The Ashburton Guardian. Magna et Veritas et Prævalebit. WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 1890. THE NEW ZEALAND COAL SUPPLY.
During the past session a matter of some importance was brought under the notice of the House by Sir George Grey. The matter referred to was the necessity for a " cheap and abundant supply of coal to the welfare, manufac tures, and commerce of every country ; to the evils that-would result from the monopoly of a supply of coal falling into the hands of any powerful combination of owners of coal tnines, and to the benefits which might be secured to the miners and their families if the working of the coal mines was conducted under Government control/ He therefore mov*«l " That the Government ought to make speedy arrangements for working some of its own mines, to refrain from parting with any more coal mines, and to resume the Government coal mines already leased m those cases m which the conditions of the lease have not been fulfilled, and to acquire coal mines which are on private property as fittingopportunities offer.'* The Ministry promised to consider the proposal during the recess. In view of the difficulties now being experienced, owing to the labour troubles, m getting supplies of coal for manufacturing purposes, the subject introduced by Sir George Grey is a most important one, and worthy of serious consideration. A combination of labourers or a syndicate of coalmine proprietors can, under a private ownership of coalfields, at any time raise the price to consumers without justifiable cause. Strikes and lock-outs occur more frequently m the Home country m connection with the coal industry than m any other following, and the causes are not the scarcity of the article, or increased difficulties m obtaining it, but the result of combinations for private gain. In New Zealand these interests have not been felt to any great exent until the advent of the present labor trouble, but present indications are sufficient to arouse public attention to the dangers that may arise m the future if the State should permit huge monopolies of our vast coalfields. A State ownership of at least half the coalmines m the colony would no doubt serve to keep m check the effects of combination on the part of the coalmining interests. Indeed, where the State owns the railways, as m New Zealand, it is essential that some direct supervision should be exercised over the coalfields, or at least a portion of them, m order that the State railways—the property of the people—may not earn dividends only to place them m the pockets of speculators. The following particulars, from a contemporary, of the extent and quality of the coal deposits m New Zealand will be of interest at the present juncture:— The quantity of coal ascertained to exist, calculated from the imperfect surveys which have been made, is roughly estimated by Sir James Hector, the Director of the Geological Survey,.at 443,948,000 tons. The quality is extremely varied, some of the coal being, for all practical purposes, equal, if not superior, to much of that used m other parts of the world; while a groat deal is of comparatively inferior description, although it has considerable local value, especially for domestic purposes. The lignite, brown coal, and pitch coal correspond with the brown coals of the Exiropean Continent, and arc largely distributed through both islands ; but there is, owing to the geological formation of *he country, a great .variety m the value of the coal seams as fuel. In the South Island the best known deposit is that on the south-east coast, northward from the Clutha Kiver, where it extends Continuously over at least forty-five square miles. There are several seams of good coal, varying m thickness from sft to 30ft, the total quantity m the district being estimated at about 90,000,000 tons. The Green Island and Saddle Hill basin is about si* square miles m extent; but Ilie coal, the quantity of which is estimated at 11,180,000 tons, is slightly inferior to that of the Clutha. A tkird great extent of this formation on the eastern seaboard of Otago underlies the level country to the east and south of the Kakamu' Mountains;, whilst m Southland pitch coal exists m considerable ?[uantity. In many other parts of New Zeaand valuable seams of hydrous coal occur. The wide distribution of these deposits and the applicability of this description of coal t« most uses are of the greatest importance to the future of the Polony, The most important development of coal of the higher classes —semi-bituminous and bituminous— is on the West Coast of the Middle Island. From the Grey River northwards the coal formation covecn a J&FgP area of the country, the seams rising with 4ip,6 of from JOdeg to 30deg from the sea level to altitudes of several thousand feet ; so .shat t\\o cpal occurs under circumstances most farorable for its being workfid at a small cqst. Jn the Brunner mine, about which so much has been heard lately, the coal yields vitreous coke with brilliant metallic lustre. The outcrops on the Buller River occur at all altitudes up to 3000 feet above the sea level, and accurate surveys prove that this coalfield contains 138,240,000 tons of bituminous coal of jthg best quality and easily accessible, It appears fro^n jijt* /Genial Laboratory reports that the IJull.er coal pt-ef^able for household purposes, whilst jfche' Grey coal is im>4?e suitable for gasworks. The coal m both d»S(L*/;sts, however, has been proved of great value tw jj.i'P#m coal. Seams of the same quality were some timp a<ro discovered m the Mokihinui, Heapliy, anamosi qi the other streams that flow to the westward; and it is to develop this part of the coalfield that the West-port-Ngakawau railway is to be extended, It is hardly necessary to state that tW coalmining leases at present granted extend y? fWj* aggregate oycr a. yery small area compared wi,tJj tlu? ascertained area of all the coal depos ts of the Oolony which may be worked advantageously,