The Department of Mineral Resources tabled a summary of the public concerns expressed on the Geoscience Amendment Bill [B10-2010] (the Bill), together with the responses of the Department of Mineral Resources (the Department). In answer to concerns by the Geological Society of South Africa (GSSA) about loose terminology and the positioning of the Council as a watchdog over geotechnical reporting or professional ethics, the Department pointed out that the intention of the Bill was not to guard over professional ethics, but to ensure that development took place under less risky circumstances. Several organisations had expressed concern about the composition of the Board and who could nominate to the Board, and the Department responded that not all board members would necessarily be drawn from the geological professions. Several comments had also been raised about the capacity of the Council to implement the Bill, but the Department assured Members that it had informed Cabinet that more funding would be required and was presenting a budget to National Treasury, and that capacity issues in the Council would be addressed. The South African Institute for Engineering Geologists had expressed concern over the extent to which information could be made available and the possibility of conflict with the Copyright Act, but the Department believed that this was adequately addressed already in the principal Act. National Union of Mineworkers had raised concerns about health and safety issues but the Department felt that this would not appropriately be covered in this Bill, but should be raised in relation to the health and safety legislation. The National Homebuilders Registration Council had questioned why the term ‘mandatory’ had been removed, but the Department responded that this was on instruction of the Cabinet. In relation to the mandate, the Department also pointed out that the Council would not be focusing on site-specific investigations. The Department had proposed some changes to the Bill, to address issues raised, in the long title and in clauses 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8 and 23.
Members asked whether the Council would be undertaking prospecting to attract investment into the country, questioned the Ministerial discretion, and noted that it was essential that sufficient funding be given. Members asked how dolomite formed, and the steps that would be taken where developers were intending to build in dolomitic areas. Members then went through the Bill, clause by clause. They agreed to the preamble, and to the clauses as reformulated, which were pointed out by the Department. They agreed also to the substitution of the word ‘chairperson’ for ‘chairman’ in Clause 13 and a slight change of wording in clauses 13(c)(ii) and 13(f)(iii). They also agreed with the Memorandum, but noted that the words ‘petroleum’ and ‘exploration’ would also have to be removed from the “Objects of the Bill” on page 16.
The Democratic Alliance members indicated that they would have to abstain from voting, as their party was discussing this Bill in caucus only on the following day. The remainder of the Committee voted to adopt the Bill.
Geoscience Amendment Bill [B12-2010]: Responses by Department of Mineral Resources to public comments
Mr Sibusiso Kobese, Representative of Department of Mineral Resources, tabled the Department's responses to the public concerns that had been raised on the Geoscience Amendment Bill [B10-2010] (the Bill).
The Geological Society of South Africa (GSSA) were concerned about loose terminology, such as the phrase “to undertake exploration and prospecting research”. It had also been concerned about the positioning of the Council as a watchdog over geotechnical reporting or professional ethics. Mr Kobese commented that it was not the intention of the Bill to guard over professional ethics, but to ensure that development took place under less risky circumstances.
Mr Kobese said that the GSSA had also expressed concern over the exclusion of representation of professional and academic expertise by dropping the right of the GSSA to nominate candidates to the Board. The Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) responded that Cabinet had been informed that the Council for Geoscience (CGS) needed more funding to implement the Act. The DMR would present a budget to the National Treasury (NT).
Mr Kobese highlighted another concern of the GSSA as being that the nomination criteria of the Board did not address relevant skills and expertise issues. DMR responded that Board members did not necessarily have to be geologists and the Board should comprise various types of professionals.
Mr Kobese then tabled the concerns that had been raised by the South African Institute of Engineering Geologists (SAIEG), and the DMR’s responses.
SAIEG had emphasised the need for a representative from the geotechnical fraternity in the Board. The SAIEG was also concerned over certain breaches in confidentiality. It had said that there was a need to define the extent to which information could be made available. The SAIEG were also concerned about the possibility of conflict with the Copyright Act. DMR believed that the confidentiality of information in the custody of the CGS had been addressed in Section 6(2) of the principal Act.
Mr Kobese noted that the SAIEG had also been concerned about the blanket mandate that had been conferred on the CGS and that was concerned that the CGS would not be able to execute the mandate. He noted that DMR felt that because existing policies had proven to be insufficient, there was a need for government intervention. Mr Kobese noted that the skills and capacity issue in the CGS would be addressed to enable the CGS to effect its mandate.
Mr Kobese then noted the submissions made by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). NUM had raised a concern on health and safety in the mines, and had suggested that the mining industry must be forced to develop advanced technologies for the timeous detection of possible seismic events. DMR responded that the Mine Health and Safety Act was the appropriate piece of legislation through which to address health and safety issues in the mines.
NUM had also noted that the Bill needed to make provision for the procurement of adequate funding for the CGS to achieve the objectives set out in that Bill. DMR noted that Section 20 of the principal Act had already made provision for CGS funding. A budget would also be presented to the National Treasury.
NUM was further concerned that there had been a lack of representation from the National Department of Human Settlements (NDHS) or the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC) on the Board. DMR noted that Cabinet had been informed that the CGS would need more funding for the implementation of the Bill, were it to be passed. A budget would also be presented to the National Treasury.
Mr Kobese outlined that the NHBRC had been concerned about the reference to the Council as a “mandatory” advisory authority. They were of the stance that the term “mandatory” needed to be retained throughout the Bill. Mr Kobese pointed out that the deletion of the term “mandatory” said had come as an instruction from Cabinet. In addition, he pointed out that there were concerns that Section 5(1)(g) of the principal Act had implied that the CGS would focus on regional research programmes intended to assist government in planning. DMR, however, noted that the CGS would not focus on site-specific investigations, as they would be reviewing them.
Mr Kobese then pointed out the proposed amendments to the Bill. The DMR had suggested changes to the long title of the Bill and to Clauses 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8 and 23.
Adv H Schmidt (DA) sought clarity on the issue that the Council for Geoscience (CGS) would undertake prospecting to attract investment into the country. He wanted to establish on what basis the mandate of the CGS could be prospecting. He also sought clarity on whether there was an emphasis on research.
Adv Schmidt also wanted clarity on the Ministerial discretion. He noted that under-funding was an all-too-common occurrence, as most Departments were seeking more funding.
Adv Schmidt also understood that there was to be a national database, and wanted to know in what ways the current arrangements were deemed not to be sufficient to ensure the confidentiality of that information.
Mr Kobese said that skills capacity building had to continue to be increased within the CGS.
Ms N Mathibela (ANC) asked for clarity on the formation of dolomite and the areas where it was found.
Mr Kobese explained that dolomite was a rock that comprised limestone formed under high pressure. If acid was added to it, it often dissolved and formed caves, cavities or sinkholes, particularly where high levels of water were present. If structures were built on these sinkholes, this posed a serious problem.
Mr C Gololo (ANC) sought clarity on State-owned land where developers were building houses. He wanted to know if the CGS verified who the rightful owners of the land were.
Mr Kobese responded that the CGS did not participate in the changing of land ownership. However, the NHBRC, along with the municipality of Tshwane, had devised an arrangement that any development that was to be built on dolomite areas first needed the approval of the CGS.
Mr Andre Andreas, Director, Mineral Policy Development, Department of Mineral Resources, added that that issue was not within the competency of the CGS, but fell under the control of the National Departments of Human Settlements and of Rural Development and Land Reform. He noted that the Deeds Office was also concerned with the change of land ownership.
Mr M Sonto (ANC) displayed concern about the calamity of the rising acid mine water and the issues revolving around the area of Khutsong.
The Chairperson asked that Members now go through the Bill, clause by clause, focusing also on the amendments proposed by the DMR.
Members agreed unanimously with the changes to the Bill’s Preamble.
Adv Schmidt noted that the Democratic Alliance (DA) would be having a caucus meeting the following day. Neither he nor Mr E Marais (DA) could express their agreement with the contents of the Bill until the DA caucus had agreed on the Bill.
Mr Andreas drew Committee Members’ attention to the removal of specific terms such as 'petroleum' and 'exploration' from the Bill. He also said that the term ‘chairman’ had been replaced with ‘chairperson’.
A member of the Parliamentary Committee Section recommended that the Committee should be checking the Bill, sentence by sentence.
Adv Sisa Makabeni, State Law Advisor, noted that the Bill was correct and that there would not be a problem if the Committee went through the Bill clause by clause.
The Chairperson agreed that it would be sufficient for the Members to indicate whether they approved of each clause of the Bill.
The Committee agreed to Clauses 1, 2, and 3.
The Committee agreed to Clause 4, with the reformulation of subclause (h).
The Committee agreed to Clauses 5, 6, and 7.
The Committee agreed to the amended version of Clause 8.
The Committee agreed to Clauses 9, 10,11 and 12.
The Committee noted that in Clause 13, subclauses (b) and (c)(ii) would be using the word ‘ 'chairperson'.
Mr Andreas suggested that the wording 'without notifying the chairperson' should be inserted into Clause 13(c)(ii). Then, in Clause 13(f)(iii) the word ‘must’ should be inserted after the word ‘and’.
Members agreed to this suggestion and adopted Clause 13 as amended.
The Committee agreed on Clauses 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22.
Members agreed to Clause 23 as supplemented.
The Committee agreed on Clauses 24, 25, 26 and 27.
The Committee also agreed with the Memorandum and Clauses 1, 2, 3,4,5,6 and 7 of that memorandum.
The Chairperson noted that on page 16 of the Bill, the references to ‘petroleum’ and ‘exploration’ would also have to be removed from the “Objects of the Bill”.
Mr Schmidt again noted, for record purposes, that the DA would be abstaining from voting on adoption of the Bill.
The Chairperson noted formally that the abstention was due to the DA first having to deliberate on the Bill in its next caucus meeting.
Members proposed and seconded the adoption of the Bill, with amendments.
The Committee adopted the Bill.
The meeting was adjourned.
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