Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - County Cork Copper Mines.

21.

asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce when prospecting was last carried out at Allihies Copper Mines, Castletownbere, County Cork; and what is the likelihood that they will be reopened to solve the present employment difficulties in the area.

Two prospecting licences are currently valid in respect of a total area of 13½ square miles embracing the Allihies Copper Mines, Castletownbere, County Cork. The licences, granted initially in 1956-57, have been renewed at yearly intervals.

Considerable exploration work has been carried out in this area but the reports furnished to me are confidential and I am not in a position to comment on the likelihood of the mines being re-opened.

Prior to the discovery of the Rhodesian mines, Allihies copper mine was the most prosperous copper mine in Europe and is it therefore not strange that the Minister can give the House no indication of what the prospects are of this mine being restored to operation in view of the gigantic increase in copper prices which must be borne in mind? Steps should be taken in this direction while the going is good.

The Deputy will appreciate that the people who have these licences and who have been carrying out this extensive work would, in the event of their being of the opinion that the mines were exploitable, apply for a mining lease. If I were to give any information arising out of the confidential reports available it could be that the effect of my doing so might give other people an advantage which had, in fact, been earned by the people doing the exploration work.

Would the Minister say if, in fact, he is talking about the old mine where 850 feet of water which was pumped out has returned, or has boring being done in other areas?

I am talking about the fairly extensive prospecting and boring which has taken place in the mine and in the area surrounding it.