Opencast Mining

Oral Answers to Questions — Coal – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22nd June 1959.

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Photo of Mr George Oliver Mr George Oliver , Ilkeston 12:00 am, 22nd June 1959

asked the Paymaster-General, following the decision to reduce substantially the output of opencast coal, resulting in sites having been handed back to their owners, for what purpose consent has been given to further prospecting for opencast coal on the Henry Street site, Ripley.

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

The National Coal Board is prospecting this site under an authority issued in August, 1958, that is before the decision to reduce opencast coal output was taken. The Board has no present plans for working the site.

Photo of Mr George Oliver Mr George Oliver , Ilkeston

Can the Minister say for what purpose opencast workings are being handed back to the former owners of the land while prospecting for opencast sites is still taking place? Does not he appreciate the disturbance and anxiety to local authorities when there is prospecting and the possibility that, in the event, it may be necessary to work new sites?

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

I thought it was the argument of those opposed to the continuance of opencast coal mining that opencast coal should be regarded only as a reserve, and I think there is a lot in the argument. That being so, I consider that prospecting should continue so that the National Coal Board may have the fullest possible picture of the available resources.

Mr. T. Williams:

Will the right hon. Gentleman notify local authorities, whose permission is sought to carry out prospecting for opencast sites, that the prospecting is merely in order to make provision for work which may perhaps not be carried out for many years? Is he aware that prospecting is going on now in South Yorkshire within two or three miles of four collieries, all of which are producing a million tons of coal a year, and does he expect that to act as a boost to the morale of the mineworkers?

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

There are further Questions on the Order Paper regarding the policy of opencast mining. From statements made by the Government about the future rundown and the actual working of opencast coal, I hope that local authorities have been made aware that the prospecting going on is from the point of view of establishing existing reserves and not the immediate practical working of the coal.

Photo of Mr David Griffiths Mr David Griffiths , Rother Valley

asked the Paymaster- General how many opencast coal sites will be worked during 1960; and what run down in the number of sites is planned between 1960 and 1965.

Photo of Mr George Sylvester Mr George Sylvester , Pontefract

asked the Paymaster- General how many opencast coal sites are being worked at the present time in Yorkshire; what reduction of workings is planned in the area during 1960, 1961, 1962 and 1963; and what is the estimated production during these years.

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

asked the Paymaster- General how many opencast coal sites are being worked at the present time in Scotland; what reduction of workings is planned in the area during 1960, 1961, 1962 and 1963; and what is the estimated production during these years.

Photo of Mr Thomas Brown Mr Thomas Brown , Ince

asked the Paymaster-General (1) how many opencast coal sites are being worked at the present time in Lancashire; what reduction of workings is planned in the area during 1960, 1961, 1962 and 1963; and what is the estimated production during these years;

(2) how many opencast coal sites are being worked at the present time in Staffordshire; what reduction of workings is planned in the area during 1960, 1961, 1962 and 1963; and what is the estimated production during these years.

Photo of Mr Harold Finch Mr Harold Finch , Bedwellty

asked the Paymaster- General how many opencast coal sites are being worked at the present time in Wales; what reduction of workings is planned in the area during 1960, 1961. 1962 and 1963; and what is the estimated production during these years.

Mr. Bernard Taylor:

asked the Paymaster-General how many opencast coal sites are being worked at the present time in Nottinghamshire; what reduction of workings is planned in 1960, 1961, 1962 and 1963; and what is the estimated production during these years.

Photo of Mr Henry White Mr Henry White , North East Derbyshire

asked the Paymaster- General how many opencast coal sites are being worked at the present time in Derbyshire; what reduction of workings is planned in the area during 1960, 1961, 1962 and 1963; and what is the estimated production during these years.

Photo of Mr Charles Grey Mr Charles Grey , City of Durham

asked the Paymaster-General how many opencast coal sites are being worked at the present time in Durham; what reduction of workings is planned in the area during 1960, 1961, 1962 and 1963; and what is the estimated production during these years.

Photo of Mr John McKay Mr John McKay , Wallsend

asked the Paymaster-General how many opencast coal sites are being worked at the present time in Northumberland; what reduction of workings is planned in the area during 1960, 1961, 1962 and 1963; and what is the estimated production during these years.

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

asked the Paymaster- General how many opencast coal sites are being worked at the present time in Cumberland; what reduction of workings is planned in the area during 1960, 1961, 1962 and 1963; and what is the estimated production during these years.

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

On 1st June, 1959, coal was being won from 110 opencast sites. I am circulating in the OFFICIAL RFPORT a table which gives the number of sites in each of the main producing areas. The National Coal Board intends to reduce opencast coal output to about 7 million tons in 1960 and, unless circumstances change so as to call for a reconsideration of the position, plans a further substantial fall in later years. The Board is still working out the details of this reduced programme.

Photo of Mr David Griffiths Mr David Griffiths , Rother Valley

While appreciating that point, may I ask whether the Minister is not aware that his Answer is really unsatisfactory? Is it not a fact that the rundown can be accelerated considerably, thereby giving the land back to farmers, to improve the agricultural industry and beautify the countryside?

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

I doubt whether I could argue the merits and demerits of opencast working very satisfactorily at Question Time. There are very strong arguments on either side. I have endeavoured to give the House the information for which I was asked.

Mr. T. Williams:

In this intended rundown of opencast sites, will the right, hon. Gentleman make it transparently clear to local authorities and others that no new sites will be opened in 1960–61?

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

I have already made a statement to the House setting out, I hope very clearly, the decision about the working of sites in the future. I will consider whether further publicity should be given to the position.

Photo of Mr George Sylvester Mr George Sylvester , Pontefract

Is the Minister aware that in the last twelve months new sites have actually been developed in Yorkshire? I cannot ask a supplementary question on the original Question because he has not given us any figures for Yorkshire. But these sites have been developed in near proximity to deep mines, and is it not time that we decided not to develop any more sites and actually stopped those that are not yet fully developed?

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

The National Coal Board is running down pretty rapidly the production of opencast coal. There are very weighty reasons, which cannot be developed now, why the National Coal Board should not go faster than it actually is going.

Following is the Table:

Number of Opencast sites producing coal on 1st June, 1959
Scotland5
Wales and Monmouthshire16
Northumberland8
Durham14
Cumberland1
Yorkshire14
Lancashire9
Nottinghamshire4
Derbyshire29
Staffordshire3
Warwickshire2
Leicestershire2
Shropshire3
Total100