would be much more concerned if I felt that the Government was prepared to take really serious action and that there were a great number of mineral resources to be operated, but I have heard so many promising stories of what this country contained, and then found that nothing came of them, that I do not think this legislation will make a great deal of difference. As regards the 1931 Act, Article 11 of the original Constitution practically asserted State ownership in such a way as to prevent any possibility of exploitation. So far as I remember the 1931 Act, it was to release that strangling State control and, in the light of the Article of the Constitution, it could only have done that to a certain extent. I would rather see the removal of State influence from this sphere and leave to the ordinary citizens the right to look after themselves rather than to be wet-nursed by the State. It would seem that the curve is going in the opposite direction and this is tending to assert socialist doctrines, that things can be done only by one agency, and that is the Government.

I agree with Senator Fitzgerald that there is no question that the Second Reading should be passed. I understand that some time will elapse between this and the Committee Stage. Most of the matters that I should like to raise are matters which can be much better raised when we come to discuss the details of the Bill. There is one matter upon which I can congratulate the Minister and that is the form in which this Bill has been introduced. I hope it is a precedent that will be followed by other Ministers. When a large number of amendments are required to an existing Act and when a completely new Bill has to be brought in, it means that you can discuss it on the basis that it is to be the law and you can accept it as such without having to look back on other matters. It means that when this measure is passed you will have everything in the one Act, and that is a highly desirable principle.

Judging by the Minister's speech in the Dáil, and not too closely comparing the two measures, the main difference seems to be an extension of the powers of the State in order to enable it to develop minerals; the other matters are relatively unimportant. One thing which I should like to have explained further is why it is necessary to deal with that by means of a general power. I can understand that the Minister might want the acceptance of the principle that that might be done under certain circumstances, but if the State is to develop a mineral it should be dealt with in the same way as electricity or industrial alcohol or various other matters by bringing forward proposals, carrying them through the Oireachtas on their merits and dealing with the whole thing as a matter of State development.

I have a great deal of sympathy with the point of view of Senator Fitzgerald, though I am not prepared to go quite as far as he did. I think there may be circumstances in which there is no likelihood whatever of the development of a mineral that might be desirable, but what I cannot see is why that should be given as a sort of general power rather than as something that should be brought forward and debated on its merits, having regard to the possibility of any private enterprise taking it up, and having regard to all the circumstances. It is on that that I have most doubt with regard to the general change in the Bill. There seem to be almost only two types of people in this country: those who believe that we have enormous wealth in soil—we heard a good deal from a great many of them in the form of letters at the time that the first Constitution Committee was sitting, so much so, indeed, that I think we made the blunder of inserting Article 11 and on that I am quite prepared to agree with Senator Fitzgerald—and the others, who are so sceptical, that they do not believe there is anything in all this talk about mineral wealth. I think that both are probably wrong.

I am inclined to agree more with the point of view of Senator Douglas than with that of Senator Fitzgerald. If left to private enterprise alone, and if left especially to the enterprise or initiative of the holder of a farm, I am afraid we shall have to wait a very long time for anything in the nature of mineral development in the country. I am one of those people who have very little faith in the mineral wealth of this country. I think that, from the mineral point of view, we are really a very poor country, and that because of that we need not bother ourselves a lot about the grievances that may arise as a result of any attempt to work the mineral wealth we have. Outside the County Wicklow, and perhaps one or two small coal bearing areas, the mineral wealth in this country is really very, very small. If, however, any development is to take place, I am afraid that the power to do that will have to be left with the State. Take the case of the individual farmer. If he were to discover some mineral on his land, and were to pursue the working of it, he would not, I am afraid, have gone very far until he had approached the bounds of his neighbour. He would then find himself involved in difficulties with the neighbouring farmers. If, on the other hand, the State entrusted to some body the power to work that mineral it is fairly safe to assume that it would give that body powers to enable it to override such difficulties as might arise. In my opinion, if the working of the mineral were to be left to the initiative of the individual farmer the position would be that he would find it utterly impossible to do that. Therefore, I do not think we need worry ourselves unduly over that aspect of the matter. Whether rightly or wrongly, I believe that the mineral wealth of this country is infinitesimal.

There are one or two points that I desire to bring to the Minister's notice before the Committee Stage of the Bill is taken. In Section 15 it is provided that the Minister may make a compulsory acquisition order, without notice to anybody, and that the only notice given of such order having been made is publication of the fact in the Gazette and newspapers. No provision whatever is made for the giving of notice of the order direct to owners or occupiers who are left to the chance of seeing the notice in these publications. The receipt of specific notice appears to be a matter of vital importance to the parties interested, having regard to the provisions of Section 17 which provides for a period of two months only, and the possible extension of 12 months after the date of the order for application by parties interested. It would appear to be more than possible, indeed probable, that owners, occupiers, or other parties interested may have no knowledge whatever of the order, and that the first they would know about it would be the actual entry for working. I should like to know if the Minister would consider the insertion of provisions for giving due notice of the order to owners and occupiers. I think that is reasonable. I am not aware of any case—no doubt there are some—where the owner has to be satisfied merely with the notice published in the Gazette or newspapers. I think that in all cases where the Land Commission act compulsorily they give direct notice to the person whom they believe to be the occupier.

With regard to the new provisions in this Bill introducing compulsory acquisition, I feel that there should be some protection afforded against the acquisition of mineral rights to the destruction of amenity, recreational or scenic values. Mineral rights may mean a great deal. They may mean that there are very valuable minerals in the land, but they may also mean minerals of very doubtful value indeed. We have got in this country a certain amount of low grade coal which we periodically hear of speculators taking an interest in, but which never comes to fruition, largely, I imagine, because the development of the coal would not be an economic proposition. I think it would be very undesirable for the State to acquire compulsorily, without affording any protection whatever to the owner, mineral rights of doubtful value, especially in places which might be of historic interest or which might have amenity value. Would it not be possible to allow an appeal from the Minister's order to some tribunal which would try to reconcile those conflicting interests? I would ask the Minister whether he would not consider giving protection of that kind, not so much perhaps in the interests of the individual but of the country as a whole.

I observe that the Government are taking power to acquire and to work minerals themselves. I hope that is a power the Government will be slow to exercise, because I cannot imagine any body more unsuited to make a success of a speculative enterprise, such as mineral development, than a Government Department. Development of that kind requires a large amount of capital, a good deal of patience, big resources, and a flexibility of operation which you generally do not find in Government Departments. I trust that the Government will go very cautiously before proceeding to take steps to work directly any minerals in this country.

Would the Minister say whether he anticipates that, as a result of the passing of this Bill, there is going to be greatly accelerated development activity in the case of the minerals that we have in this country? Has he evidence that we have areas in the country where minerals lie that have not been exploited, areas in which no attempt has so far been made to work minerals because, unless there is evidence that we are going to do a great deal more in the matter of mineral development than we have done up to the present, I doubt very much whether the Minister is justified in asking for some of the powers set out in this Bill? I am sure every sensible individual will agree that we ought to make every effort to exploit effectively and reasonably efficiently whatever mineral wealth we have got, either on the top of the soil or some distance under it. I think that, no matter what may be said to the contrary, the first six or nine inches of the soil represent and will always remain the greatest wealth that our people possess, but if further down in the bowels of the earth there are other things the development of which might go to make life more complete, and if these are workable, then I think that we ought to try to get all we can of them to the surface. We have this situation to consider: if it be known that minerals lie in certain areas and that private enterprise will take no part in exploiting them, then I suppose the community must somehow, through some organisation, try to have something done with regard to their development. I agree with some of the previous speakers in that I do not think a State Department is the best medium to entrust that development to. I would much prefer to see some other form of organisation set up to exploit such resources as we have got.

There are obvious reasons why people in this country, and I think people outside the country too, are not enthusiastic about State Departments running businesses like these and, so to speak, bossing all round them. We could point already to the ineffectiveness of Government enterprise in one or two lines of activity here. We have lost a considerable amount of money on our bogs. I do not say that other people did not lose money there before, but the State has engaged in a number of other activities too that are not proving sources of any great wealth. I refer particularly to its endeavours in regard to industrial alcohol and the capital sunk in them—not a very large sum, indeed, but we have not a great deal of money to throw away in this country and we have many ways of using money in this country, if we can get it, more advantageously than on enterprises such as these. For that reason, people are sceptical as to the capacity of the State to do these things as efficiently as private individuals or other bodies could do them and people are not anxious to give the State these extraordinary powers. What Senator Keane has referred to is an example of extraordinary powers.

The worst feature of the matter is this. It may be all right if a group of individuals are given a lease to exploit my farm. They will not attempt it, of course, because there is nothing in it except what is contained on the first six inches of the surface and people who seek leases of this kind will not exploit that part of the farm. If, however, these people were given a lease they would behave reasonably and sensibly. I am much more fearful of the servants of the State, backed with the authority of the State, who will come down to my farm or to the farms of other people. In that case there will be a complete disregard, I am afraid, of the rights of the owner. They will break down your fences and open your gates leading into your fields of corn. They will come along, as some employees of the Electricity Supply Board did in the case of my farm, and tell me that they are going to cut certain trees and toss them into my meadow. Fortunately, in my case I was able to prevent their doing so until after the following harvest but I do sympathise with the ordinary John Farmer who might be intimidated into permitting them to fell trees into his meadow and, as a result, have his machines smashed later in the year. That sort of thing is inherent in a measure of this kind. Because of that we are doubtful whether these powers are going to be exercised as fruitfully, from the point of view of the citizens of the State, as they would be if the Government could manage to have them operated in another manner.

While saying that and while seeing these difficulties, on the other hand I confess that we should do our best to exploit whatever resources we have in this country worth exploitation. We can do that, however, in a sensible way. We should not sink a great deal of money, money which we find it very difficult to get and which might be more fruitfully employed, in a kind of spectacular endeavour that only damnifies real enterprise and takes a great deal of heart out of the people. When we set out to exploit anything, with the authority of the State behind us, we ought to make the servants of the State appreciate the fact that the men on whose lands they enter are the owners, or at least, believe that they are the owners, of these lands and that in their dealings with them, in the matter of acquiring their farms, entering upon them for the purpose of making preliminary examinations or in the matter of dealing with them finally in making awards of compensation, they ought to treat them in the kind of way that a superior authority should treat a lower or weaker authority. If the State were to act like that, even if the State failed in its endeavour, I think the State would come out of its efforts with credit and with that enhanced reputation which we have not been able to acquire for the State up to the present in this kind of activity. I am not approaching this question in a critical manner but in the manner that any man down the country has to approach a problem like this. If the State is going to do this work in the right way, it is no harm for the people at the head of affairs to know how the people at the foot approach a problem of this kind.

Possibly I have no right to speak on this subject because I am not an expert on mining matters, but I have some interest in Irish mineral deposits and I am sufficiently optimistic to believe that they are worth working. I should like to underline some of the remarks made by previous Senators, particularly the appeal made by Senator Sir John Keane, that, in working these deposits, we should have some regard for existing values and amenities. Senator Sir John Keane, however, did not mention one value on which I think special emphasis should be laid, that is, the sporting values of a region where there are large deposits. Some of us can remember how serious damage was done to a splendid fishing river in County Wicklow in recent years by the careless working of the copper deposits. The third part of the Bill disquiets me considerably, that is, the part dealing with the compulsory acquisition of mineral rights by the Government and the working of them by the State itself or by private individuals under licence from the State. I am sure the Minister knows much better than I do the initial cost involved in acquiring the plant requisite to work properly and economically certain of these deposits. That is a very serious matter and may involve the State in considerable initial expense which the taxpayer must meet.

The other point which I mentioned causes me perhaps more disquiet, namely, the granting of licences to individuals. I hope the Department will be very careful in giving such licences and will ensure that the people who obtain them are competent and have sufficient capital to work the deposits properly. Otherwise, they may seriously damage some of our mineral resources. I have particularly in mind the case of a large mineral deposit in the West of Ireland which is in the possession of a corporation who were very anxious to work it. Were it not for the present condition of Europe, they would have got the capital necessary to start work. The war, however, has put a stop to that as to many other economic adventures. A small body, which I do not believe has the necessary capital, wanted to take over the rights from this corporation at an absurdly low price. I hope the Minister will look very carefully into these matters and that if a transfer does take place it will be a case of a willing vendor and a willing purchaser. As regards other features of the Bill, I think that payment by royalty has got some drawbacks. How can you keep a check on royalties? The vendor will have to feel confident that he is not being "done." Will Government inspectors be appointed to see how much is being taken from the mines? I do not want to find fault with the Bill, which I think is inherently good, but I should like some assurance that the third part of the Bill will be worked with due regard to the rights of owners.

The Minister in his explanatory circular, and also in the statement which he made to-day, points out the difficulties arising under the 1931 Act owing to the interpretation placed on the clauses of the Act which purport to define what was held by the land owner and what was retained by the Land Commission. The Act says that stone, gravel, sand or clay were items which belonged to the tenant purchaser and that the Land Commission would then define, on appeal, what other deposits or minerals were reserved to them.

Now, in passing this Act, the Legislature is asked to define more or less finally what is reserved and what is not reserved, and it seems to me that the Schedule to the Bill is one of the most important parts of the Bill so far as these definitions are concerned. As an ordinary individual I must admit that I know nothing as to what is the meaning of half the items mentioned in the Schedule, and I hold that we, as one of the Houses of the Oireachtas, should be in a position to know what we are doing. The first item mentioned in the Schedule is alum, or alum shales. I believe there are several kinds of alums, but I do not know what is meant by alum shales. The next word is "anhydrite". I do not know what that means. Then we have the word "apatite". I know what appetite means but I do not know what the other word means. Going along through the list we find mention of several types of clay. You have ball clay, China clay, fireclay and refractory clays. These are now to be State controlled or, by this enactment, they will become the property of the tenant and not the protery of the tenant purchaser. Nevertheless, they are clays. Marble also is one of the minerals listed there, and later on you have mention of serpentinous marble, whatever that means. Then you have limestone or dolomite and dolomitic limestone. I do not know whether that is just ordinary limestone or a definite type of limestone, but at any rate it is a stone. Besides clay and stone we have even sand listed here. There is mention of silica sand, which, I presume is also to become State controlled. Probably, some of the other materials mentioned in the Schedule would be of the nature of a gravel, and accordingly you have stone, gravel, sand and clay, apparently, being taken over.

To my mind, that is the really serious part of the Bill and I think the House should understand really what it is doing in passing this Bill. There are several stones besides marble and limestone mentioned. Chalk is mentioned and I suppose calcite is a type of limestone. So that practically all these stones under the soil are taken over. Curiously, I do not see any mention of granite, Wicklow granite, but mica is mentioned and so I take it that we would have to take that out of the granite. This is a matter of which I think we should have full knowledge as to the extent to which this thing goes exactly and what is meant by the so-called minerals. I do not know whether all clays are minerals, but I should like to know to what extent the enactment of this Bill is going to take from the land owner his right to his possessions

I rise to support the Bill, Sir, notwithstanding what has been said against it by various speakers, and I must say that I find it very hard to understand the type of opposition the Bill has met with here to-day. If this discussion had taken place a year ago or even six months ago I could understand it, but with a war raging around our coasts and with the obvious possibility of a complete blockade of this country I cannot see how anybody could conscientiously stand up and try to prevent, as apparently they have been trying to prevent, the development of our various mineral deposits in this country. If there were no other reason except one, I would willingly support this Bill, and that reason is that I believe that as a result of this measure the coal deposits of Slieveardagh in the County Tipperary will be released. I think the Bill would supply a long-felt want if it were to do nothing else but that. I am sure that we have similar deposits of coal and other minerals all over the country—I know that we have—and it is about time that we got over any little technicalities which may have been holding up the development of such deposits. I have been hammering at this Slieveardagh proposition for a number of years, and I have gone to various Ministers and, one after another, they always told me that, for one reason or another, the thing could not be done, with the result that the coal has lain there and the people of the district have been idle and have had to rely on unemployment assistance and the dole for a number of years. I believe that as a result of this measure there will be an outlet for that particular proposition and, as I said at the beginning, if it were for no other reason than that I would gladly support this Bill.

As I have already said, if this discussion took place a year ago it would be easy to understand certain people opposing the measure, but at the present time the question of coal is daily becoming of more importance, not only for its use in heating houses, cooking and so on, but from the point of view of our whole organisation which depends on our coal and peat deposits. We have had a speech from Senator Baxter in which he says that the first six or nine inches of the soil are the most important and that, when all is said and done, they are our greatest source of wealth. That may be so; there may be a good deal in that, but I am sure the Senator will agree with me that our six or nine inches of soil would be very little good to us if we were absolutely confined to them and had no coal or other deposits which are necessary to maintain the industries and the very existence of this country.

Various suggestions were also made to the effect that this Bill was being introduced to enable the State to monopolise the whole development of minerals in this country. My reading of the Bill and of the explanatory note attached to it would not convey any such idea to me. In fact, I am quite satisfied that the whole idea behind the Bill is to enable the Government, in cases where certain mineral deposits are not being developed by private enterprise or not being properly worked by private enterprise, to interfere themselves by way of State or semi-State Departments. In fact, I refuse to believe that the policy of either this Government or the previous Government was to monopolise the industries of the country. I believe that it was not their policy even to set up the industries that have been mentioned here as State concerns if it were possible to get them developed by private enterprise. I think it is ridiculous, at this stage in any case, for us to start to criticise what has been done. Certain experiments have been tried; many of these experiments have been successful and some of them have not been successful, but if an attempt had not been made to develop certain industries and try out these experiments we would be in a very different position from that in which we are to-day. I believe that it was only as a result of the risks, if you like to call them risks, which were taken that we are in a position to-day probably unique, and, in fact, definitely unique in Europe.

Senator Baxter has taken advantage of the debate to have a crack at the peat development industry, and while I do not propose to deal with the matter for obvious reasons—I am sure the Minister will deal with it in his reply— I should like to tell the Senator that before entering on such a discussion, he should first make himself conversant with the facts. If he were conversant with the facts, he would know that the briquette factory at Lullymore which failed was not, in reality, a State enterprise, but one of the things which he apparently lauds here to-day, a matter of private enterprise. Unfortunately, it did not succeed, but I have not lost hope that it may yet succeed under different management. I should like to tell Senator Baxter and anybody else who may think as he thinks, or who may believe what he says, that the money put into peat development was not lost, and I believe will not be lost, but that, instead, the country will be very much the better and very much the richer for the development which has been carried out up to the present.

I believe that it is probably the second greatest industry we have in the country—second, and only second, to agriculture—and I believe it would be criminal for this or any other Government in existing circumstances not alone not to carry on the industry, but not to increase the production of turf in every possible way. I believe the same applies to coal, copper, aluminium and the various other deposits we have in the country, and more than ever because of the war situation. Even before the war, I should say that it would be the duty of the Government, and a very desirable thing on the part of this or any other Government, to make provision for the development of the various minerals available, if the development were not being carried out by private enterprise. I am sure that the Minister will explain that the Government are in no way jealous of private enterprise and that, in fact, they would very much prefer private enterprise to do the job; but if private enterprise does not step in to do the job, the Government has a responsibility to the people which it cannot and must not shirk and more particularly at present.

With regard to the statements made in connection with the provision of compensation, compensation is very definitely provided for in the Bill and the explanatory note to the Bill says that compensation shall be paid to the dispossessed owners and the compensation will, in default of agreement, be fixed by the mining board. It also sets out that the compensation which the board is empowered to award is limited to compensation by way of royalty on the quantity of minerals raised from deposits which are acquired. Similarly, provision is made in connection with prospecting, so that any damage done on the surface will be paid for and paid for reasonably. I am quite sure, that if it were suggested that somebody be paid an enormous sum for a little damage done, such as that caused by running a two-ton or three-ton truck across a field, Senator Baxter would be the first to criticise the Government for making such a payment.

Senator Baxter also painted pictures of Government officials going around the country knocking trees down on top of farm machinery and running rough-shod through crops of wheat and oats, and through meadows. I know quite well that Senator Baxter has too much common sense to believe anything like that himself and I also know that the people who read his speech, or who heard it, have enough common sense not to believe that Government officials are different from anybody else. It is only just an accident that Senator Baxter was not a Government official himself, and even if he were, I should say that he would not do a thing like that. It is a very popular thing to attack Government officials and civil servants, but I think it ridiculous to take advantage of a debate of this kind for that purpose.

Ba mhaith liom focal molta do rá ar thaobh an Bhille seo agus tá orm a rá nach bhfuil aon imnidhe orm fá Stát nó Rialtas seilbh do ghlacadh ar rud mar seo. Dheineadar cheana é agus is dóich liom fhéin gur ceart uachtar na talmhan, mar a dubhairt an Seanadóir Baicstear, do thógaint ó na daoine nach bhfuil ag baint úsáid as, agus é do thabhairt do dhaoine a bhainfeadh usáid as. Tá roint mhaith den obair sin déanta cheana, agus tá dúil agam go ndéanfear níos mó de. Seo rud amháin atá le haimsiú. Tá mianacha ina luighe fén talamh, agus ní thuigim na rudaí adubhairt Seanadóir amháin ar an gceist seo mar sé mo thuairim fhéin nach bhfuil fhios againn cé mhéid mianacha atá san íochtar sa tír seo. Tá fhios againn go bhfuil cuid mhaith ann agus mara mbaintear usáid asta, luigheann sé ar an Stát, nó ar an Rialtas, atá ag obair ar son an Stáit, féachaint chuige nach bhfan-faidh an cheist mar sin, ach go dtabharfar airgead le haghaidh na hoibre agus go mbainfear feidhm as na mianacha atá san dtalamh.

Ní thuigim ón Bhille go bhfuil an Rialtas ag aimsiú an obair do dhéanamh dóibh fhéin. Tá a lán áiteacha sa Bhille in a luaidhtear go gcuirfear saothrú na mianach ar léas do dhaoine a bhainfeadh féidhm as an saidhbhreas atá ann. Is dóich liom gurb é sin an aimsiú ceart—é do thógaint ó na daoine nach bhfuil á shaothrú agus é do thabhairt do na daoine a shaothróchadh é. Nuair atá rud sa Bhille go dtabharfar cúiteamh do na daoine a dtógfar uatha é, ní fheicim fhéin go bhfuil adhbhar gearáin ag aon duine mar gheall air. Sin é an dóigh is fearr chun dul ar aghaidh, agus tá súil agam go leanfaidh an Rialtas leis an obair tábhachtach atá luaidhte sa Bhille seo.

Senator Fitzgerald suggested that this Bill, perhaps, had its origin in the fact that a number of people believe that under our soil are all sorts of mineral riches. In view of the manner in which that widely-held belief has been exploited by a number of unscrupulous persons in the past, I should like to say that no investigation that I have had occasion to study supports the view upon which that belief is based, and that it is perhaps because of that fact that I consider this Bill to be even more essential than it might be if the popular belief were, indeed, a correct belief. It is because our mineral resources are scanty that we have to take special steps to ensure that they will be carefully conserved and skilfully worked, and, also, in view of the fact that there is need for us to provide the utmost employment for our people, to ensure that, if they are worth working, they will be worked. It is upon that basis that this Bill proposes to proceed and not with the idea of socialising this State, socialising our industry or our people. If private enterprise will go in and do what the Government thinks ought to be done in regard to our mineral resources, there will be nobody more pleased than the present Minister for Industry and Commerce and certainly I am sure that, in that regard, I am speaking for all of my colleagues. It is only when private enterprise has failed and, in my view, has conclusively failed, that we should seek to utilise the powers which it is proposed to confer upon the Minister for Industry and Commerce, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, under this Bill.

Senator Douglas asked why it is necessary to take the general powers sought for. There are a number of reasons, the first of them being that, when you propose to acquire a mineral deposit, the general characteristics of the problem may be taken to be the same. It usually resolves itself into a question of the value of the deposit and the compensation to be paid for it and for those ancillary rights which are essential to the development of the deposit. If we were, in regard to every particular mineral deposit in this country which might be workable, to bring in a special Act of the Oireachtas and get the Oireachtas first of all to agree as to the manner in which the value should be assessed, the form in which the compensation should be paid and the ancillary rights which were essential for the proper working of the deposit, I think the Oireachtas would have very little time to devote to the remaining concerns of this nation. Accordingly, in the Bill we are laying down the general framework within which this question of compensation and ancillary rights shall be settled. When we consider it necessary, on the basis of rights thus acquired, to proceed to exploit any particular proposition, a specific proposal will be submitted to the House and the House will then have an opportunity to express its opinion as to whether the proposition submitted to it is a worth while one or not, and we hope that it will be able to do that expeditiously without, as I have said, having to go over and repeat, in regard to the general basis of all propositions, the procedure to which this Bill is being subjected to-day.

Senator Sir John Keane, referring to Section 15 of the Bill, mentioned the fact that no notice appeared to be given to the owner of the minerals. I am not certain that the Senator's point is not fully covered by Sections 16, 17 and 20 and, accordingly, I shall look into it; but there is this difficulty with regard to the point he has raised. The owner of the minerals is seldom the owner of the surface. In this country, I suppose in the generality of cases the owner of the minerals would be the Land Commission, and I think it could be assumed that the Minister for Industry and Commerce is not going to do violence to any rights which his colleague the Minister for Lands may have in regard to mineral resources. Apart from that fact, there is also the fact that where the ownership of the minerals is in other hands than those of the Land Commission, it may be very difficult to ascertain the true owner. We can only proceed then to deal in the first instance with the land and in the meantime the owner of the minerals will have due notice, as I said under Section 16, when it is proposed to acquire his rights in regard to the minerals, and I think he will have ample time to make his case to the Government in regard to that matter. However, as I have said, I shall look into the matter again, as we have no desire to do any injustice to any private rights that there may be in this country in relation to the mineral deposits thereof. I shall also look into the other point which Senator Sir John Keane raised and if he would suggest an amendment for my consideration I will very carefully consider it and see whether I cannot do something to meet it.

Senator Baxter asked me whether, as a result of this Bill, there will be a greatly accelerated development of our mineral resources. Frankly, that is something that I do not know. It will depend upon whether the circumstances for such development continue to be favourable. At the moment, in relation to a number of our deposits, they do happen to be favourable. If those deposits can be developed economically, taking a reasonably long view, they should be developed.

Are they being exploited at the moment?

No, not even some of those the development and exploitation of which would be most essential to the farmers at the present time. That is because the development has been left in the hands of private enterprise which, in my view, has lamentably fallen down on the job. It was rather unfortunate that the Senator should have suggested that the development of the mineral resources of this country under the auspices of the Government would be likely to be unsuccessful and, in that connection, to have cited the amount of money which was being spent in endeavouring to exploit the peat resources of the State because, as Senator Quirke has indicated, while it is true that a very considerable sum of money was lost in connection with one peat project, that peat project was entirely in the hands of private enterprise, the management and control of it and every item of its administration. Because we felt that it was important from the point of view of the general economy to see what possible use could be made of our extensive peat deposits we rather liberally financed that undertaking. As regards the activities which are being carried out more directly under Government auspices, I should like to say that they have proven their worth in this particular year, that though considerable sums of money have been invested in them and though the development of the peat resources presents very many difficult engineering and other problems, I do think that they are now beginning to show results which will justify the moneys which have been invested in them. I say beginning to show results, and I do not want to put it any more optimistically than that. It may happen that we may get a setback because we, in common, I think, with most other countries in Europe, have a very great deal to learn about the technique of peat development. We have learned a great deal during the years which members of the Turf Development Board have devoted to this problem and, as I have said, in this year, I think all their past activities are being justified. If the existing situation in regard to fuel continues and if we have average climatic conditions in this country and can maintain present working conditions, I think the progress which the Turf Development Board will make will considerably surprise those who have been critics of its activities.

Senator Alton suggested that he was disquieted at the prospect of compulsory acquisition of mineral rights by the State. Naturally, I suppose, when a power so absolute as the State is given further powers over the properties of individuals most ordinary private persons in the community might feel some disquietude, but at the same time that disquietude should be tempered by the fact that we have in this country a responsible Government, a Government which is responsible to the two Houses of the Oireachtas and that if at any time the powers conferred by this Bill were to be exercised in an arbitrary or unjust manner the Minister responsible for the exercise of these powers in that way can be called publicly to account. The Senator also professed to be disquieted at the fact that prospecting licences would be given to private individuals who might be incapable of properly utilising them, and I think that that also was in the mind of Senator Fitzgerald when he referred to the manner in which such licences had sometimes been granted. In that connection I should like to refer the House to Section 23, sub-section (1), paragraph (e) of the Bill, where it is provided that in connection with applications for licences in respect of State acquired minerals, the Minister may make—and in this context "may make," I think, is mandatory—regulations "requiring every applicant for a State acquired minerals 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, and prescribing the nature of such evidence and of such security respectively." I think that the making of proper regulations controlling the issue of licences in respect of State acquired minerals in accordance with the terms of this paragraph will ensure that the licences will only be given to people who can properly use them.

In regard to the point made also by Senator Alton that it was difficult to keep a check on royalty payments, I think perhaps the Senator would be reassured there if I point out that in most cases, I think, it will be the Government which will be responsible for the royalty, and I think he can at any rate rid himself of any uneasiness he may have as to the honesty of the Government in matters of this sort.

Senator O'Donovan described the Schedule which is attached to the Bill as one of the most important portions of the Bill, and he then went on to criticise us somewhat severely because we had not circulated with the Schedule a glossary of the terms which appear therein. I do not know exactly to what extent such a glossary would have been helpful to Senator O'Donovan or to any other Senator who wished to discuss this Bill learnedly upon this stage, but I think that before proceeding to criticise the Minister for his failure in this matter, the Senator might have ascertained whether the information was or was not available for him in the Library or whether it could be obtained either upon inquiry from my Department or elsewhere. I think that in relation to this Bill I have given the House somewhat greater help than is usual and, after all, it is no part of the Government's responsibility to equip any particular Senator with the knowledge and information which he deems to be necessary in order to enable him to discharge properly and fully the obligations which his membership of this House imposes upon him. While in view of what has been said by the Senator I will circulate fuller definitions of the terms, I think that we will have to feel that the Government has one responsibility and the members of the House have another, and that at least when we do try to be helpful to the House we should not be subjected to carping criticism.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for 25th September.