Minerals Development Bill, 1940—Committee.

Sections 1, 2 and 3 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 4 stand part of the Bill."

Why is it that when the Principal Act of 1931 is being repealed, the particular section quoted here could not be put into this Bill, so that we would have it all in one, instead of having references? I know that the draftsman would say that this is the handy way to do it but, from the point of view of people who have to look it up, it seems to be an unhandy way.

Perhaps I have the same point of view, if I may say so, but the law officers who drafted the Bill, who are themselves anxious to avoid references, state that it was unavoidable here.

Why not put all the other sections into this? That was not unavoidable.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 5, 6 and 7 agreed to.
SECTION 8.

I move amendment No. 1:—

After sub-section (4), page 8, to add a new sub-section as follows:—

(5) Every prospecting licence shall contain a clause requiring the licensee thereunder to exercise the rights conferred on him by such licence in such manner as not to interfere unnecessarily with the amenities of the locality in which are situate the land and minerals the subject of such licence.

This amendment is intended to meet a point raised by Senator Sir John Keane in the course of discussion on the Second Reading of the Bill, regarding the necessity for protecting the amenities of a district in which mineral developments take place.

Has the word "amenities" got a certain recognised meaning or has it sporting possibilities?

I think it would cover both rights. The draftsman accepted it as a word capable of such legal interpretation.

I suppose the meaning of the word would necessarily be left to a court.

I suppose so, just as the meaning of all words in every statute must be left to the interpretation of the courts.

I should like to ask the Minister for Information regarding the giving of licences for prospecting. Is there any provision in law—there seems to be nothing in the Bill—to provide that only a citizen of Eire can get such a licence?

Not that I know of. The Minister can give the licence to any person who is a fit and proper person within the terms of this Bill.

Could any citizen of any country be given a licence?

Certainly. I do not think there is anything to the contrary, provided that he is a person of good character and recognised competence.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 8, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 9.
Question proposed: "That Section 9 stand part of the Bill."

In view of the amendments introduced by the Minister, I ask leave of the House to withdraw amendments Nos. 2 and 7 standing in my name.

Agreed.

In order that there may be no misunderstanding, may I say that Senator Baxter will see that paragraph (d) of sub-section (1) of this section requires every applicant for a prospecting 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.

I know that, but my difficulty was that a good deal has been said to-day about a number of people coming in here prospecting. I just wonder how you manage to get this information about the character of these people and their financial standing. It would be something about which we would have to be rather careful.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 10 and 11 agreed to.
SECTION 12.
Question proposed: "That Section 12 stand part of the Bill."

I am very poorly equipped technically to discuss this point. A man gets a licence: he may spend a certain amount of money in prospecting, so that, when he dies, he may have gone to considerable expense and acquired some information and some rights. His heirs-at-law have no right at all and get nothing at all from what he spent or from what he may have acquired. That seems to be a very peculiar situation. I understand, of course, that the licence is given to a particular individual and that somebody else may not have the same qualifications to work it. On the other hand, is no value at all to be attached to what the man has done, and do his heirs-at-law get nothing at all out of it?

They do. The licence itself is of no value: the value lies in the knowledge which the person who holds the licence acquires in the operation of it. Presumably, he would make proper provision so that that knowledge would not die with him. If it did die with him, his representatives would have no remedy in such circumstances. We may assume that, if he has acquired knowledge, he has arranged that it will be available to his heirs and representatives, so that they can come along and ask for another licence. There would not be very much difficulty, provided that they can fulfil the requirements as to character, financial standing and technical qualifications.

This licence is not in any degree preposed to these people? For instance, a man with technical knowledge gets a licence and spends £10,000. In doing so he may or may not get extra knowledge and may or may not have transmitted that to his son; but though he has put up £10,000, which he would probably have lost on the totality of the job, now that that money is sunk in the soil, I can come along and get a licence. There is nothing in the Bill that I know of which gives a greater advantage to his son and heir-at-law than it does to me. Some clerk or civil servant may opt to give the licence because an interloper who comes in may, on paper, be able to show a greater technical knowledge. In that way, one could in effect walk away with the £10,000 spent by one man, which should have gone to his heir and which, through the operation of such a clause as this in the Bill, will be foreclosed on by an independent applicant for a licence.

Before the Minister intervenes, may I say that the Minister has said one thing which impressed me in regard to this. If the heirs of the licensee are prepared to go on with the work and if they can prove their capacity to do so, are we to understand that they would in fact be preferred to others? If they would, the whole problem is solved, but there is nothing in the Bill to indicate that. It seems to be in accordance with natural justice that, if a man has spent time and money on this work and then dies, his heirs—if they are competent and have the technical qualifications and character, as they normally would have—should get the preference.

Let us bear very clearly in mind the point at issue. We are dealing with the question of a prospecting licence which entitles a person to go in on land, provided that he will fully compensate the owner and is qualified in certain ways, to look for minerals. Taking the case which Senator Fitzgerald has raised where a person has spent £10,000 in acquiring such knowledge: presumably, if the £10,000 has not been spent foolishly, a proper record of the investigations will have been kept and left in the possession of those entitled to it, that is, the heirs-at-law. If, with that knowledge, they are able to come along and say they are in a position to continue the work because they are technically qualified or in a position to employ the necessary technical assistance to continue this investigation, then, if they have acquired knowledge which is worth £10,000 I would say that prima facie they would be entitled to preference in a matter of that kind. However, I doubt whether it would be possible to spend £10,000 in this country advantageously in prospecting.

I doubt it, too.

So the question of a person spending £10,000 does not arise. A case might arise of a person who had got a prospecting licence and had carried out investigations which were not excessively costly. He would have made a record, presumably, of the results of his investigations and it would have been given to his heirs-at-law. The point might arise that they would not be technically qualified and that they would not be in a position to employ a person who would be technically qualified. There would be no public advantage in giving a licence to such persons to prospect as they are not technically qualified and have not the resources to employ qualified persons, but they would have possession of certain information which, presumably, they could dispose of to some qualified person, who would be of good character and sound financial standing and who could then come along and get a prospecting licence. The main purpose in issuing a prospecting licence is to secure the public advantage, and in the case of a person who is not capable of employing it usefully to the public advantage, in the first instance, and to his own advantage in the second instance, so far as the Bill is concerned, there is no justification for issuing a prospecting licence at all. Accordingly, I do not think that any useful purpose would be served by making a statutory reservation in favour of the heir-at-law of a person who had originally secured a prospecting licence.

Or even a statutory preference.

I agree with the Minister that it might easily be true, if you were to insert a legal provision in the Bill vesting the heir-at-law with certain rights, that that might be against the public interest. The Minister, I think, in speaking, not by intention, implies that the public interest at this stage is all dominating, but the question of equity comes in. The public interest in this country would suggest that we had no moral code: that we were encouraging people to come in and spend their money in prospecting, and that then the Government can, arbitrarily, take the whole thing over. That would be public interest—material interest—but we recognise that superior to that is the law of equity. The Minister also pre-supposes that the heir-at-law will be the one person in possession of the information. A man could spend a fair amount of money bringing in diamond drills or perhaps the newer system of magnetic drills for the purpose of prospecting. He could spend a lot of money in that way. He would employ, say, a mining engineer. He could spend a very large sum of money in that way. It might be only £10 or it might be £10,000, but whatever it is the same principle operates. The son is 23 years old, say, and the man assisting is a qualified engineer and has actually participated in this prospecting and in these drillings. The Minister assumes that the knowledge set down in documents is available to the son who is heir. Admittedly, the engineer who assisted the original prospector might be better equipped technically and might have a more intimate knowledge of the borings than his heir has. Therefore, I think the Minister's statement does not entirely cover the point raised. At the same time, I can quite see that if you were to insert a legal provision which vested a right in the heirs-at-law, you might create a worse position than the present one. The truth is that this is a matter of the Government butting in, taking over people's private land and vesting a right in somebody to go in and prospect. That is a thing that I have no personal sympathy with. I do agree with the statement that if the Minister were to attempt to meet our point he might easily make things worse than what they are.

In cases of intestacy there might be very considerable difficulty experienced because there might be several heirs-at-law. I think the correct thing to do in such cases would be to proceed by means of a private company. It would be quite easy to form a private company, with very small capital, for the purpose, and that apparently would safeguard the rights of the individual.

Would the Minister say whether there is anything to prevent a licence being granted to a limited company? I cannot see anything in the Bill to prevent that. In measures of this kind you sometimes do find references which would prevent that, but if it is possible under the Bill to have a licence granted to a limited company I think that would be desirable, because it would enable the difficulty spoken of to be got over.

There is nothing to prevent that.

I could not see anything in the Bill to prevent it.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 13 and 14 agreed to.
SECTION 15.

I move amendment No. 3:—

In sub-section (1), after paragraph (a) to insert a new paragraph as follows:—

(b) serve notice of the making of such order on the owners and occupiers of the lands on or under which such minerals are and on the owners of such minerals provided that in the opinion of the Minister such owners can be reasonably ascertained.

On the Second Reading of the Bill, the Minister indicated that he would consider an amendment on the lines of the one I have on the Order Paper. He also stated that he doubted whether a personal notice was really necessary as mines and minerals generally vested in the Land Commission. I have ascertained, from available figures, that there are over 4,000,000 acres of land in Eire in respect of which the mines and minerals are not so vested. That is quite a substantial area. The Minister also said that the owner of the soil might not be the owner of the mines and minerals and that there might be a difficulty in ascertaining the latter. The amendment which I have put down does not seem to put any great difficulties in the way of acquisition. It gives the Minister a certain discretion. It only requires that notice will be given in cases where the Minister can be reasonably expected to ascertain who the owner is.

The reason for the amendment is that the Bill empowers the Minister to take mines and minerals without direct notice to the owner. Section 17 provides that a person claiming to be entitled to compensation must lodge his claim within two months, with a possible extension to 12 months, after the publication of an order in the Gazette. It would seem probable that, in practice, the first direct intimation the owner would be likely to get would be the actual entry for working the mines and minerals, and this entry would likely be within the specified time. In that case the owner would be precluded from making any claim for compensation. I feel that, in this matter, there is a strong case for direct notice. If the Minister is not satisfied with the wording of my amendment perhaps he would consider introducing one of his own, to effect the purpose I have in view, before the Report Stage.

I have given a good deal of consideration to the point raised by Senator Sir John Keane, and I have come to the conclusion that it would not be practicable to give the notice which he requires. There are many cases in which the number of the surface owners of land who would be affected by a proposal to make a Minerals Acquisition Order would be to the order of several hundred, and a large number of these would not be the owners of minerals at all. If we were to proceed to notify every one of these several hundred and if by any chance we omitted one or two, perhaps our whole proceedings might be squashed on the ground of irregularity. I think that, in general, the practical situation would be that, where we propose to make a Minerals Acquisition Order, notice of the making of the order would appear in the newspapers. Those whom the order was likely to affect would hear of it in that way. The news would quickly spread amongst the owners' neighbours. For that reason I ask the Senator not to press the amendment. If I were to accept it, it would create difficulties which would make the working of the Act very difficult.

There should be no difficulty in serving notice on the owners of minerals. Sometimes, as I know, the owners of minerals do not live in the neighbourhood of their land, and because of that might not see the published notice that the Minister refers to.

There is no registry of mineral owners such as that which corresponds to the land registry. The names and addresses of the owners of minerals might run into hundreds, and for the reasons I have indicated it would be quite impracticable to do what the Senator suggests in his amendment. When the Senator first mentioned the matter it seemed to me that it would be quite a reasonable thing to do. I have since given a great deal of consideration to it, and now find that it would be very difficult, in practice, to do what he suggests.

I wonder would it be possible for the Minister to have the section so amended as to make it legal to have one person, amongst a number, so notified. If hundreds of people have to be notified I see the difficulty of doing what is suggested in the amendment. The Minister has referred to the notice to be given in the newspapers. I want to assure him that very few people read these notices and, therefore, I suggest to him that is not the way information concerning these matters should be conveyed to land owners. If the Minister would look into the matter, he might be able to devise some plan whereby notice to any one of these people would be construed as notice to all of them. Some method of direct communication should be found. The notice published in the newspapers is not adequate. Such notices as are published by the Electricity Supply Board and other corporations cannot be regarded as sufficient when acquiring the rights of farmers.

I suggest that the words "reasonably ascertained" give the Minister full protection.

The question is whether or not the Minister will be put on proof that he has ascertained every owner in the area and served notice upon him. It might be almost impossible to prove that. It is the owners of the minerals with whom we are dealing and not the owners of the lands on which the minerals lie. That point is fairly fully and reasonably dealt with in Section 20. Before lands can be entered upon for the purpose of working the minerals, the Minister has to serve notice on every person who he thinks has an interest in the lands. I shall, however, look into the point raised in the amendment.

The Minister might see whether he could render the words "reasonably ascertained" more favourable to himself so that there would be no danger of his being held up on a technicality. I am satisfied with the promise the Minister has given to look into the matter.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 15 and 16 agreed to.
SECTION 17.
(4) If any person, who is required under paragraph (d) of the immediately preceding sub-section of this section to furnish any information to the Minister, makes for the purposes of the claim to which such information relates, any statement which is false or misleading in a material respect, he shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding £50.
Amendment No. 4 (Sir John Keane) not moved.

I move amendment No. 5:—

In sub-section (4), page 11, line 38, before the word "makes" to insert the words "either wilfully or recklessly".

This amendment is introduced to meet a point raised in the Dáil that a statement might be made which was not untrue to the knowledge of the person making it.

Amendment agreed to.
Section, as amended, agreed to.
Section 18 agreed to.
SECTION 19.
(1) Whenever the Minister is of opinion that it is necessary for the efficient or convenient exploitation of any State acquired minerals to acquire any land or any ancillary right, the Minister, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, may by order (in this Act referred to as a mining facilities acquisition order), compulsorily acquire, either permanently or temporarily, such land or such ancillary right.

I move amendment No. 6:—

In sub-section (1), page 11, line 50, to delete the word "acquired".

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 7 (Sir John Keane) not moved.

I move amendment No. 8:—

In sub-section (2), page 12, before paragraph (d), to insert a new paragraph as follows:—

(d) such order may contain a provision requiring that, in carrying such order into effect, all persons charged with the execution thereof shall have due regard to the amenities of the locality in which is situate the land or ancillary right acquired by such order.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 19, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 20 to 22, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 23.
(1) The Minister may make regulations for all or any of the following purposes, that is to say:—
(d) specifying the terms and conditions to be incorporated in such licences (including the period for which the licence is granted) and the obligations to be imposed by such licences on the licensees thereunder.

I move amendment No. 9:—

In sub-section (1), paragraph (d), page 12, line 20, after the word "thereunder" to add the words "and, in particular, requiring the licensee under any such licence, in exercising the rights conferred thereby, to have due regard to the amenities of the locality in which is situate the subject matter of such licence";

Amendment agreed to.
Section, as amended, agreed to.
Section 24 to 32, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 33.
Question proposed: "That Section 33 stand part of the Bill."

What does the Minister think will be the cost of the board under Section 33?

The cost of the board has not been very heavy up to the present. I should imagine the cost would not be more than a couple of hundred pounds a year?

Mr. Hayes

Does the Minister expect to get a chairman and two ordinary members of the board for a couple of hundred pounds a year?

The fees of the members of the board have been paid per sitting. There were only nine applications under the Act of 1931, and, allowing for secretarial and other work, I do not think the cost would be much more than £200 or £300 a year.

Section agreed to.
Sections 34 to 54, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 55.

I move amendment No. 10:—

Before Section 55, page 26, to insert a new section as follows:—

55. —(1) The cost of an inquiry held by the board under this Part of this Act incurred by any party appearing at such inquiry shall be borne by that party, unless the board consider that justice requires that those costs or any part thereof should be paid by some other party appearing at such inquiry, in which event they may include a recommendation to that effect in their report to the Minister.

(2) Every recommendation made by the board under this section shall specify the amount (in this section referred to as the specified amount) of costs which they consider should be paid, and the party whom they consider entitled to such costs and the party whom they consider liable to pay the same.

(3) Whenever the board make a recommendation under this section, the Minister shall consider such recommendation, and may, if he so thinks fit, by order direct that such sum of costs (not exceeding the specified amount), as he thinks proper shall be paid to the party whom the board consider entitled to such costs by the party whom they consider liable to pay the same.

(4) A sum directed to be paid by order of the Minister under the next preceding sub-section of this section shall, in default of payment, be recoverable as a simple contract debt in any court of competent jurisdiction.

(5) For the purposes of this section, the costs of an inquiry include the fees, charges and expenses of and incidental to such inquiry."

Amendment agreed to.
Section 55 agreed to.
Sections 56 to 58, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 59.
Where the amount of compensation in respect of land is fixed by agreement, and the land in respect of which such compensation is payable is subject to a land purchase annuity, the following provisions shall have effect, that is to say:—
(a) the Land Commission shall be a party to such agreement;
(b) such compensation or so much thereof as is payable under such agreement to the Land Commission shall, when received by them, be applied by them, as they think fit, either in discharge of the arrears (if any) of such land purchase annuity or towards the redemption of such annuity or in both of those ways;

I move amendment No. 11a, in substitution for amendment No. 11 on the amendment Paper:—

In paragraph (b), page 27, to delete all words from the word "as" in line 12 to the end of the paragraph, and substitute the following words—

"in accordance with the following provisions, that is to say:—

(i) in case there are any arrears of such annuity and the amount so payable to the Land Commission (in this paragraph referred to as the said amount) does not exceed such arrears, in or towards discharge of such arrears,

(ii) in case there are any arrears of such annuity and the said amount exceeds such arrears—

(I) so much of the said amount as is equal to such arrears shall be applied in discharge of such arrears, and

(II) the balance of the said amount shall be applied in or towards redemption of such annuity,

(iii) in case there are no arrears of such annuity, in or towards the redemption of such annuity;"

Amendment agreed to.
Section, as amended, agreed to.
Amendment No. 12 (Sir John Keane) not moved.
Sections 60 to 63, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 64.

I move amendment No. 13:—

After sub-section (5), page 28, to add a new sub-section as follows:—

(6) A certificate, purporting to be certified by the secretary of the board, which contains a statement of the following matters, namely:—

(a) the fact that the board has made an award,

(b) the nature and amount of the compensation payable under such award,

(c) the person to whom such compensation is payable,

(d) the person by whom such compensation is payable,

shall be received in all legal proceedings as prima facie evidence of the matters so certified without proof of the signature of the person by whom such certificate purports to be certified or that he was in fact the secretary of the board.”

Amendment agreed to.
Section, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 65.
(2) Where any award in relation to land for the time being subject to a land purchase annuity provides for the payment of any moneys to the Land Commission, such moneys shall upon receipt thereof be applied by the Land Commission as they think fit either in discharge of the arrears (if any) of such annuity or towards the redemption of such annuity or in both of the said ways.

I move amendment No. 13a:—

In sub-section (2), page 29, to delete all words from the word "as" in line 9 to the end of the sub-section and substitute the following words:—

"in accordance with the following provisions, that is to say:—

(a) in case there are any arrears of such annuity and the amount of such moneys does not exceed such arrears, in or towards discharge of such arrears,

(b) in case there are any arrears of such annuity and the amount of such moneys exceeds such arrears—

(i) so much of such moneys as is equal to such arrears shall be applied in discharge of such arrears, and

(ii) the balance of such moneys shall be applied in or towards redemption of such annuity,

(c) in case there are no arrears of such annuity, in or towards redemption of such annuity."

Amendment agreed to.
Section, as amended, agreed to.
Section 66 agreed to.
SECTION 67.
In awarding compensation for State acquired minerals or compensation under Part VI in respect of the grant of an unworked minerals licence, the Board shall award such compensation in the form of a royalty rent, unless such State acquired minerals or the minerals the subject of such unworked minerals licence—
(b) were purchased by the owners thereof for valuable consideration within a period of ten years prior to the date of the passing of this Act.

I move amendment No. 14:—

In paragraph (b), page 30, line 6, to delete the word "ten" and substitute the word "twenty".

Amendment agreed to.
Section, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 68 to 82, inclusive, agreed to.
Schedule and Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.

Perhaps it would be convenient, Sir, to take the Report Stage at the next meeting of the Seanad?

Report Stage ordered to be taken at next meeting of the Seanad.