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ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS AND TOURISM PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
23 March 1998
MACASSAR SULPHUR STOCKPILE ENQUIRY: BRIEFING
The agenda for the day included reports of numerous enquiries that the Environmental Affairs and Tourism Portfolio Committee had instigated. Due to many members being absent, only the Maccassar report would be heard.
Mr. Coetzee briefed the committee on behalf of the task force. Mr. Coetzee talked to a slide presentation, which is attached to these minutes. In summary, the issue the task force had been set up to investigate was the removal of the sulfur stockpile. The stockpile was a relic of the National Supplies Procurement Fund, which had instigated a policy of collecting strategic stocks. The stock of Sulphur-contaminated ground was in two piles, one with 20% concentration, the other with 60%. The task force had looked at alternatives to dealing with the stockpiles, and had finally decided on using the stockpiles for agricultural use.
To prepare and transport the stockpile a tender process was needed. As the Department of Trade and Industry was the owner of the stockpile, the government tender process would have to be followed. Due to the immediacy of the problem, the Department of Trade and Industry looked at speeding up the process, which was done.
The stockpiles are now in various stages of being moved. The presenter stated that the stockpiles would be completely moved by the end of April. In the process, expenditure had become more than budgeted for. This was largely due to there being more mass of stockpile than originally thought, and that the average distances needed to be traveled were greater that planned for.
A question from a member of the committee dealt with the implications of the budget being exceeded. A representative from the Department of Trade and Industry stated that the tender process operated on a quote per ton per km, with a maximum ceiling of R710 000. The state tender process could not extend or exceed the quoted amount. Once the ceiling was reached, a new tender process would have to be initiated. However, due to the immediacy of the situation, and with the winter rains approaching, the Department of Trade and Industry has gone to the Minster of Finance to try and achieve a solution. The stock belonged to the National Supplies Procurement fund, which had accumulated money, and may be available.
Ms. Chalmers (African National Congress) asked what measures were taken in terms of the transport and handling of the stockpiles to ensure safety. Mr. Coetzee explained that in transport, the emergency service authorities in the areas were alerted when the trucks were heading into their area. The spreading of the material was done mechanically, to reduce risk. Experts from AECI were on site to assist and increase awareness of potential problems.
Mr. Le Roux (National Party) stated that the presentation was good news. He noted that earlier in the presentation Mr. Coetzee had, when giving the end of April as the date of final removal, stated that he would not like to be quoted. Mr. Le Roux added that the press was present and would quote the presenter, and would like some clarification.
Mr. Coetzee stated he did not want to be quoted as it might create expectations in people, which might not be met. The date given was dependent of favourable weather and no major mishaps.
Ms. Chalmers (African National Congress) asked whether there were other similar stocks in South Africa.
The Department of Trade and Industry stated there were none. Mr. Coetzee added that this pile was unique in that it was not attached to any operation. Therefor it was not under the normal operational management.
The Chair invited the community representatives present to give input. Before this happened Mr. Williams (African National Congress) clarified that two weeks ago he had offered help to the Department of Trade and Industry to go to the minister directly in terms of extending funds.
Mr. Africa from the Macassar Disaster Action Group, indicated he would like to reflect on the last three months. He stated that since the appointment of the sub committee, the community wanted to be part of the committee to ensure the removal of the stockpile. At the time they were asked what role they wanted to play. Their answer was whatever role was needed to ensure the removal of the stock. In November the committee agreed on a process as to what would happen to the stock. The Legal Resources Centre attorney on the committee motivated that the community be a part of the removal process, in terms of the tender process. There was agreement on this. At the end of October the community representatives set a deadline of the end of February for the removal of the stockpiles. Mr. Africa wanted to know what it was that made it so difficult to be removed. He stated that the suggestion that there were information problems, such as the distances that would have to be traveled, etc. he could not accept at face value. At the time they had asked that all problems that could be faced be tabled, which they were. He stated that the failure to meet the deadline of February was unacceptable, and that the representatives would not accept any explanation. They know what was agreed to, what the problems were that were tabled, and that the explanations brought by people here were unacceptable. The community could see no reason to be a part of the process if they were being sent running in circles. As far as the tender issue, and what transpired, Mr. Africa said they say irregularities.
The other issue raised by Mr. Africa was that the previous report indicated a need for long term research on health and other related issues. He wanted to know whether the Environmental Affairs and Tourism Portfolio Committee was still committed to the process. He wanted to know whether the House was serious about this community and the process. If not, the community saw no point in being involved.
The Department of Trade and Industry representative stated that during the January and February period, Trevor Manuel had put a limit of R200 000 on project expenditure. He stated that a lot of time and energy had gone in to overcoming these things.
The Chair stated that she could understand the community’s frustration if they had been left out of the process. If so, she apologised, since if they had been a part they would have been at the meetings and understood the moratorium and tendering delays. The Environmental Affairs and Tourism Portfolio Committee thought the community was a part, and had had the commitment from the company and the Department of Trade and Industry. She requested the committee representative on the task force to clarify.
Mr. Williams (African National Congress) stated that at the end of October the process started, and by mid November everybody was involved. Mr AB Williams (National Party) and Mr. Richards (African National Congress) were contacted, but neither were available over those months to help. Mr. Williams stated that he had been working during the recess, and had been in contact with all the role players, and kept them informed. He had distributed phone numbers at the time of the tender process, and asked the role players to contact each other. In subsequent meetings in January he stated that he was not sure whether the community representatives had been present at all the meetings.
The Chair stated she would not allow a response. She had apologised. On the table was now a process that had been given, that was running, and did the community representatives have a position on it.
The chairperson of the Community Action Group stated that they accepted practical delays. It was not the intention to be unreasonable, and that they had been tolerant. There was frustration at not being able to answer the questions of the people. They support the removal process. On the tendering, they were told there would be local contractors informed. The process was sped up, and locals not informed. But they can live with the process.
Mr. Williams (African National Congress) stated there was the legal issue which was not resolved yet, but was not the focus of the task force.
Mr. September (African National Congress) stated that the tendering issue seems to involve a degree of dissatisfaction from the community, and would invite them to comment on the issue in writing.
The offer was accepted.
STOCKPILE AT SOMERSET WEST
Progress report to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environmental
Affairs and Tourism
23 March 1998
Life after Sulphur
- Noel Williams
- Representatives of DTI
- AECI Operations Service: Kynoch
What do we do with 12 000 tons of contaminated sulphur?
- 20% sulphur pile (9 600 t)
- 60% sulphur pile (2 400 t)
Sub-committee meeting - 97-11-17
Looks at way forward
Chairman visits Swartland with Kynoch representatives
Sub-committee meeting: 97-12-09
Looks at options for disposal
AECI suggestion: agricultural use
AECI suggestion accepted
- sulphur concentration
- constraints (e.g. time)
DTI tender process; delay
DTI agreed to start preparation sooner
Media statement 97-12-23 : Removal Process
Two grades required
- 20% : grain (Swartland)
- 60% : fruit (Worcester-Robertson)
Preparation : Screening, crushing, mixing
Portion of sulphur placed : 105%
Fallback : Koperfontein
Contractor appointed : 98-02-03 with DTI approval
Media statement : 98-02-05
Safety precautions set
20% screened, blended : 98-02-24
60% screened, blended : 98-03-31
Transport tender awarded : 98-02-23
Site Meeting : 98-03-05
Operating procedures laid down
Safety precautions set
Emergency Services alerted
Media statement 98-03-09
Deliveries to be completed : 98-04-30
Spreading on farms
- moisture content
Mass more than budgeted
Distances greater than budgeted
THE WAY AHEAD
A new era
Extensive site remediation
A boost for regional economy
ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS AND TOURISM PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
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