Minerals Company (Amendment) Bill, 1950—Second and Subsequent Stages.

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

The main purpose of this Bill is to provide for the making of further advances to Mianraí, Teoranta for work in the Slievardagh Coalfield. Before explaining the necessity for this provision, I should like to review briefly the circumstances which led the State to intervene in the working of the anthracite coal deposits in this coalfield. Senators are probably aware that before the war the Slievardagh Coalfield was examined in detail, at the expense of the State, by a firm of consulting engineers who estimated that the workable reserves of coal there were about 5,500,000 tons, and recommended that commercial working of the coal deposits should be undertaken. I might say that since the consulting engineers made their estimate, more information has come to light which tends to suggest that the reserves of extractable coal there do not exceed 2,000,000 tons. In any case, although the report by these engineers was available for inspection by interested persons for a number of years, no acceptable proposals for the commercial working of the coalfield were received from private interests. Shortly after the outbreak of war, supplies of imported coal became scarce, and an Act was pased setting up the Slievardagh Coalfield Company to develop and work the coalfield. Between the years 1941 and 1947, this company produced and sold about 78,000 tons of anthracite coal from an area known as Ballynunty. The company lost money in the venture mainly because they were told to produce the maximum amount of coal in the shortest possible time, even though it was recognised that this policy might not be suitable from the point of view of long term development and might involve losses.

It may be said that the production of coal by Mianraí, Teoranta at Slievardagh as an emergency measure during a period of scarcity ceased at the end of 1947, when the Minerals Company Act, 1947, became law. That Act provides for the making of advances within a limit of £50,000 to Mianraí, Teoranta for the development and working of the coalfield. By the beginning of 1948, the company were satisfied that the coal seam at Ballynunty, which they had been working during the war years, was hopelessly uneconomic and they decided, therefore, to abandon it. The company submitted, however, proposals for the opening of a new mine near the village of Ballingarry. They carried out boring operations designed to test the extent and quality of the coal in this part of the coalfield and obtained expert advice that there were indications of a substantial deposit of coal at Ballingarry, that the cost of bringing a mine there to full production of 100 tons of anthracite a day (i.e., about 25,000 tons a year) would be about £50,000, and that the proposition represented a fair mining risk. The Government, having considered this proposal very carefully, decided to authorise Mianraí, Teoranta to commence work on the opening of the new mine.

Before the company could commence work on the opening of the new mine, they had to clean up the old working at Ballynunty which they were abandoning. This involved the removal of some coal there, the rendering safe of shafts and tunnels for the prevention of accidents, and the transfer of machinery and buildings to the site of the new operations. This work cost about £6,000, leaving a balance of £44,000 available under the Act of 1947 for work on the new mine which commenced on the 1st September, 1948. It was estimated by the company that, through the use of machinery and buildings from the old workings, this balance of £44,000 would suffice because they expected that coal production from the new mine would commence in July, 1949, and that production would be stepped up to 250 tons a week by the end of 1949. I regret to have to inform Senators that these expectations were not realised. If they had been, the company would have had revenue from the sale of coal by the end of 1949 to supplement the amount available under the statute for advances for the developing and working of the new mine.

The plan of operations was to drive two tunnels a distance of about 750 feet through rock to reach the coal seams. It was hoped to drive these tunnels at a rate of 40 feet per week, but, unfortunately, the company encountered extremely difficult and unfavourable conditions underground which slowed up actual rate of progress to about 17 feet a week. Consequently, work on the tunnels leading to the coal took twice as long as had been expected, and it will be readily appreciated that the cost of the work was substantially increased because the company had to spend more money than they had estimated on wages, stores, explosives, etc., at a time when they had no receipts from the sale of coal. In mining, it is of course difficult to foresee what the conditions will be like below the surface, but in this case the difficulties were unexpected because the company were relying on their experience in opening the old mine at Ballynunty where underground conditions were normal. As a result of these difficulties, the company have informed me that the balance of the moneys available under the Act of 1947 will not be sufficient to enable them to bring the mine at Ballingarry to the point when they anticipate it will be profit-earning. They have estimated that they will require the limit on advances laid down by that Act to be extended by a further £38,000 to enable them to meet the cost of work at the new mine until the 1st September, 1951, by which date they expect the mine will be self-supporting. Part of this additional sum will be used to purchase capital equipment for the mine, including a coal washing plant costing about £10,000, the use of which would render more readily saleable the coal raised from the mine.

The directors of the company have assured me that the expenditure of this further sum of £38,000 will suffice to bring the Ballingarry mine to the stage when it will be profit-earning. Production of coal has already reached 100 tons a week but it will take the company about another year and a half to bring the mine to the stage of full production, when the output will be increased to about 500 tons a week. I am sure that Senators will understand that until production on this scale has been reached and maintained over a period, it is difficult to be certain whether receipts from sales will exceed the over all cost of production so as to leave a margin of profit. The quality of the coal, prevailing wage rates, the cost of raw materials and the general supply position of anthracite are the main factors which will affect production costs and selling prices when the mine is in full production, and it will be appreciated that these factors cannot be determined precisely at present. In the circumstances, I would not feel justified at this stage in assuring the House that the expenditure of this further sum of £38,000 will enable the company to put the Ballingarry mine on a profit-earning basis which would secure repayment of the advances made from the Exchequer. Indeed, I must stress that in this as in all mining undertakings, there is a large element of risk and I must point out that if there was a guarantee or even a reasonable expectation that profits could be earned by mining coal at Slievardagh, private enterprise would not be slow to undertake the work and the State would not be called upon to foot the Bill. I am hopeful, however, that the expenditure of this further £38,000 will enable the company to bring the mine to the stage when receipts from the sale of coal will at least meet working costs.

The position at present is that the company have spent so far about £44,000 on work at Ballingarry and that there are now no funds left, under the Act of 1947, which could be advanced to them to allow them to continue the work. I need hardly say that I am disappointed that the company have not found it possible to keep within their original estimate of £50,000. I regret having to ask the Oireachtas to provide this further sum of £38,000. However, I feel that, since the circumstances which have given rise to this request for extra funds are fortuitous, it is only reasonable to allow the company to complete the job it was given to do, particularly since anthracite coal is still in short supply and the indications are that it will stay scarce for a considerable time to come. The only alternative to providing additional funds would be to close down completely the company's coal mining operations in the Slievardagh area. I am not prepared to recommend this course, which would involve the loss of the money which has been expended already and would lead to considerable unemployment in the area. There are at present about 85 men employed by Mianraí, Teoranta at Ballingarry and the company have stated that they will employ from 200 to 250 men when the mine is in full production. For many of these men coal mining is the only source of employment, and if the mine were closed they would be deprived of their only chance of earning a livelihood near their homes and would probably be forced to emigrate. The Government have decided, therefore, that the approval of the Oireachtas should be sought for continuing work at Ballingarry and that additional funds within a limit of £38,000 should be advanced to the company for this purpose. Section 2 of the Bill gives effect to this decision by substituting the words "Eighty-eight thousand pounds" for the words "Fifty thousand pounds" in Section 3 of the Minerals Company Act, 1947. I may assure Senators that I will neglect no opportunity of impressing upon the company the necessity for conducting the operations at Ballingarry in the most efficient and economic manner possible so that the mine may be brought to the full production stage as soon as possible and at the smallest possible cost to the Exchequer.

The remaining purpose of this Bill arises out of the minerals exploration work which is being carried out by Mianraí, Teoranta at the expense of the State. I am advised that at present money may not be paid to the company under the Minerals Company Act, 1947, for the purchase of land and mineral rights. Section 3 of this Bill is designed to amend sub-section (2) of Section 5 of the Act of 1947 to permit of the payment of money to the company for this purpose. This amendment is necessary in order that the company may be enabled to purchase mineral rights, etc., in the areas where substantial expenditure is being incurred on exploratory work, and it is desirable that the company should have secure title in order that any benefits resulting from the exploratory work which is being carried out at State expense, may accrue to this State and not to private interests.

I would like to refer to one other matter in connection with it. The difficulties which occurred at Slievardagh were not anticipated. The mining experts who examined the mine had surveyed it in detail, but it was found when the borings were made that the lie of the ground underneath was such that normal development was not possible according to ordinary recognised mining practice. These difficulties necessitated much more exhaustive work and consequently exhausted the resources which the company had available.

Tá áthas orm gur chaith an Rúnaí Parlaiminte an oiread sin ama ag déanamh léirmheasa ar chúrsaí Mianraí Teoranta chomh fada agus bhaineas le guala tháirgeadh. Is maith liom an chaoi a n-admhaíonn. sé na deacrachta a bhain leis an tionscal sin sna blianta atá caite. Ag an am chéanna, tá aiféala orm nach leor an méid airgid a cuireadh in áirithe don chomhlucht roimhe seo le go dtiúrfaidís an cuspóir a chuireadar rompa i gcrích.

Ní thaitníonn liom an dearmad atá déanta mar gheall ar an méid guail atá i gceist. Cinnte, is mór an earráid é an difríocht idir 5,500,000 agus 2,000,000. Is é an smaoineamh a tháinig im intinn nuair a thagair an Rúnaí Parlaiminte don earráid sin, an bhfuil aon fheabhas tagtha ar chúrsaí mianadóireachta, ar chúrsaí orgtha mianraí, thar mar bhí sna blianta atá caite? Cheap mise go raibh an nós sin a dtugaimid tolladh nó "boring" air as feidhm chuid mhaith, go bhfuil mianadóirí anois ann agus gléasanna speisialta acu ar féidir dóibh a rá, gan mórán achair agus gan mórán costais, cén t-eagar atá ar na sreathanna faoin talamh agus cén t-ábhar mianraí atá ann.

Sílim gur léigh mé rud éigin i dtaobh innealltóirí agus mianadóirí i Sasana a d'fhág le tuiscint agam go raibh athruithe mar sin tagtha ar na nósanna lorgaireachta. B'fhéidir go bhfuil a leithéidí ann agus go mbeadh sé rochostasach orainne é a thabhairt isteach. Níl fhios agam nach bhféadfaí dul i gcomhairle le daoine den tsórt atá i gceist agam agus má tá gléasanna acu a d'fheilfheadh don obair go bhféadfaimis iad a fháil ar cíos uathu.

Tuigimid ón méid atá ráite ag an Rúnaí nach mbeadh sé féin sásta leis an tionscal mar atá sé inniu a mheas do réir mar d'éirigh leis le linn an chogaidh. Is fíor, maidir le mianadóireacht ghuail agus maidir le gach tionscal san tír, go bhfuaireadar an t-ordú dul ar aghaidh ag táirgeadh chomh tréan agus ab' fhéidir, agus go mba chuma an costas cuid mhaith.

Thaitneodh liom, am ar bith a mbeimis ag cuimhneamh ar céard a rinneamar san am a caitheadh, nach mbeadh blianta an chogaidh mar chaighdeán againn.

Is maith liom an meastachán atá déanta mar gheall ar Ballingarry. Feictear don Rúnaí Parlaiminte nach ro-fhada uainn go mbeidh an mianach sin ag íoc a bhealaigh. Ceist agam le cur ar an Rúnaí Parlaiminte. Baineann sí le costas an ghuail atá in Éirinn. Cén chaoi sheasann costas, cén chaoi a sheasann gual Mianraí Teoranta i gcomórtas le gual na Breataine Bige? Faigheann daoine locht ar ghual Éireannach. Bhfuil aon chuis speisialta leis an gcasaoid, agus an dóigh leis an Rúnaí Parlaiminte gur féidir an chasaoid a chur ar ceal? Ba mhaith liom eolas a bheith agam i dtaobh luacha an ghuail Éireannaigh. Cén chaoi a bhfuil scéal na gcostas agus páigh na mianadóirí ag dul i gcionn ar chúrsaí luacha?

Is maith liom gur cuireadh an ráiteas seo os ár gcomhair. Is maith liom go bhfuil an Rialtas ar an aigne gur ceart tuilleadh airgid a chur ar fáil le haghaidh oibre atá chomh tábhachtach. B'fhéidir go bhfuilmid ro-dhóchasach faoi céard is féidir a dhéanamh. Sílim nach airgead amú é airgead a chaitheamh ar fhiosrúchán den tsórt atá i gceist. Is maith liom an méid a bhí le rá ag an Rúnaí Parlaiminte i dtaobh Ballingarry. Tá súil agam go mbeidh an scéal céanna le haithris faoi mhianraí eile. Thug an Rúnaí Parlaiminte cuntas ar an dóigh ar tugadh faoin obair seo don chéad uair. Na daoine atá ar aon intinn liom, sé is fearr linn, agus ab fhearr linn, gur daoine príobháideacha a bheadh i gceist maidir leis na gnótha seo go léir. Chomh luath agus a bheas an fiosrú déanta ag Mianraí Teoranta, tá súil agam go mbeidh siad ábalta comhlucht príobháideach a fháil a rachas i mbun na hoibre, seo. B'shin é an cuspóir a bhí ag an Stát, dul isteach ar an rud seo féachaint an raibh aon rud ann agus, má bhí, chómh luath agus a d'fhéadfadh an Stát é dhéanamh, go n-aistreofaí é go dtí comhlucht príobháideach.

I feel slightly unhappy about this Bill. I feel it a duty to express my views about it. I cannot help feeling that the Parliamentary Secretary has no great hope of the furture of this enterprise. It seems to me that the advice of the experts up to the present has all gone wrong, that the reports have been falsified by the course of events and that, even when it was at its best, when it was being worked regardless of cost, during the war, in order to add to the fuel supply, this mine never had a substantial chance of success even then. There does not seem to me, from what the Parliamentary Secretary said, to be any real foundation for the hope that in the future it will add very much to the fuel supply of the country, even in times of war.

I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to explain what the demand for anthracite in the country is, that cannot be met from other quarters, that justifies keeping going this essentially uneconomic proposition, which the Parliamentary Secretary himself has stated would not attract private investment or enterprise. If anthracite was an essential commodity for Irish industry or any Irish purpose and could not be obtained elsewhere, then I could see justification for subsidising this company in order to secure a supply.

The other justification is the maintenance of people in employment. If that is the justification for keeping this mine open, it seems to me a very weak one, for several reasons. In the first place, keeping people in employment, stereotyping the existing pattern of employment, is not a justifiable end in itself. When we are discussing the Transport Bill, that is one of the points which will be raised. Efforts to keep people in employment, regardless of the fact that their work is not producing any useful result, is very wasteful of national resources. To spend money in keeping people in employment does not seem to be justified, especially as I feel quite convinced from what the Parliamentary Secretary has said, that they would be only kept in employment for a comparatively short time and then, either the evil day will arrive when they will be unemployed, or else there will be another application for more public money to keep them employed still further.

These are some of the doubts I have about this Bill. I know the sum involved is not very great but, at the same time, we are here allocating public money and I cannot help feeling that the ordinary prudent businessman, faced with the situation which the Government is faced with in regard to this mine, would consider very seriously whether the wisest course would not be to cut losses, to liquidate the company and to close down the whole thing.

We would all have wished for a more glowing picture than that which has been presented to us by the Parliamentary Secretary. Yet, we must examine the conditions under which this work was undertaken and the purpose for which it was undertaken. The original Bill provided for the setting up of a company to develop the coalfields of Tipperary. At that time we were all enthusiastic. We gave every encouragement to the then Minister to go ahead. The instruction given to the company was to get the coal out at all costs. Work of the nature of mining and the development of mines involves a long-term policy. It would take many years to achieve proper working of a mine. Time was against this company. It was not the development of the mine so much as the production of the coal that counted. I am sure that that has resulted in the undertaking not being the success it might have been if the people in charge gave more time to development of a proper nature.

I feel that persons charged with the responsibility of preparing an estimate for work of this kind do untold harm to the whole future of mineral development if the estimate is not sufficient to carry out the work and I am afraid there is a tendency among people engaged in that type of work to prepare an estimate for a particular sum in the knowledge that it will not be sufficient to complete the work as they know they can come for a Supplementary Estimate and because the work has begun it would be bad policy to stop it. It would have been much better if, at the outset, the demand had been for £88,000 rather than £50,000. The company would be able to go ahead and plan better for the future in the knowledge that they had that amount of money which they now feel is essential.

In regard to the development of Slievardagh coal mines, Senator George O'Brien has expressed the view that it is not good policy to keep something going just for the sake of keeping men in employment. This is not exactly that; it is a proposal to develop some of our natural resources and we have heard a lot of that in the past. I for one would advocate that we should go ahead more determinedly to find out what our natural resources are and once found we should develop them in the shortest possible time. If we are not prepared to do that there is little use in talking about ending unemployment. Much play is being made at the present time on the view that unemployment will be ended just by the large undertaking of house building. Some day, I hope sooner rather than later, the building industry which is one of our biggest industries at the moment will cease to be the great source of employment for our people which it is at the moment. If we do not develop our resources we must export the people engaged in that industry and there will be no question of finding employment for them.

When this company was formed it was not the intention of the Government that is should go into active production but that it should explore our natural resources. While the Parliamentary Secretary has made a case for a further demand of £38,000, I should like to know how much money is available to the company for the work for which it was established apart from the £38,000 for Slievardagh coal mines. We must bear in mind that the idea was to develop this coalfield to the point when it could be put on the open market and an attempt was made to hand it over to private enterprise. That was the principle underlying our whole development policy and that is the policy for which the company was first established: to explore mineral resources, develop them to the point where you could show them to prospective investors and say "Here is something you can carry on. You can give employment, you can buy it from the State and run it as a private concern." There was no idea that our resources should be developed on a nationalised system at all. We have reached the point when we know that we are about to provide an additional £38,000 for the further development of the coal mines but we do not know how much money is at the disposal of the company for the purpose for which it was set up.

We know that when the economy axe was first raised it was on this company that it fell most heavily. Prior to and during the general election every Party which now composes the Government was competing one with the other as to who was most going to advance the development of the resources of this country. The first step in that direction was to withdraw the £85,000 which was made available for mineral exploration. Second thoughts are often best and later on the Government decided to allow the company to proceed to a limited extent, but as far as I can find out we have been given no information as to the amount of money at its disposal to continue its work. Is it proposed to make available the £85,000 which was taken away at the outset?

When we read this Bill it reminds us that the Government must do all its planning in view of the possibility of a world war. There is that fear and it is the first duty of the Government to realise that we may be a besieged garrison and that there is a double duty upon them to develop whatever resources are needed to keep us going. When the last war broke out we had to improvise means to supply ourselves with fuel and it would be very foolish of the Government to let a few thousand pounds count against an endeavour to increase the supply of anthracite and other minerals which may be of vital necessity within a measurable period. For that reason I welcome this Bill and I was sorry to hear my colleague in the university, a distinguished economist, Senator Professor George O'Brien, deprecating its use as a method of giving employment. We must realise that if we are to develop our mines—and it may be necessary to develop our mines if war breaks out and we are thrown, as we were before, on our own resources—we must have skilled men to work the mines. If for the sake of a few thousand pounds we stop the development which the Bill furthers, we might be very sorry if all our miners had left the country. A prudent Government—and I commend the prudence of the Government in this case—is bound to take the steps implicit in this Bill. I congratulate the Minister on the fact that he has introduced it.

I wish to support this Bill. We have heard in the past many adverse comments on the spending of money on mineral exploitation and the ascertaining of our mineral resources. If the Minister for Industry and Commerce asks us to spend £38,000 on a really serious effort to show that there is a type of first-class anthracite which is required for the country in Arigna, even it happened that the project was not a success, it does at least prove that the Government is in earnest and is prepared to make the effort to show to the people of the country that if we have mineral resources they will be developed and that money will not in all cases be a bar to their exploitation.

I believe the Slievardagh project will be a success. The type of coal coming out of Slievardagh is of very good quality and the project, I understand, will give employment to several hundred people when it is properly exploited. That is a very desirable thing in peace time, as well as in war time. I think it would be a very sorry day if the Minister should say, for the sake of £30,000, if there are minerals in Slievardagh, or in some other part of the country, that we are not going to see they are there. I think it would be a penny wise and pound foolish policy. I want to congratulate the Minister for Industry and Commerce on coming here and asking us for that sum. He will be able to show to the people that he has courage in exploiting our national resources. Mining, and anything of that nature, is always risky. If it is going to be done by the State, the State must take some of the risks that business people took in the past. The old merchant adventurers were the people who were supposed to do that in the past, and they got a bit of extra profit, or even suffered a loss if they were not successful. If this is being handed over to the State, the State must have the courage to take the risk and to do the things that are necessary.

I am delighted that the Minister is seeking these powers. I think we have to look at this project just as we have looked at the supply of other forms of native fuel during the crisis years. I do not think this is one of the propositions that can be looked at purely from a commercial point of view. I would go so far as to hope that he may in the future, find himself in the position of coming to ask for moneys such as these, for development in other parts of the country. In saying that, we have to remember that these moneys are being spent on labour in a district which badly needs it. The money is spent on wages so the national loss is not as big as it would appear on a survey of the figures themselves. Having said that, I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to throw light on two rather important points connected with this mining proposition. There is a big demand for anthracite. I speak subject to correction, but I think anthracite coal is being imported. Is there some peculiar reason in this particular area why the anthracite costs an abnormal sum to produce? Is there some peculiar formation that makes the use of modern machinery less efficient and less economical than obtains in these other sources of anthracite from abroad? I just ask these questions so the House will be informed, because on the face of it, with the demand for a thing, with a natural supply of that thing, and with the availability of modern machinery, it would suggest that we should be able to produce this coal at a competitive price and without loss. I am accepting, for the time being, the Parliamentary Secretary's statement that we cannot do that. That is why I am supporting his Bill and hope that the House will vote this money. I think the House would be interested, however, in hearing his reply to the two points I have raised. I support the Bill.

In the old days, one of the great things that inspired people to take part in the national movement was, of course, to secure the freedom of our country. The other was the development of the resources of the country. In the development of the resources of the country we were not to a great extent concerned with what we were going to lose. We were prepared to take chances; in fact, we were prepared to take chances to secure everything that this country has gained. It was a surprise to me, certainly, to hear a person of the status of Senator George O'Brien refer to wastage—I think that is what we might call it—of money in attempting to develop the resources of our own country. Senator Summerfield referred to the question of modern machinery. So far as I can remember, when these mines were developed during the war modern machinery was not available. Perhaps, if the machinery of the type required were available at that time, the loss which was shown in the development, and I do not think it was a terrific loss, might not have been there at all. The Parliamentary Secretary, introducing this Bill, told us that in the beginning it was estimated that there were 5,000,000 tons of anthracite available in that area for the use of the people of this country, and later the estimate was reduced to somewhere in the region of 2,000,000, and that in the Ballynunty district only about 75,000 tons have been raised. I suppose Senator O'Brien is an expert in one direction. Probably, he is not right on all occasions. Whoever the experts were who decided on 5,000,000 tons, in the first instance, maybe they are right in their estimate now of 2,000,000. Since anthracite is being used in increasing quantities as the years pass, and since we have no great resources of coal in the country, I think we should go all out to develop mining until we can get using that quantity in full measure. Now, £20,000, £40,000 or £50,000 seems to me to make very little difference where 2,000,000 tons of coal are concerned. The only regret I have is that this Government, when it got power, dropped for a time, at any rate, until they had wiser counsel, I suppose, the allocation of money which had been provided for the purpose of the development of these mines. The question of providing work for unemployed people, in my opinion, is one of the most important duties of the Government in this country. The area in which these mines are situated contains a very poor population of people who must rely on employment. I think any moneys spent on giving employment to these people is well spent. It is better to give it to them in the form of attempting to develop our resources, than to give it to them as dole, because they will have to get it either way, if these people are not to leave the country. The loss to the country of these people if they had to leave would be far greater than the sum which this Bill provides to give them employment, and to enable us to develop our natural resources.

I hope that the activities of the Department will not be confined entirely to coal and anthracite. There are many other minerals in the country that can be highly developed. During the war we had the phosphate mines down in County Clare which practically saved the agricultural industry during those years. It was a private enterprise from the start; then part of it was taken over by the Government and things drifted on until the war had finished. Then, there was a dispute, which I will not refer to, between the Government and the previous owners and the whole thing has been let drop now. Should another war ensue at any time—nobody knows when that may be —it is a pity to leave it go derelict after serving the country so well during a period of great need. Of course, there is foreign stuff coming in which may be better but when you cannot get better it is very good to have the next best thing. In that way, I hope the Parliamentary Secretary and his Department will take all minerals into consideration that may be of good service to this country in the future.

Business suspended at 6 p.m. and resumed at 7 p.m.

I was not here when the Parliamentary Secretary was introducing this Bill, but I listened to the Minister in the Dáil and what struck me then was that both the present Minister and the former Minister, Deputy Lemass, were agreed that the development so far was one which had taken place not in normal conditions, but in conditions in which fuel was very necessary. To use a western expression which is used to describe something which has not been well done, it was "proughing". The Minister made a very guarded statement. He said that the Government felt they were justified in asking for this further expenditure and had good hopes of the development becoming a paying proposition in time. It is the policy of all Parties to encourage local industries in rural and urban districts throughout the country and that is another reason why this expenditure is justified.

A Senator talked about the disemployment of 85 men. That is serious, but, so far as my experience goes, I think we are inclined to exaggerate this problem of unemployment because I do not know of anyone who is anxious and willing to work who cannot get profitable employment. I am afraid we are getting a little bit pettish in that respect. During the emergency, when bicycle tyres were scarce, there were a great many complaints about people having to walk long distances to work. That time has passed and bicycles and tyres are plentiful and to cycle a few miles to work is not a very big task. It would be well if the Minister used the opportunity of the passage of this Bill to give a direction that he expects good value for the money which is to be expended.

One good reason why this proposal should be supported is that in the case of another emergency it would be a great advantage to have the mine developed. We can all recall the last emergency when the getting of essential materials was not a matter of money or price. No matter how much money you had at the time, if you had not certain vital materials, you were in danger of a crisis. If the time comes again when it would be necessary to have fuel, even though the working of the mine would not be a commercial proposition, it would be a great advantage to have the development work finished and the mine ready for working as a stand-by. At all events, the proposed work should leave it in a better condition than it was when the last emergency began. You would have only to go in and get whatever coal you could. The great trouble before, as the Minister said, was that, as the work went on, unforeseen difficulties arose instead of coal. That is why I suggest that the Minister should give a direction, as regards this sum of money to be spent now, that he expects, and that the Seanad and Dáil expect better and more efficient development from the amount to be spent compared pound for pound with what has been spent in the past. The company are being placed in the happy position of having up-to-date machinery and it will be only reasonable to expect greater progress now in view of the amount of money that has already been spent on this mine.

When the Bill which sets up this organisation for Slievardagh was enacted it was understood that the proposition was to explore and exploit the possibility of mining development, and not to engage in actual mining operations in any particular place. This amending Bill merely authorises the alteration of the original Act which enables the State to expend certain sums in the development of Slievardagh. It provides that £38,000 can be spent. It is well to refer to the fact that this company is not doing what it was intended to do. I have listened to different viewpoints on this measure in regard to the economics of working a particular mine in Tipperary. One viewpoint was that there should be some regard to the economic production of coal in the area, and another was that the cardinal principle to be observed was the giving of employment. I am prepared to argue that there is some in-between—a kind of balance—between the two viewpoints. There must be some regard for the economics of the production of coal in that particular area. I do suggest that this scheme is not really a relief scheme. If it were, then the fundamental outlook would be the giving of employment and anything else would be only a secondary consideration. But, it is not a relief scheme. While it may be a scheme that would not attract or encourage private business people, it may be the type of scheme in which the risks are so great that you will not get adequate capital development from private business men. We were given to understand that the company was to develop the mines in the hope of selling them to private individuals or to business people in the hope that they would be carried on as private enterprises.

There would have to be some regard to the cost of production at some stage in that, because if the State were to continue to subsidise the production of coal in one particular case it would be really giving a subsidy per ton on the output and there would have to be some regard to the cost of producing that coal in other parts of the country, or if that particular coal is not obtainable in any other part of the country, the costs of imported fuel would have to be taken into consideration in view of the fact that there might be other industries which could secure a more economic return. I am not suggesting that I am hostile in any way to further development under this scheme. I believe it is a good thing that the money should be voted by the State to develop the mining operations but the point with which I am inclined to disagree is that the scheme is confined to one particular enterprise. When the company was first established it was to exploit resources generally. That brings me to the fact that I cannot see any plan by the company for development in the Arigna area, an area about which I know a good deal.

There has been a desire by many speakers for more information, as to the general prospects, the depth of the seam and if the production in Tipperary is to be reasonably economic. In Arigna, prior to the war, Córas Iompair Éireann used to have Welsh coal at a siding to fuel the engines that would carry away the Arigna coal where the production was not very great. The war came and the Minister for Industry and Commerce, quite rightly, in the national interest put his foot down and said that the people who had been the users of coal from Arigna could not get it. Local institutions had tried to keep those mines open by giving them as much business as possible, otherwise there would be no mines operating in Arigna at all. During the emergency, the Department decided that the Pigeon House, the sugar company, Córas Iompair Éireann, and so on, were of such national importance that they had to get that output. As a result, those who had kept the mines going at Arigna under normal conditions could not get supplies. Many fuel plants had been designed for that type of coal and it was found uneconomic to use alternative fuel.

We are now past the emergency and the real scarcity. I wonder if this company intends to develop only in Tipperary. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to give some indication of the future plans. Is there any plan for mineral exploitation? Is there any indication of a proper survey to develop the Arigna mines, with a view to selling them back when developed, as private interests?

Many individuals and companies have been operating on similar lines to Tipperary, as it was when the State took over, lines that could hardly be regarded as a modern approach to mining. The emergency conditions prevented the import of machinery and proper development work in Tipperary and the lack of capital was also a factor. I believe there is great scope for development. It may be argued that the standard and quality in Arigna area does not make it economic for Córas Iompair Éireann, the sugar company and others to use Arigna coal on a large scale. However, that condition of affairs was brought about because of the emphasis on output by the Department of Industry and Commerce. As a result, the workers were paid on piece time rates and because they were paid more wages they were prepared to put out black stones as if it were coal. An odd incident like that does not prove that the quality of the coal at Arigna was bad. I am so convinced of that that I would welcome an assurance from the Parliamentary Secretary that there will be a proper survey of the coalfield in the area as well as in Tipperary. Since the coal in Tipperary is to be subsidised in the national interest, is there any reason why there should not be development on similar lines in other areas where coal is available for extraction?

Captain Orpen

I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to give us some information about the development work carried on by what was the Minerals Exploration Company and is now a section of the present company. I understand exploration is going on on a limited scale in the Avoca area-Are they still blocking out and investigating the copper sulphide deposits, or are they thinking more on the lines of the pyrites, or what is being done in the mineralised zone? From what one has heard about the Tipperary coalfield for which this extra sum of money is being asked, it appears that not only have special difficulties cropped up in developing the deposit but the deposit itself appears to suffer from being rather friable. I understand that the coal easily breaks up into small pieces. I wonder whether the Parliamentary Secretary can say whether hard anthracite coal of this nature, if washed and curshed, can be used in a pulverised fuel furnace. If so, it seems that this friable coal could have a use, but I do not know if it produces the flame necessary for the pulverised type of fuel furnace.

Those of us who use hard coal in the heat storage cooker find that the bugbear of dust would rather indicate that the losses in using this Slievardagh coal in such cookers would be great. Why did the original estimate for this mine prove to be insufficient to cover the cost of operations there? We understand the one shaft was sunk and, presumably, following borings or the indication of borings, now another is to be sunk. Are the seams seriously faulty, or what is the trouble? When you are developing a mineral area, if you are an ordinary limited liability company you say as little as possible about what is happening, but I wonder if it is right, when it is a State mine, that you should carry on in exactly the same way and give the bare minimum of information. I believe that it might serve a useful purpose if the Dáil and Seanad were given a little more information in regard to what was being done in these areas than we have had.

Senator Orpen has talked about Avoca. They are building a tunnel there. Pyrites were obtained during the war. It was picked by hand, which is a very expensive method and which would not pay for the particular purpose for which it was used, that is, for making artificial manure. I understand from those who know something about mining that mining for that particular ore could not be done on a profitable scale. I understand that there are zinc and lead available there. On advice, they are sinking a shaft and will then make a tunnel so as to work from the bottom instead of from the top. Some experts claim that that is not the most profitable way to do it. Other experts contend that that it is the proper way to do it. Not being an expert, I just have to listen to both sides. The Government have to do likewise. There is expenditure involved but, if minerals can be produced, the cost of development is a very small thing compared with the profits that may accrue.

As I explained at the outset of this debate, the purpose of this measure is to provide additional money for the working at Slievardagh. I agree with the views expressed by Senators that it is regrettable that the money originally voted was insufficient to meet the expenses up to the present and which will be incurred if the plan which the company are operating is brought to a conclusion. Unfortunately, the workings at the coalfield proved more difficult and more expensive than was originally anticipated. It may be that the original estimate was conservative and, to that extent, Senator Hawkins' view, that in a matter of this kind it would be more satisfactory if the company erred on the side of generosity rather than in the manner in which they did, could get general support. But at the time the mining operations started there it was expected that the seam would not prove so difficult.

The quality of the coal in Slievardagh is good but the seam is narrow and there is the further problem that it runs rather differently from the normal way that seams run in other coalfields, inasmuch as that borings have to be made at intervals and cannot be continued, in some cases, without fresh borings being made. These are all technical matters and an expression of opinion from myself or from Senators will not help the company in a matter of that kind.

I understand from the company that the increased expenditure is due entirely to unforeseen difficulties— difficulties which the company did not anticipate would arise when the original scheme was adopted and which have added considerably to the cost.

There is, I believe, a good deal in what Senator George O'Brien said on this matter. He expressed the view that merely spending money for the purpose of providing employment on an undertaking of this nature is not good national economy. However, in this matter the fact that considerable expenditure has already been incurred and plant and equipment have been put into operation and that the quality of the coal which has been tested is of a high grade warrants the assumption that it would be even worse economy to abandon the present operations. It is also true that if the present high consumption demand for anthracite continues, any anthracite that can be produced in this country will find a ready market.

Senator Ó Buachalla mentioned the question of Welsh coal or Welsh anthracite and asked how the price compared with Irish anthracite. At the present time the Welsh anthracite is cheaper but the demand for anthracite is so high that any anthracite that is available here has found ready sale.

I do not know whether the rate of production from the mine at Slievardagh will be increased to the level which the company anticipate by the time they anticipate it. But, if it is, and if the present operations prove satisfactory, then the company assured the Minister that the quality of the anthracite will be such as will make it an economic proposition. If this operation were to start de noro, the Dáil and Seanad would have to consider carefully whether the expenditure was warranted or not. In this particular case, considerable expenditure has already been incurred and to abandon the work now, when it seems from the progress of the operations there that it would be possible to produce coal of high quality and at an economic price, would not be good economy. I think we are justified in asking the Legislature to continue the legislation and to provide additional sums of money.

Senator Summerfield asked why the costs of the anthracite produced there are higher than elsewhere. The difficulties I have averted to have all contributed to the higher costs. The difficulty in working the seam cuased by the uneven lie of the seam—I do not know what is the techinical description of it—has caused the company considerable concern and has contributed to the higher cost. That, I think, is the only reason why the original estimate has not been fulfilled. Some Senators, in particular Senator O'Reilly, asked what has been done about other coalfields, mainly Arigna. Development of these coalfields is being conducted by private enterprise and at the present time there is no intention of this company embarking on further development.

The other sphere of operation which the company has is Avoca and there they are exploring the mines to see the quality and quantity of whatever minerals are available. That scheme, which it is hoped will end in two years, will enable the company to come to a definite conclusion on the minerals available in Avoca and the practicability of working them on an economic basis.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take the remaining stages to-day.
The Seanad went into Committee.
Section 1 put and agreed to.
SECTION 2.
Question proposed: "That Section 2 stand part of the Bill."

One word to clear a misunderstanding. I think I was slightly misunderstood by some members of the Seanad. It has been suggested owing to what I said that I was not in favour of expenditure on the development of Irish natural resources. That is entirely and absolutely wrong. I am in favour of the expenditure of a great deal more money than has been spent on the intelligent development of all our resources, agricultural, industrial, mineral and otherwise. I did not oppose the Bill; I simply questioned it, not because it is a Bill to spend money on natural resources, but because it is a Bill to spend money on a development project which according to the Parliamentary Secretary himself had already been proved to be rather uneconomic and which, if it were to be started afresh, it would be very doubtful if the money would be justified. There is no question of research; it is a question of carrying on a business the past record of which has not been particularly satisfactory. I want to clear my position: of course I am in favour of research but I do not think that the money voted this evening will be devoted to research.

There is another point on which I should like to make my position clear. Senator Mrs. Concannon stated that in war time it might be advisable to have supplies of skilled men in the country and with that I agree. I do conceive that this particular type of skilled employment might be worth keeping in existence in the country although keeping men in employment is not merely an end in itself.

I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary a question in connection with the amount of money being allocated for this proposal. I am, of course, very pleased to see the amount increased from £50,000 to £88,000 but why was it not increased to several times that amount? Some people may disagree with me; I am certain they will. The argument has been put up that anthracite coal is available in other countries, but my attitude on that is the same as is has been for a number of years. Twenty-four or five years ago a number of us went up to that area and subscribed £20 each to get this started. I am not saying that we financed the mines but at that time £20 was an awful lot of money to us. According to the reports of the specialists 2,000,000 tons are available. Some of the people who were regarded as experts said 5,000,000 tons—I forget what group of experts. Some said that there was no coal while one fellow said there was and he was the best expert of the lot. If it is a wise policy to develop the mines in wartime when coal is scarce, I suggest that now is the time to go ahead, not during a war, as, from what the Minister said in the Dáil, the coal is there. We do not know when another war is likely to start and it would be too late to start increasing the output when a war begins. Now is the time for the Minister to take the necessary steps to ensure that machinery will be put in and that it is the proper type of machinery to turn out 2,000,000 tons in a reasonably short time so that if a war starts we will not be in the position we were in before when people were going around with lumps of coal in their pockets.

If that is done you will have it exhausted before the next war.

That is the type of propaganda that stopped people from starting that mine time and time again. The fact is that most of us have no conception of what £1,000,000 means or what 1,000,000 tons of anthracite mean. One million tons of anthracite would keep the women of Ireland quiet for a long time and if we had a few thousand tons in the hard winters we had in the past and that we may have in the future it would be very much better than some of the money which they tell us is useless.

All the Senator has to do is to put down the words: "Two hundred and" before the words "Eighty-eight".

On Senator Quirke's point, £38,000 is the sum the company estimates will be required in order to make the production of coal an economic proposition, £28,000 for development work and £10,000 for a washing machine to wash the coal when it is produced. As to the question of producing large quantities, the company themselves estimate that that money would be sufficient to put it into economic production. If that is so I do not think there is any case for giving them more money. If the Senator can sell coal we have plenty in the Park and we will avail of his services to get rid of it.

With all respect I would suggest that the Parliamentary Secretary is out of order because we were talking about anthracite and the coal in the Park in not anthracite.

Nobody knows what it is.

When it came in the people were so pleased to see it that they almost met it with banners and bands. It is all very well when the war is over to laugh at the coal in the Park. What we are discussing is anthracite which is, so far as we know, available in that area for the picking up. The Parliamentary Secretary has said that the reason the figure is not bigger is that the company said that £38,000 would be sufficient to put them on an economic basis. Did the Parliamentary Secretary ever know a company of experts who did not underestimate the amount necessary for a job of that kind?

They did not underestimate in this case.

If there were coal in Tipperary for the picking up I know a few Tipperarymen who would have picked it up long ago. Could we conclude without the Parliamentary Secretary who has been called away to the other House for a division just now? Could we not go on?

I do not think that would be possible.

We will answer any questions.

If Senator Hayes would tell us how that coal can be picked up, as easily as he thinks in his simplicity, while the Parliamentary Secretary is away, we can be going on with that.

Could not Senator Hawkins go on?

I think we have facilitated the Parliamentary Secretary in indicating that all stages of the Bill would be given. There should be nothing further asked than that.

I do not object.

It is not fair.

Speaking on the Second Reading, I was anxious to have some information from the Parliamentary Secretary. This section of the Bill provides an additional £38,000 for the development of the particular mines referred to. There are also other operations in which this company is engaged, and while we might be interested and very anxious to see this particular scheme a success, I think the majority of us here would be much more interested to hear that the company would go ahead with the work for which it was first established and set up. I would like if the Parliamentary Secretary would give us some information, as to what sum of money is at their disposal for the carrying out of the particular works, other than this. I know we are providing £38,000 but I am not aware of what other funds they have at their disposal to continue the operations for which they were set up. In connection with the suggestion about the development of these particular coalfields, I think it was Senator J.T. O'Farrell, who said they could be developed by private enterprise. They have been there for quite a long time, and neither the trade union organisation of which Senator O'Farrell is a member, nor any of the other organisations throughout the country, nor any private individual came along to develop them. As a matter of fact, when the company had established the fact that there was coal there, and had it developed to a point, and when this concern was put on the market for sale, none of the private enterprise we hear so much about came along to purchase it.

In addition to this money, I thought I explained that we were also making provision by way of grant for exploratory work in Avoca to ascertain what minerals are there, and it is expected that the operations will take two years. For that work there is a grant which is, of course, not repayable because of the nature of the work. It is of an exploratory nature and it is not anticipated, until the investigations are complete, that any minerals will yield a revenue, if minerals are discovered there in large quantities. There is a grant of £120,000. That work is expected to last for a period of two years.

I would like to assure the Parliamentary Secretary that I was quite serious when I suggested the amount should be increased, though some people here may not think so. I think I know as much, in fact, I think I know more, about those mines than most people in this House. I have been down in the mines. I have been in several mines in that district and I have been in mines in Wales. I do not mind admitting here, between ourselves, that there is a tremendous difference and that £38,000 is really only a very small sum to deal with the proposition which has to be dealt with in that area. As I say, I have been down in these mines, and while the workers in that area at the present time are more than pleased, and more than willing to work under the conditions obtaining there now, I do not mind telling the Parliamentary Secretary or telling anybody else, that the conditions under which men are working down there can be very considerably improved and, in my opinion, should be very considerably improved. Anybody who knows anything about expenditure on mining or excavation will know that this sum will last a very short time and go a very short way to meet the situation which exists down there.

During the war, I understand that something like 70,000 tons were taken out of the three mines down there. In order to get down in these mines you have practically to go on your knees which meant that the workers were working under conditions under which you could not get the best results. I believe a considerable sum of money can be spent advantageously, not alone in what might be called prospecting or investigating what might be got in other areas, but in improving the situation in areas where coal is already being mined. I believe the money should be spent. I am quite serious when I say we should have several times the amount of money asked by the company. Naturally, the company are influenced by the attitude of the Government in what is called economy. To my mind, it is false economy. It is losing the ship for the ha'porth of tar, as they said long ago. I wish to impress on the Parliamentary Secretary that now is the time to develop these mines to the fullest and, if at any time it were found that coal from these mines was not necessary, it would be the easiest thing in the world to store it. It would be an excellent position to be in, to know that, if a time came when coal could not be got elsewhere, it could be got from our mines. My attitude on the question of providing a market for our coal is the attitude of a protectionist. I believe a market should be made available no matter at what price coal can be got elsewhere. The same applies to Castle-comer and the Swan. No matter what Government comes in here from time to time, I believe it should be the duty of that Government to provide a suitable market at an economic price, which would enable the workers to get a decent wage, and which will ensure the production of coal when the time comes in which we need fuel in the country.

I do not know whether I made myself clear on this, but the company is already working there and whatever coal is produced is sold. In addition, they anticipate that it would take £38,000—£28,000 is for development and £10,000 is for a washing machine which is regarded as essential in order to market the coal in good condition. I do not think anyone would seriously contend that they should be told: "You can have all the money you want, even though you do not want to spend it." The company anticipates that the £28,000, which they consider will be necessary in order to develop the mine to an economic stage, is sufficient. I hope it will be. If it is not sufficient, then the matter will have to be reconsidered, but it is estimated at the moment that the £28,000 for development and £10,000 for the machine will be sufficient. On the question of the possibility of working the mine which Senator Quirke refers to, that is one of the difficulties. The company abandoned the work at Ballynunty——

Because of the water.

Yes. The particular operation at Slievardagh is difficult, but the company, from an analysis of the coal, are in a position to say that it is of good quality. Apparently, however, the lie of the ground, or whatever the technical term is for the formation of the minerals, is such that the seam is narrow and it is not easy to extract the coal. That was responsible for the original estimate of £50,000 being insufficient to bring the mine up to full economic production. I believe the amount now being made available is reasonable, in view of the company's estimate, and I feel that any suggestion that it should be increased, in the absence of information or expert advice, would be a misuse of public money. The Seanad can rest assured that the sum of money now being provided is sufficient to meet the company's estimate of the expenditure which will be incurred between now and September, 1951, when the mine is expected to be in full production.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 3.
Question proposed: "That Section 3 stand part of the Bill."

This section deals with the acquisition of land and I should like to have an assurance from the Parliamentary Secretary that in the case of land being acquired from local people, the market value will be taken into consideration. That matter is being dealt with in another Bill before the Oireachtas at the moment, but I cannot quite see how the market value is to be arrived at. In that area, the Ballingarry-Slievardagh area, right over the hill, the average farm is fairly small. If a farmer has 30 acres and it is necessary to acquire ten or 15 acres from that farmer, I suggest it would not be fair and would not be good policy from the Land Commission, or, if you like, the national point of view, to acquire that land on the basis of a flat rate. Some people here would say that it is very poor land, but in fact it is not, although it looks very poor. Wherever there is coal under the ground, the land over it looks cold, but if you take away half that man's farm it is very hard to compensate him adequately.

In addition, there is in that area another problem in connection with what are called basset mines. I do not know how to spell the word, but I have been hearing about them for many years and I think I am right in my pronunciation. In that area, people have been mining coal in their own backyards and fields for a long number of years. The law says they have no right to do it but it has been going on, as everybody knows, for so many years that these people now have something which amounts to a squatter's right. Some of the legal men may be able to provide a better term. The fact is that these people have not only been providing coal for themselves but have been able to get sufficient coal to enable them to sell a little around the district. We all know that that is not allowed under the Minerals Acts. It is breaking the law, but if the law continues to be broken, for 25, 30 or 40 years openly, I think the fact should be taken into consideration in connection with the acquisition of land. I do not say that the land should not be acquired or that a man should be allowed to continue to work a basset mine, to work a little on the outcrop, to the detriment of the main mining proposition, but the Government should be liberal in the matter of the compensation paid to such people.

The point which the Senator makes applies where land is acquired by the company in order to extend or continue development. In such cases, it is generally acquired by agreement and on terms which are usually satisfactory to both parties. In the absence of agreement, there is provision under the Acquisition of Land Act, 1919, for arbitration and I think the conditions laid down have generally proved satisfactory. In default of agreement, an arbitrator is appointed and both parties appear before him.

That is the very thing I was afraid of. These Acts are, to my mind, out of date because the conditions obtaining at the time were not the same as the conditions which obtain at present. It is all very well to say that the land can be acquired by agreement. I think I am right in saying that if you were to seek to acquire the land by agreement, in half the cases down there the next war will be over and done with before you will reach agreement. Agreement possibly will be reached finally and the Parliamentary Secretary may live to see it, but some of us who are a little older will have gone to the happy hunting grounds before it is reached. The alternative is to go back to this out of date legislation and have arbitration. I can assure the Parliamentary Secretary that when the arbitration court has finished and when a certain price has been decided on, there will still be a few words to be said around the table in the back kitchen or in the publichouse before it will be finally settled. As a matter of policy, the Government should take the line that they want to get this thing done quickly and satisfactorily and want to get it done in such a way as will ensure the goodwill of everybody in the district.

There is really no intention to acquire any extensive area of land, but this provision enables the company to buy land and to buy mineral rights, whereas, before this section was inserted in this amending Bill, the company had no power to do so.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 4 and Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Bill received for final consideration and passed.