Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 21 Feb 1945

Vol. 96 No. 4

Committee on Finance. - Vote 55—Industry and Commerce.

I move:—

That a Supplementary sum not exceeding £27,000 be granted to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending 31st March, 1945, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, including certain Services administered by that Office.

Sub-head K (3), the first sub-head, is associated with the Bill that we discussed in the Dáil last week. When the Estimate was being prepared for the year it was assumed that the requirements of the company for the year would be about £50,000 but the authorised limit for advances was nearly reached, and in fact only a balance of £21,800 remained. Therefore, the main Estimate had to be prepared providing for an advance of £21,800. The statutory limit on advances has since been raised, so it is now possible to provide for the company the balance of the amount that it requires for its work during the course of the present year.

Sub-head K (4) relates to certain exploratory work which the Minerals Development Company was engaged in at Ballard in County Wicklow. They were exploring a deposit of iron ore. The iron ore was found to be of such a grade that it is of no particular interest at the present time and, consequently, the exploratory work has ceased. The amount now required represents the balance of the sum required to recoup the company for that work.

Sub-head K (5) relates to the activities of the Geological Survey. The normal exploratory work of the Geological Survey has been more or less suspended during the war. The Survey is in fact engaged only in the exploration of minerals which have immediate commercial possibilities. It is not possible, therefore, to estimate in advance the amount which the Survey will require for that work during the year, and only a token Vote of £5 was asked for in the main Estimate.

During the course of the year the Survey has been actively engaged in exploring the phosphate deposits in County Clare. That has been its main work, because it was known that the deposit there was showing signs of exhaustion and it was desirable to explore fully the possibility of securing other workable deposits. The amount expended by the Survey on that work on the Clare phosphates represents practically the whole of the amount of the Supplementary Estimate now required. There was a small sum expended on work in County Wicklow and a smaller sum still upon the investigation of some coal deposits in County Limerick.

The other Estimate represents a sum that will probably be required to be paid before the end of the year. As the House is aware, certain mineral rights at Slievardagh in County Tipperary and in the phosphate area of County Clare were compulsorily acquired by the State. It was not possible to reach agreement with the owners as to the compensation to be paid and consequently the matter went for determination to the Mining Board. The Mining Board has not yet given its award, but its award is expected within the course of the financial year and, consequently, we are asking the Dáil to vote a sum of £5,000 which we think is ample to cover any award which the Mining Board may make to the dispossessed owners in these areas, and when the Mining Board makes the award we will, of course, have to pay the full amount of the award.

My recollection is that the Minister, about this time last year, when introducing a Supplementary Estimate, mentioned that the Clare deposits would be exhausted in about 12 months' time. He has provided a sum here to enable the members of the Geological Survey to carry out further exploratory work for the purpose of finding new deposits. Can the Minister indicate if they have succeeded in finding such new deposits and if he finds it necessary now to revise the statement he made 12 months ago about the existing deposits in County Clare?

The position was as I stated this time 12 months. The known deposits then appeared to be on the point of exhaustion, and consequently the Geological Survey were requested to concentrate on exploratory work in County Clare to ascertain if further deposits could be located. Further deposits were located, and the phosphate bearing area was shown to be larger than was originally assumed. It was because this time last year we foresaw the exhaustion of the deposits that the Geological Survey were instructed to concentrate its activities on this work during the year. They were successful in locating new phosphate deposits. These deposits are, however, of a kind that can be worked only by mining, but that is not the concern of the Geological Survey.

Have you taken over all the deposits in County Clare?

The portion of the phosphate deposits in County Clare which was being worked by private interests was left with the private interests. It is the unworked deposits that were compulsorily acquired and in respect of which the Mining Board is arbitrating.

You are not leaving them without something?

It may be that the portion they were left with has since been exhausted.

As regards the phosphates used last year in this country, did they all come out of Clare?

No, there was a substantial tonnage imported.

Can the Minister say how much was imported?

Probably there was more imported than came out of Clare It might have been 50-50, but the probability is that more was imported.

You expect extra phosphates. Are they to come from County Clare or North Africa?

They are being imported from North Africa.

With reference to the Slievardagh mines, when do you expect the machinery?

I could not say when. There is no prospect of getting it at the moment.

It is all hand work?

They are using make shift machinery, devised by the engineers out of scrap equipment.

No modern machinery?

There is no modern machinery there.

It would be a pity if the mining tradition were to die.

The mine will be kept working so long as it is possible to work it. The intention is to instal upto-date coal producing machinery as soon as it can be procured.

Vote put and agreed to.