Mineral and Energy Affairs Legislative Programme; Committee Programme; Election of Chairperson

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Mineral Resources and Energy

13 February 2008
Chairperson: Mr N Ngcobo (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee elected a new Chairperson and also adopted the Committee Programme. The Department tabled the list of Bills which are set to appear before Parliament in 2008, which included the: Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill,  the Mine Health and Safety Amendment Bill,  Electricity Distribution Industry Restructuring Bill, the Radioactive Waste Management Agency Bill, and the National Energy Regular Amendment Bill.


Members asked the Department to comment on the progress regarding the Diamond and Minerals Bills and whether they had adequate planning for the implementation phase of the Electricity Distribution Industry Restructuring Bill. The Department noted that they planned on establishing a new agency that would deal with nuclear waste management. Members asked the Department to comment on the competency of the new agency, and whether they had looked into other solutions of disposing nuclear waste. Members also sought clarity on whether the Department had accomplished what they set out to do in last year’s programme.




Meeting report

Adoption of Committee Draft Programme and Appointment of Chairperson
The Committee elected Mr N Ngcobo (ANC) as the new Chairperson of the Committee and adopted the Committee Programme.
Department’s Briefing on the legislative programme
Mr Thabo Gazi, Chief Inspector of Mines, DME, outlined the legislative programme for the year.
He tabled the list of Bills set to appear before Parliament in 2008: Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill, the Geosciences Amendment Bill, the Mine Health and Safety Amendment Bill, Energy Security Bill, Electricity Distribution Industry Restructuring Bill, Radioactive Waste Management Agency Bill, and the National Energy Regular Amendment Bill. The aim of the
Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill (MPRDA) was to stimulate skills creation, and development through beneficiation programmes. The Electricity Distribution Industry (EDI) Restructuring Bill was to focus on the establishment, Ownership and Governance of the Regional Electricity Distributors (REDs) and the participation of municipal electricity distribution businesses in the REDs.  The Radioactive Management Agency Bill was set to create a framework for the establishment of an agency which will be responsible for the disposal of the radioactive waste in the country. The Agency would also be responsible for all research and development work on radioactive waste management.

Adv H Schmidt (DA) asked whether the Committee could expect a briefing on the electricity blackout issue soon. Comment should be provided on whether the National Environmental Management Bill (NEMA) would have an impact on the Committee’s programme. What was the Department’s progress on the legislation dealing with diamond beneficiation? Did the Department have adequate planning for the implementation phase of the EDI Restructuring Bill?

Mr E Lucas (IFP) said that more emphasis needed to be placed on skills, and he was not satisfied with the Department’s explanation on the Koeberg problem. The Committee would also like to get to the bottom of what was causing the power outages and diagnose what the problem was. Eskom should be commended for doing a lot of good work and there needed to be a greater emphasis on how the problem could be fixed. On the EDI restructuring, clarity should be provided on whether it was it appropriate to carry on with the Bill at this stage. When it came to disposable radioactive waste, there needed to be some sort of educational programme that would inform people that radioactive waste was acceptable.

Mr H Matlala (ANC) asked the Department to comment on the EDIs, and whether the project had been completed.

Ms B Ngcobo (ANC) asked the Department to state whether Koeberg had the capacity to manage nuclear waste and whether it was possible to export nuclear waste.

Ms N Mathibela (ANC) noted that a Mine Health and Safety Amendment Bill would be introduced this year and asked why there seemed to be a problem with prosecuting people when it came to the Mine Health and Safety Act. The Department should comment on why it was a problem.

The Chairperson asked the Department to elaborate on diversifying sources, and whether they had thought that it was time for the White Paper to be revised. On the issue of the South African National Energy Research Institute (SANERI), the Department had elaborated on the matter. When it came to nuclear waste, the Department needed to look at other countries so they could learn how they could properly manage nuclear waste. It was noted that a new agency would be established to deal with the nuclear waste, the Department should therefore comment on the competency of the new agency. On the EDIs, was the process still working or was it time to look into a new initiative?

Mr Gazi replied that it was clear from their comments that there was a need for a briefing on the current electricity crisis.  That briefing could be arranged by the Department. What was not captured in the slides was the work that was being done by the various agencies. There was a need to establish agencies that would deal with issues such as waste management. On the prosecutions, follow-up meetings had taken place with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and South African Police Services (SAPS).  There needed to be tougher enforcement on mining operations, as the Mine Health and Safety Act did not address issues pertaining to corporate responsibility.

Ms Lindiwe Mekwe, Policy Director, DME, added that the NEMA Bill would import everything pertaining to environmental requirements in the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA). The Diamonds Export Levy Bill had been proclaimed by the President since last year, and was fully operational.

Mr Gazi responded that the Department would need to get back to the Committee and prepare a presentation on last year performance.

Mr Tsediso Makubela, Chief Director: Nuclear Energy, replied that the electricity challenge that was faced was in the generation level. There needed to be a revolution as far as the EDI restructuring was concerned. The Department needed to get people involved in the REDS and lots of consultation was required. On the transfer of assets, a task team from various stakeholders was working on difficult issues such as the transfer of assets.  The discussions were fruitful and the Department was ready to present a Bill that everyone could work with.  On the energy crisis, there was a need to guard from overloading Eskom. It would assist if an electricity distribution framework was created, so that the load could be taken off Eskom. The country was also facing a skills challenge, and Eskom was not immune to this challenge.

On radioactive waste management, the National Association of Conservancies South Africa (NACSA) managed the disposal of waste of Koeberg. The generator could not manage their waste; therefore a draft Bill would be created to establish a waste management agency. With regard to the competency of the agency, the Department would need to address the skills shortage, and use the NACSA assets as the nucleus of creating the new waste management agency. On the ignorance of waste issues, there was a comprehensive communications plan that would cover the nuclear energy issues that would soon be unfolding. One could not export waste, and South Africa had to manage its own waste.
Ms Mekwe replied that the Department needed to look at a variety of diverse sources for other forms of energy. The White Paper had reached the 10 year review period, and matters pertaining to conservation and rationing would be looked into.

The Chairperson noted that SANERI was an organization that was meant to look into developing the renewable energy sector. There had been some thought about the establishment of a renewable energy council, the Department should comment on whether the council was a possible avenue. On the issue of skills, Eskom had been complaining about the skills shortage, yet they had cut down on the number of employees after restructuring.

Mr Lucas asked the Department to provide clarity on whether they had accomplished what they set out to do in last year’s programme.
Mr Gazi replied that the only piece of legislation that did not go through last year was the MPRDA. It was important to have all the amendments processed this year, as next year’s elections would be severely disruptive to the legislative programme.

Mr Makubela replied that the one piece of legislation that would make a big impact would be the one dealing with electricity regulation. The electricity sector was set to change once the legislation was in place. The Department would like SANERI to be a stand-alone agency, so it could focus on its mandate and not be bound by some of the policies within the Central Energy Fund (CEF). On the establishment of the renewable energy council, the department would look into what the council constituted. If the council was a global network, then it would be important for the department to be part of such a network. Eskom’s skills shortage was part of a global phenomenon, there needed to be  a mass skills revolution.

The Chairperson said that there needed to be a reorientation of graduates so that skills could be harnessed where available.

Meeting adjourned.


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