Dáil Éireann - Volume 464 - 23 April, 1996

Written Answers. - Prospecting Licences.

21. Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the number of prospecting licences issued by his Department in each of the years from 1990 to 1995; the environmental and other criteria governing the granting of these licences; the plans, if any, he has to review these criteria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8097/96]

Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry): For the years 1990 to 1995 the number of prospecting licences issued under the Minerals Development Acts, 1940-1995, for various minerals (excluding oil and gas) and in force on 31 December was [602] as follows: 1990, 425; 1991, 364; 1992, 326; 1993, 313; 1994, 380; 1995, 251.

At present there are 421 licences in force.

Details of the minerals covered by all prospecting licences in force are contained in the statutory twice yearly reports which were presented to Dáil and Seanad Éireann under the Acts and which are available in the Oireachtas Library.

The purpose of a prospecting licence is to allow the licensee and the Minister evaluate the mineral potential within the licence area. In order to obtain a licence the applicant has to submit an acceptable technical work programme and show me that he has both the technical and financial ability to carry it through. It is also necessary for the applicant to have adequate public liability insurance cover. The licence conditions require that the licensee adhere to the strict and detailed guidelines which cover the prospecting industry.

The guidelines for good environmental practice in mineral exploration are contained in a comprehensive document issued by my Department and I have arranged for a copy to be sent to the Deputy. In summary it follows the general principles that

environmentally responsible management should be an integral part of all exploration programmes;

those involved should make themselves aware of any ecological or cultural areas of interest within the prospecting licence area;

there be compliance with all relevant laws and regulations covering the environment;

best contemporary practice be applied where this is more rigorous in its protection of the environment than is required by law;

environmental consequences of each activity be considered and planned for;

every effort be made to avoid pollution [603] during exploration;

the licensee take responsibility for ensuring that sub-contractors are aware of the guidelines and laws and regulations relating to the environment;

there be full consideration of and close liaison with landowners and regulatory authorities and

damage which may occur be minimised and corrected without undue delay.

The environmental guidelines are reviewed and revised as appropriate. Revisions are carried out to take account of amendments in legislation or advances in good environmental practice and the most recent revision took place in September 1995.

I should also add that the standard prospecting licence issued by my Department contains a condition which requires the licensee to avoid damage to the environment and amenities and places all rights granted under the licence subject to the relevant requirements of such law as may be applicable in relation to planning and development, control of water pollution, Wildlife Act, National Monuments Acts, etc.