§ 4. Mr. Pawsey
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what is his latest estimate of the amount of recoverable reserves of lignite in Northern Ireland; how soon he estimates that this will become commercially available; and what assessment has been made of the amount of coal currently imported from Great Britain for use in (a) power stations and (b) the domestic sector in the Province which could be displaced by the exploitation of lignite.
§ The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Dr. Rhodes Boyson)
It is estimated that there are 130 million tons of lignite recoverable from the onshore portion of the deposit at Crumlin and substantially more in other deposits which have not yet been fully assessed. Large-scale mining of lignite is unlikely to begin before the early to middle 1990s, although smaller quantities of processed lignite could be produced sooner. The impact upon the Northern Ireland solid fuel market of any form of lignite cannot yet be assessed.
§ Mr. Pawsey
I thank my hon. Friend for that full reply. What plans does his Department have to convert power stations to lignite? How many jobs will be generated in that industry and in support industries by the extraction of lignite?
§ Dr. Boyson
Arrangements have been made for plans to be drawn up for a lignite-fired power station at the mouth of the mine near Crumlin. About £1 million was allocated to the Northern Ireland electricity service to make those plans ready. Arrangements have been made at Kilroot, which has transferred from oil to coal, to convert, if necessary, to lignite. It is difficult to assess how much employment will be generated. Building the new power station will provide considerable employment over three or four years.