Dáil Éireann - Volume 303 - 08 February, 1978

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Prospecting Licence.

19. Dr. Browne asked the Minister for Industry, Commerce and Energy if a licence has been granted to the company Rio Tinto Finance and Exploration Limited, to prospect for zinc in County Cork; and if he considers that such an action is consistent with the Government's declared policy in relation to apartheid, in view of Rio Tinto's record in South Africa.

Mr. R. Burke: Rio Tinto Finance and Exploration Limited hold general prospecting licences in their own right, or jointly with another company, over four areas in County Cork and over 26 areas elsewhere in the country. Notice of my intention to grant prospecting licences to the companies over five other areas in County Cork was published on the 13 August 1977 and these licences will be issued shortly.

I do not consider that the withholding of prospecting facilities from the company would contribute in any appropriate or effective way to a change in the policy of apartheid, to which the Irish Government are completely opposed.

Dr. Browne: Would the Minister not agree that the totally disreputable and shameful record of this company in South Africa would merit the kind of action suggested here by me? He should not allow them to get any advantage out of working in this society. This would be consistent with the excellent policy statements made by the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and others.

An Ceann Comhairle: This is Question Time and Deputies should not make statements.

Mr. R. Burke: We have been advised with regard to South Africa that Ireland is complying with the relevant UN resolutions regarding measures which member states are required to take in commercial dealings involving that country. No such resolution requires member states to withhold mineral exploration [843] facilities in the territories of member states from companies that are actively involved in mining operations in South Africa.

Mr. B. Desmond: Is the Minister not aware that a close examination of the letters of adherence by the Irish Government, particularly the previous Minister for Foreign Affairs, in relation to UN resolutions on apartheid show them to be totally at variance with the decision now taken and that the granting of such licences are a clear breach of our UN commitments in relation to apartheid?

Mr. R. Burke: They are not the facts. As I have pointed out, we are complying fully with the relevant UN resolutions on this matter.

Mr. B. Desmond: I suggest that the Minister should examine the matter again.

Dr. Browne: Everything has a price —even our principles.