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MINERAL & ENERGY AFFAIRS PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
5 August 1998
IMPLEMENTATION OF SCIENCE COUNCIL REVIEWS BY THE MINTEK, COUNCIL FOR GEOSCIENCE AND A.E.C.
Register: ANC: Mrs. N. Mabude, Mr. N. J. Mahlangu, Prof. I.J. Mohamed, Ms. N. S. Mtsweni, Mr. J.H. Nash, Mr. D. M. Nkosi (chairperson), Mr. S.D. Nxumalo, Mr. J.W. Van Wyk, Mr. D. A. Zitha, NP: kmdt A. Blaas, Mnr C. J. van R Botha, mnr J.F. De Wet, mnr J.J. Niemann, mnr S. Simmons, IFP: Mr. E.J. Lucas, FF: mnr W. A. Botha, A.E.C: Dr. W. E. Stumpf, Dr. K.F. Fouche, Dr. T. Tyobeka, Mr. S. Shakong, Mr. E. R. Pithey, Council for Geoscience: Dr. C. Frick (director), Mintek: Dr. Aidan Edwards (president), Dr. Peter Scott (marketing manager).
Welcome: Mr. D. M. Nkosi, the Chairperson, opened the meeting at 11:00 and welcomed the science councils.
Agenda: A profile of each of the science councils to determine their interaction with the recommendations of the recent science council review and how such recommendations are being implemented for the maximum benefit of the country and its people.
Mintek: Dr. Edwards spoke on behalf of Mintek. He said that although approximately R1 billion of taxpayer's money was allocated to the science councils every year, the importance of their contribution to both the economy and scientific research should not be overlooked. Mintek was, Dr. Edwards explained, also receiving increasing foreign financial assistance. Income received from North America alone already exceeded R10 million.
Mintek's emphasis was directed more towards the metallurgical aspects of mining and ways of making the mineral extraction process more economically efficient as well as enhancing the value of the resource through increased commodity beneficiation.
One of the comments made by the review pointed out that Mintek was seen to have too many levels of seniority. Dr. Edwards said that efforts have already been made to rectify this situation and the management structure of the company had become considerably flatter, with more responsibility being handed to employers. Mintek was also making an increased effort to provide academic assistance for employees through in-house training and for matrics in the form of study bursaries to suitable candidates.
Dr. Edwards commented on the problems with the coal research, or the lack thereof, in this country even though the fuel was the largest foreign exchange earner. He said that there were only four people known to be carrying out research in this area in South Africa. Mintek was also playing an increasing role in the field of environmental management, including treatment of slag and fine dust, and water purification. A number of bilateral agreements have already been made between Mintek and other organisations to promote cooperation in this field.
Mintek was also assisting mining development in provinces with previously unutilised resources, such as the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. The Western Cape mining industry was now worth R2 billion and employs 8000 people specifically in the Namaqua Sands mining and in the Saldanha Steel Mill. In KwaZulu-Natal a titanium slag plant has been established as well as a chrome mine. Alusaf was also cooperating with Mozambique in the development of an aluminium smelter in the region. All in all the mining industry in this country earns R99 billion which accounts for approximately 40% of the country's GDP with 2/3 of our foreign exchange earnings coming from the mining industry. About 800 000 people, Dr. Edwards said, were employed in this industry. With an average family size of 6 and a ratio of 3:1 peripherals for each family member, this accounted for a source of income for 15 million people in South Africa.
Council for Geoscience:
Dr. Frick outlined the 1995 review and pointed out both the important economic and social role the Council for Geoscience maintains. He also said that an understanding of South Africa's geology is important for the socio-economic well being of all South Africans. The Council for Geoscience achieves a strong leadership through managerial continuity. One of the main challenges facing the Council for Geoscience was the transformation from a civil service organisation serving the needs of various government departments to a leading research council providing South Africa and the world with quality knowledge and products while maintaining a high profitability. As a result of this new approach, the Council for Geoscience now enters into paid contracts with partners.
The Council for Geoscience was also urged to strengthen ties with tertiary institutions and the relevant geology departments in South Africa and abroad. The Council for Geoscience has also embarked on a new planning process of efficient resource allocation and commercialization. A revision of contracts between the Council for Geoscience and government departments has also been implemented. International partnerships are also being established to provide resources and markets for the services of the Council of Geoscience.
Dr. Frick also explained how the Council for Geoscience continues to improve the management structure to make them more efficient and equitable, while providing a challenging and caring work environment for all employees. He envisages a multi-disciplinary organisation with strong local and international links striving to provide a world-class service. A human resource management audit was also conducted recently.
The A.E.C. presentation has not been minuted.
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