asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he has received a report on the successful working of a drift mine at Oakwood Grange, Cossall; and whether he can make a statement on the possibility in certain areas of obtaining coal which is near the surface by drift mining instead of by opencast methods.
No, Sir, not on this particular drift mine. But a number of drift mines are of course being operated at present and I have in fact visited some of them. As regards the second part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the evidence given by the National Coal Board to the Select Committee on Estimates on the production and marketing of opencast coal, which made it clear that the Board were already developing drift mines to the greatest extent possible. There is full consultation between my Ministry and the National Coal Board before any decision to extract coal by opencast working is taken and if the Board indicate that drift mining might be appropriate, this alternative is fully considered. My hon. Friend will however appreciate that the coal is extracted much more quickly and in larger quantities by opencast methods, since in drift mining a certain amount of coal near the surface has to be left unworked.
Will the Minister consider the possibility of substituting drift mining for opencast mining at Greasley in Nottinghamshire when the matter comes before him for consideration, as the people there are greatly opposed to their amenities being destroyed by the latter method?
I will certainly look into that question.
Will the Minister bear in mind the fact that it is not only a matter of amenity but the serious and permanent waste of good agricultural land, and that if drift mining could be substituted we should retain the agricultural land and presumably get the coal as well?
In the recent Debate I dealt fully with this matter. Some of the agricultural experts who appeared before the Select Committee on Estimates were more opposed to drift mining than to opencast mining from the point of view of restoring the land for agricultural use.