§ Mr. Butler
A mining licence for lignite has been issued to a private company for an area of 253 acres between Crumlin, Glenavy and Lough Neagh. A minerals prospecting licence has also been granted to the same licensee for a further 10.5 square miles in this general area.
Three petroleum licences have been granted to companies exploring potential sources of oil and gas. One, for an area of 138 square miles, embraces the Rathlin basin offshore and a landward area of north Antrim around Ballycastle. The second, an area of 545 square miles, covers north Antrim and north Londonderry and an offshore area from Ballintoy to Castlerock. The third licence covers some 1,050 square miles including County Fermanagh and parts of Counties Tyrone and Armagh. Work is continuing to identify hydrocarbon reserves in these areas and to determine whether any reserves which may be discovered are commercially viable.
In addition, the Department, in conjunction with the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland, has its own ongoing programme of preliminary exploration work for minerals including lignite and coal, and for hydrocarbons. At this stage, it is too early to say whether this programme will lead to the identification of commercially exploitable reserves. However, if encouraging information on minerals and hydrocarbons is obtained, it will be made 818W available widely to interested parties so that further detailed investigation of the commercial prospects can be undertaken.