Opencast Mining (Cost)
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the average cost of production per ton of opencast coal which is being obtained at present.
The estimated average cost of opencast coal for the year ended 31st March, 1949, was 44s. 6d. per ton, of which 29s. was the cost of production at site.
Would the Parliamentary Secretary explain to the House why there should be this immense disparity between the cost of producing opencast coal and producing iron ore, which is a similar process in almost wholly similar conditions?
There are differences, of course, in the production of opencast coal, as compared with the production of iron ore, because of the varying depth at which the coal is found.
Would not the cost of opencast coal be much lower if the Departmental overheads were not so high?
I do not think so. I think the Department runs it very efficiently, if I may say so.
Is it not a fact that the seams now being worked are of lower quality than hitherto, and that therefore the amount of coal obtained is less than hitherto?
No. The seams vary from area to area, and in many cases are as good in quality as deep-mined coal.
Can the Minister say whether the cost per ton as given by him, includes the cost of the reinstatement of the land in its former condition?
Yes, it does, and that is one difference with iron ore, where, of course, the land is not reinstated.
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what steps he is taking to ensure that the cheaper prices that merchants are paying for coal to the National Coal Board than that paid to factors will be passed on to the consumer.
It cannot be assumed that there will necessarily be a saving to be passed on to the consumer. The factors performed wholesale distributive services which will have to be provided either by the National Coal Board, in which case an appropriate charge to the merchant will be made, or by the merchant himself, who will incur additional expenses.
Is the Minister aware that in the trade it is suggested that the merchants will get as much as ls. 6d. per ton in buying direct from the National Coal Board, and will he take steps, if that is so, to see that it is passed on to the consumers?
Yes. If there is a reduction in the distributive costs as the result of merchants buying from the Coal Board that will be reflected in the review made from time to time by my Department and the necessary adjustments in retail prices will be made.
Is there any clear and universal definition of "merchants" and "factors" in this particular context?
All the alteration did was to enable merchants to go direct to the National Coal Board or to a factor, if they so desired, or for the Coal Board to do the factoring themselves.