Dáil Éireann - Volume 303 - 08 February, 1978

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Navan Mines.

20. Dr. Browne asked the Minister for Industry, Commerce and Energy when it is anticipated that Bula Limited will commence its mining operation at Navan, County Meath.

Mr. R. Burke: Until the position as regards the company's application to Meath County Council for planning permission for a partly open-cast mine at Navan is resolved it will not be possible to estimate with any precision when Bula Limited is likely to commence mining operations. The company submitted its application to the council in August 1976 and I understand that exchanges between the company and the council on certain aspects of the application have not yet been concluded.

Dr. Browne: In the event of the county council refusing to give the necessary planning permission, will the Minister tell the House what will happen to the enormous amount of money invested by the previous Government? Is there any hope of recovering any part of it?

[844] Mr. R. Burke: With regard to the application, I understand there are a number of points that have to be cleared with the Meath County Council. When that is done the matter referred to by Deputy Browne can be looked at.

Mr. Kelly: Is the Minister aware that the main matter that remains to be resolved with Meath County Council is the question of diversion of the river Blackwater and that the delay in resolving this matter which, as the Minister has said, is the obstacle to the determination of the planning permission application——

An Ceann Comhairle: We are going into detail on this matter.

Mr. Kelly: The main delay there centres on the fact that the county council have not yet received the report of an expert appointed by the Government to advise on the proper course and route of this diversion. I am not assigning any blame——

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is making a statement.

Mr. Kelly: The Minister, no doubt quite innocently, has given an answer that might tend to imply that the Government had no part in this delay. The truth is that the Government, perhaps quite innocently, are a large factor in the delay.

Mr. R. Burke: The Government appointed an expert to co-ordinate the decision between Tara and Bula with regard to changing the course of the river. The expert involved has been carrying on negotiations with the two companies with a view to coming to a compromise decision as to the optimum line that will allow for the greatest usage of the ore body. When a compromise has been worked out between the two companies I am sure the matter will be resolved. The Deputy can be assured that the Government are pressing hard for these diversion plans to be drawn up as soon as possible.

Mr. Kelly: While accepting that, I would be glad if the Minister would say in so many words that there is [845] no question of Bula alone dragging its feet, as has been insinuated by others?

An Ceann Comhairle: I am calling the next question. That was not in the original question.

Mr. Kelly: Will the Minister assure the House that there is no question of Bula being blamed by the Government for the delay in regard to a planning application——

Mr. R. Burke: There has been considerable delay generally on this planning application and a number of different issues have arisen. The Deputy is well aware of the situation with regard to the letters from Meath County Council asking for additional information. It is not just the diversion of the river; other issues are involved also.

Dr. Browne: It is a case of a Coalition “pig in a poke”.

Mr. Kelly: There have been insinuations that the delay in regard to the planning application was the fault of the company.

Mr. R. Burke: I have answered that.

Mr. F. O'Brien: Is it not a fact that because of the delay with regard to the report some 400 jobs have been held up? This is what we should be concerned about. There is an implication here that Bula are dragging their feet. There was an article in the newspapers——

An Ceann Comhairle: This is a separate question.

Mr. F. O'Brien: It is not a separate question.

An Ceann Comhairle: I will not allow Deputies to make statements at Question Time.

Mr. F. O'Brien: Is the Minister aware that 400 jobs are being held up in this case? There seems to be no degree of urgency on the part of the Department regarding the report. It is now 12 months later and yet the report has not been received. Because of the job situation the Minister should show a greater degree of concern.

[846] Mr. R. Burke: I thought any speaker from that side of the House would be very reluctant to talk about Bula and this Government when one considers the history of the situation.