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Tuesday, 23 September 1958

Mr Clark (DARLING, NEW SOUTH WALES) k asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -

1.   Has the Government made a contract with the United Kingdom Government for the sale of the whole of Australia's production of the mineral beryl?

2.   Is this metal important and valuable for its beryllium content which is used for atomic reactors?

3.   Are producers refused a free sale of this metal and forced to sell to the United Kingdom Government?

4.   Is the contract price obtainable from the United Kingdom Government substantially less than that obtainable on the free market in the United States of America?

5.   Does Australia repurchase beryllium mineral from the United Kingdom at a much higher price?

6.   What is the price (a) paid by the United Kingdom Government to Australia for beryllium and (b) charged Australia for repurchases from the United Kingdom?

Mr Townley - The Minister for National Development has replied . as follows: -

1.   No. All of Australia's beryl production is now being purchased by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, but it is envisaged that some of it will ultimately be exported to the United Kingdom.

2.   Yes. Beryl is important as the raw material ore of the metal beryllium. This metal has important uses in atomic energy as a sheathing for fissible material used as fuel in nuclear reactors. Beryllium is also useful as a moderator in reactors.

3.   Australian producers are obliged to sell their output to the Australian Atomic Energy Commission at a price which is comparable with that prevailing on world markets.

4.   The price to Australian producers is not less than that offered by the United States when freight charges are taken into account. The United States price for imported beryl is substantially less than thatpaid to her domestic producers.

5.   As will be noted from the reply to question 1, Australia is self-sufficient in beryllium mineral supplies and does not purchase from the United Kingdom.

6.   Australia does not produce beryllium and therefore does not sell it to the United Kingdom. Small quantities of beryllium metal are purchased, for research purposes, from the United Kingdom, United States of America and France. The cost of metal purchased from United Kingdom is £A.50 per ton.

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