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Open-Cast Production

Volume 529: debated on Monday 28 June 1954

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asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how much open-cast coal is going to the domestic market.

How much of this coal is washed before delivery? If a large proportion is unwashed may that not be the reason for the increasing dissatisfaction of householders with the quality of the product they are sold as coal?

I could not say what proportion is washed, but it is true that it does appear in the three lowest groups of house coal.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the figure he has given amounts to 1,560,000 tons of open-cast coal going to domestic consumers this year, and as a very high percentage of this coal is unwashed is it not a little unfair to blame the pits for the amount of stone in the household coal, which is largely due to this wretched open-cast method of working?

I agree that it is very unfortunate that we have to resort to open-cast production, but there is no doubt that it makes a great contribution to our fuel supplies. It is more important, of course, for industrial than for household supplies, and we are bound to continue it for many years.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the advisability of reducing the percentage of open-cast coal being mixed with the deep-mined coal? Because of the increased percentage of open-cast mixed with deep-mined coal the miners are being brought into disrepute, as people blame them for the stone and slate in their coal, which really comes from the open-cast working.

If we could get a substantial increase of production of deep-mined coal no doubt we could make arrangements of that kind.

Would my right hon. Friend say what the policy of open-cast production costs in ruination of good agricultural land?