Presentation of reports on CSIR, AEC, Mintek and the Council for Geoscience

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Mineral Resources and Energy

20 April 1998
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Meeting report

20 April 20 1998

The Programme of Action for the Committee for the current session was put before the committee to approve, which it did.

Dr. Jeenah of the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology presented a general overview of the scope and nature of the consultants report on the various science councils. He stated that the mandate for the reports came from the IDRC report, as well as the White Paper on Science and Technology, and directly from the minister.

Prof. Eberhad presented a summary of the report on the Atomic Energy Council. The overall view of the AEC was that the nature and structure of the Council should change. The report recommends that two separate entities emerge in the future. The first should deal with the waste management, decontamination and decommission of previous plants, and fulfill any outstanding institutional obligations. A second entity should emerge which would look at the commercialisation of the technology produced by the vast research of the AEC, in particular with regards to fluorine processing.

Questions asked by the committee dealt with some of the expenses of closing down various plants (various, but expensive), whether other countries had had any success with the privatisation of atomic energy activities (yes, but is a slow and difficult process). Further queries were raised as to whether the decontamination and decommissioning of previous plants could be done in a way to reduce environmental impacts (yes), why the French had withdrawn from the MLIS project (Good question, suggested committee may ask AEC), and whether the area of nuclear research would die if many of the AEC plants closed (is a problem, but if move to two organisations, with a commercial element, may help turn around situation).

Dr. Jeenah took over and dealt with the Report on the CSIR. The general view on the CSIR was that it was successfully attempting to meet the demands of the new policy climate in South Africa. Further there were some very competitive core elements in the organisation, and that good progress was being made on equity and redress. The report notes that the CSIR needs to develop a strategy and plan for commercialisation beyond the current somewhat ad hoc approach. The report contained a list of key recommendations for the CSIR to take the organisation into the future.

There were a few questions. The main issues to come out of the questions was that the CSIR could work more closely with other partners in bringing itself closer to markets.

Dr. Lombe of the Minerals and Energy Policy Centre briefed the committee on the report on the Council for Minerals and Energy (Mintek). The overall analysis of the report was very positive. The transfer of technology to industry was especially praised, as was the research activities of Mintek.

Dr. Jeenah then briefed the committee on the report on the Council for Geoscience. Overall the report found that the CGS was well placed strategically in South Africa, and the African continent in general. The move to a statutory body was achieved very successfully. Some of the key areas that need to be improved were the lack of integration with the Universities, the lack of succession planning, and the need to balance South Africa with the rest of Africa.

The Chair closed the meeting.


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