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Thursday, 1 September 1921

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap - I have referred to sub-item g of item 136, and find that it relates to high-grade carbon steel and alloy steels containing manganese. Item 422 relates to thermit and other welding compounds, and tha point of order raised by Senator Gardiner cannot therefore be sustained. Whilst I am going to admit the motion for a request submitted by Senator Senior, I must say that I am in doubt as to its relevancy, but as I am loath to restrict the privileges of honorable senators, I shall give the honorable senator the benefit of the doubt. I have not sufficient scientific knowledge to determine whether manganese ore can be regarded as a welding compound; but if the officers of the Department consider that this is the proper place to submit such a request, I shall not reject it on the ground of irrelevancy.

Senator SENIOR - Steel in its finished state contains from 12 per cent. to 14 per cent, of manganese.

Sitting suspended from 12.15 to1 a.m. (Friday) .

Senator SENIOR - I have said that manganese ore is an alloy of both iron and steel. When used in the manufacture of steel it must not contain more than 8 per cent, of silica, and only a trace of phosphorus. I mention this because the ore of which I speak is remarkably free from both these elements. When used for chemical purposes, manganese ore must be of the highest grade, and it is used for the manufacture of chlorine, dry cells, flint glass, for generating oxygen, for 'disinfectants, as a dryer for paints and varnishes, and in dyes. It is used as a colouring agent in paints, as umber when mixed with iron oxide, and as a colouring agent in glass and pottery. The world's demand for manganese ore for dry cells is about 20,000 tons. So that it will be seen that while there is great use for this article in Australia, there is a probability of its being exported. The principal countries from which we import it - for we are importing it - are Java and New Caledonia. In 1918-19, 1,402 tons, valued at £7,050, were imported from Java; and 1,713 tons, valued at £7,056, were imported from New Caledonia. Honorable senators will note that in Java coloured labour is employed in the mining of manganese ore, and in New Caledonia convict labour is employed. There is manganese ore fouud in some of the other States, but, speaking for South Australia, our source for its supply is Woocalla, which is about 70 miles by rail from Port Augusta, and the mine is about S miles from a station. The South Australian Inspector of Mines estimates that at Woocalla there are 200,000 tons of the ore in sight. In the course of seven weeks' inspection, he took about 70 samples, of which 500distinct assays were made. The average of these assays showed 85 per cent, manganese dioxide, which would be the manganese available for chemical purposes, and 52 per cent, of metallic manganese. The present output is about 120 tons per month, but it could easily be quadrupled. The wages paid represent fully 40 per cent, of the price realized for the article. Railage, sea-freight, cost ofunloading and loading represent an additional 10 per cent. I want to give honorable senators some idea of the cost of this ore from the field in India, which has the greatest output of the article, to England. I find that the cost of mining runs from 2s. 9d. to os. 6d. per ton, with an average of 4s. 1½d. Including rail and sea freights, the charges would be about £2 3s. 6d. per ton from the place where the article is mined to where it can be used. Honorable senators will see from this that we are up against a difficult position unless we do something to protect ourselves. I have said that about 200,000 tons* of the ore is in sight at Woocalla, and that it is of very high quality. The duties I propose are by no means excessive. In the Argus of Wednesday last houorable senators may have noticed a paragraph referring to the new American Tariff, from which I find that the duty imposed in America on manganese ore is. 1 cent, per 1 lb., which amounts to £4 13s. 4d. per ton. If America recognises the necessity of a Protective duty on this article, the necessity is still greater in Australia. Honorable senators are aware that the mining industry in Australia is not at present in a satisfactory condition. Many miners are out of employment, and the development of deposits of manganese would give increased employment to miners, and extra traffic on railways and for our own shipping. It would lead to the employment of men in handling and smelting, and would involve considerable expenditure in Australia for the benefit of this country.

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