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MINERALS AND ENERGY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
15 November 2006
COUNCIL FOR GEOSCIENCES 2006 ANNUAL REPORT AND FINANCIAL STATEMENTS: BRIEFING
Acting Chairpersons: Mr S Louw (ANC) and Mr J Combrinck (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Presentation of the annual report and financial statement of the Council for Geosciences
The Council for Geosciences reported that it had been established to do systematic mapping of South Africa on land and offshore. The Council served as a National Repository for Geosciences data, which facilitated access, and was tasked with carrying out Geosciences Basic Research. The Council managed national facilities, such as the National Geosciences Museum, National Geosciences Library, and the National Borehole Core and Seismological Network. The Council also reported on its 2006 Annual Report and Financial Statements.
Members expressed their concern about the shortage of cement in the country and the presence of sinkholes on dolomitic land that threatens lives and infrastructure on developable land in Gauteng and other provinces. They were further concerned at the Council’s inability to retain trained staff, storage of high-level nuclear waste, lead in paint and the fact that the Council was requesting more funding from government while at the same time increasing its commercial revenue streams
Please note that the first part of the meeting was led by Mr Louw and the remainder by Mr Combrinck.
Presentation by the Council for Geosciences (CGS)
Mr Thibedi Ramontja (Chief Executive Officer) was accompanied by Ms M Kola (Human Resource Manager), Mr L Matsepe (Chief Financial Officer) and Dr G Graham (Executive Manager). The presentation covered the CGS mandate, new strategy, key programmes and identified the challenges that it faced.
Mr Ramontja began his presentation by defining the mandate of the CGS derived from Geosciences Act, 1993.He reminded the Members that their directive was to perform basic geosciences research on the nature and origin of rocks, perform systematic mapping, reconnaissance and documentation of the geology of the earth‘s surface both on shore and off shore. The mandate allowed them to render commercial geosciences services and products to the country and international clients.
He further outlined the six scientific/business thrusts and their project expenditure in percentage form. They are shown below in table 1.
Table 1: Business Thrusts and expenditure in percentage form
Mineral resources development
Educational and Information
Water and Geohydrology
The above table shows the division of overall cost per project in percentage form for the six business thrusts incorporated by the Council. It is clear that the bulk of the money went to mapping.
Table 2 below shows the budget for the financial year 2005/06 and the actual amount used.
Table 2: Statement of financial performance and budget
Since 2004 the Parliamentary grant has seen a steady increase from R67m to R86m in 2006. Although the contract revenue has also seen an increase from R24m to R70m in 2006, the total income is still insufficient to allow for further research to be done.
Mr Ramontja stressed that geological mapping was crucial for investments in research for land planning and infrastructure development. Approximately 98% of the country has geological maps; there is still much work to be done in geochemical surveys as approximately 18 regions have geochemical data out of a possible 80 or more.
Current and future research projects in geology involved structural mapping of the Eastern Bushveld contact margin in Mpumalanga; quaternary reactivation of the Kango fault in the Eastern and Western Cape and petrology of the Trompsburg complex in the Northern Cape.
Future research under engineering geosciences and physical geohazards, the development of a regional dolomite subsidence hazard susceptibility map and national geohazard system were imperative. The prevention of water ingress and human access to surface openings in the eastern and central Wits mining basins, and mass movement deposits and slope instability mapping of KwaZulu-Natal were important. The Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) has requested CGS to close all known unsafe openings in the Witwatersrand mining basins. 535 openings have been located and 36 that pose the highest risk to communities have been identified. Seven holes were sealed and the remainder would be done later in the year. By 2007, 40 holes would have been sealed.
The presence of sinkholes on dolomitic land threatens lives and the infrastructure of 20% of developable land in Gauteng and other provinces. CGS in the last year continued to upgrade and develop a national information data bank. They have opened a field mapping school in the Downs area, east of Polokwane in order to enhance skills for young geologists. A key project for future plans is to produce a geological map of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. In this they have partnered with the University of Pennsylvania State and Wits University to promote sustainability and geophysical capacity by training African geophysicists and improving scientific infrastructure and facilities throughout Africa.
In terms of staff employment, they had 86% black employees and 14% whites; 44% females and 56% males. They have increased their bursary intake with the division by race 80% blacks and 20% whites.
Key challenges are underfunding for SA geoscience programmes, and that they were struggling to retain skilled previously-disadvantaged employees. A ten-year strategic plan has been drafted and submitted to the Minister in order to address these challenges.
Mr C Kekana (ANC) questioned why CGS focused on getting more own revenue as opposed to asking for funding to cover their total expenditure since their focus was on research activities. He also asked why CGS wanted funding from the state, since it was receiving a substantial amount from commercial clients.
Mr Ramontja replied that an organisation like the CGS must be funded by the state to enable strategic research in the minerals field.
A Member asked what CGS’s strategy was to retain staff, since it was not the first time the matter was raised.
Mr Ramontja replied that it was difficult to retain staff due to competition from private companies as CGS could not compete financially. He said their strategy was to train as many people as they could.
Prof I Mohamed (ANC) commented that they should pressurise the Minister of Finance to allocate more money to research and development. South Africa was well behind when compared to its contemporaries. He emphasised that it was crucial for the country to develop economically in order to compete internationally. He asked whether the sinkholes in Vosloosrus were a recent development.
Mr Ramontja replied that he had referred to sinkholes in Laudium and not Vosloosrus.
Prof Mohamed felt that the public was being misled by the Minister or the Deputy Minister concerning the storage of high-level nuclear waste. He asked for clarification in the light that the country wanted to use more nuclear energy in the future.
Dr Graham responded that in partnership with Eskom, for the past 12 years, CGS has been doing research on the identification of old mine shafts for dumping high level waste.
Prof Mohammed felt that the mine owners should pay for the closure of mines and not the government.
Mr Ramontja replied that some of the mines dated back a hundred years and the owners could not be located. Therefore the responsibility rested on the state.
On the issue of shortage of cement, Prof Mohammed wondered whether the country would have enough cement especially with 2010 approaching and the country importing cement.
Mr Ramontja assured Prof Mohamed that there would be enough cement to complete construction in time for the World Cup.
Prof Mohamed expressed his concern about the presence of lead in paint; he wondered whether the Council could implement some form of control over its amount.
Mr Ramontja replied that the matter would be taken into account
Prof Mohamed asked how they recruited tertiary students.
Mr Ramontja responded that they funded post-graduate students that had a minimum of an Honours Degree. They were encouraged to enrol for Masters’ Degrees. Students had to work one year for the Council for every year of study funded by it. However, many left on completion of their Masters’ Degrees as prospective employers bought them out of their contracts. There was a general shortage of geologists and they were in high demand. The Council could not always retain them due to financial constraints.
A Member of Parliament stated that CGS could not compete with private companies as they did not have the financial capacity to compete with them.
Mr Kekana wondered how CGS related to major mining companies such as De Beers, Anglo Gold etc in terms of information exchange.
Mr Ramontja replied that they were considering forming relationships with such companies where CGS could perform research using the company’s resources for the benefit of the country.
Mr Combrinck expressed his concern over the Council Chairperson not attending meetings. He stressed that board members should attend Committee meetings. He wondered how CGS evaluated their financial statements and how many evaluators they used.
Mr Ramontja replied that the evaluation of assets was part of the draft that was submitted to the DME.
In conclusion, Mr Combrinck reminded the Committee that they will have their next meeting on the 28th of November 2006.
The meeting was adjourned
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