Tag Archive | minister Susan Shabangu

Gender Equality Bill goes out of the door

Minister cans idea of gender equality bill…..

susan shabanguMinister Susan Shabangu, minister in the Presidency Responsible for Women’s Affairs, says she will not be re-introducing to Parliament the Gender Equality Bill which lapsed at the end of the last term of Parliament and has remained unsigned by President Zuma since.

The controversial and totally impractical Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill, to give it it’s full name, has now been totally scrapped by Minister Shabangu and at recent parliamentary media briefing she announced that it will not be resuscitated in any form in the future.  

The legislation would have obliged companies to progressively achieve 50% representation for women in top levels of management, business and industry representatives quickly pointing out that this was both impractical and unenforceable.

President Zuma not signing

Originally tabled by former Minister of the old department of women, children and people with disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, the Bill was surprisingly hammered through Parliament with a hefty ANC majority in the last government despite being rejected by all social partners in Nedlac due to its “vagueness and ambiguity.   

In the meanwhile it has sat unsigned by President Zuma, new Minister Shabangu admitting to Parliament that it was tabled without sufficient consultation and would be re-introduced when more consultation had taken place.

The Bill stipulated that all public and also “designated bodies” nominated by the Minister at the time would have to submit plans for progressively achieving 50% representation for women in their decision-making structures.

Criminalising non-achievers

The proposed fines were stated as a maximum of 10% of annual turnover for continuous offenders, whilst the directors or CEOs of designated bodies could be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years.   The Bill, as it was worded, overrode other laws dealing with empowerment.

Now sense has prevailed.  In her parliamentary briefing, Minister Shabangu confirmed that the current Equality Act covered the same territory and her department was now going to establish whether this Act was “delivering on its promises” as far as women’s empowerment was concerned.

Other articles in this category or as background

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MPRD Amendment Bill to be tabled early 2013

MPRD Amendments will cause heat in oil industry…..

susan shabanguNot yet scheduled for meetings by committees or hearings dates in Parliament, is the draft Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill for which mineral resources minister, Susan Shabangu, obtained cabinet approval for in early December last year and who  called for public comment on the draft by the end of January 2013.        With a problematic preamble which states that the draft Bill is to promote the concept that “that the nation’s minerals are developed in an orderly manner while promoting justifiable social and economic development”, certain sectors have already provoked considerable industry comment which were presumably have been conveyed in comments to the minister and her department as called for when gazetted.

Amongst the many “refined existing definitions”, the draft Bill as it stands at present and possibly to be tabled seeks to allow the state to acquire by right of ownership any mineral resource to a “free carried interest” in any exploration matter and a right to acquire “a further interest” in that exploration with also production rights “through an organ of state or state owned company”.

Changes are also proposed on the issue of ministerial limitations on the ability of mining companies to trade JSE shares on the open market.

PASA to go

The disbanding of the Petroleum Agency of South Africa appears to be on the cards as well, since the draft Bill clearly relegates all functions of this agency to the department of mineral resources (DMR) and much of the work undertaken with and by DMR will now be allocated under the Geosciences Act, other work passing from DMR to fall under the National Environmental Management Act and therefore bringing in a further department.

“Technically, therefore, government departments would become a petroleum regulator”, was the comment by the Offshore Petroleum Association of SA in the Johannesburg press. However, clarification of this and the situation with regard to PetroSA and the acquisition of exploration rights will presumably emerge during parliamentary hearings since submissions so far in terms of the gazetted document are naturally private.

The draft Bill also contains a great number of changes and redefinitions in the area of associate minerals affecting a broad spectrum of the mining industry. However, in particular the draft states that it proposes to “make provision for the implementation of the approved beneficiation strategy through which strategic minerals can be processed locally for a higher value”. The ability of the minister to set those beneficiation levels and any prices seems to be incorporated.

This specifically will bring focus upon the benefits from tailings in mine dumps, meaning that not necessarily the owners that created them originally will be the sole beneficiaries of subsequent workings. On this subject, the Bill also calls for a new description or interpretation of the word “beneficiation”, this to be inserted into the anchor legislation, the MPRDA itself, by amendment.

Regional mining developmental bodies and environmental committees regarding MPRDA matters are to be set up under the jurisdiction of DMR, such bodies having regional managers with powers.

What effect any submissions have will been seen from the document that is eventually tabled.

Posted in Energy, Fuel,oil,renewables, Justice, constitutional, Mining, beneficiation, Public utilities, Trade & Industry0 Comments

Move by minister to qualify shale gas exploration

Drilling OK but no “fracking”

Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu has said her ministry is to consider Karoo shale-gas exploration licence applications but such would be on the basis of excluding  fracking until the country’s mining regulations had been “augmented” to allow for what hydraulic fracturing involved.

She said that normal drilling could take place as well as geophysical and geochemical mapping but the fracking process itself could not take place during the time it would take draft “appropriate regulations, controls and coordination systems”.    The waiting period to allow for this would be about six months to a year, she said.

The minister did not state when the issuance of licences would commence as a result of the cabinet’s “conditional” approval of fracking exploration at the beginning of September but said that a monitoring committee would be established to oversee the augmentation of the mining regulations, as well as to supervise possible fracking operations.

Posted in Energy, Fuel,oil,renewables, Labour, Mining, beneficiation, Public utilities, Trade & Industry0 Comments

To ignore fracking is “an opportunity lost”

Paraphrasing the Working Group task team’s Fracking Report

Because of the uncertainty regarding the extent, or even existence, of economically producible reserves, any assessment of the potential economic impact of fracking is subject to enormous uncertainty”, says the government’s Working Group tasked to report  back on the possibility of shale gas extraction in the Karoo.  The report goes on to add that the economics of “opportunities lost” are so great that it would unwise to halt exploration and research at this stage.

The task team was set up by the minister, Susan Shabangu, last year to investigate the hydraulic fracturing or fracking of shale gas in the Karoo and at the same time, the minister imposed a moratorium on the exploration.

The task team’s report has now been approved by cabinet and the moratorium on exploration lifted but the minister has also said that exploratory fracking would not be allowed during the 6 to 12 months it would take to formulate “appropriate regulations, controls and coordination systems”. (Refer separate report)

While the existence of a significant gas resource in the Karoo would have implications for South Africa’s energy security by reducing national dependence on other fossil fuels, the magnitude of this potential is subject to considerable uncertainty owing to the difficulties in quantifying the resource, the report argues.

Consequently, says the report, “Extensive hydrological and geohydrological studies before exploration and production drilling will be required in order to minimise or eliminate potential impacts.”

The report is also quite clear that the impact on the national economy would be great and the report draws some parallels.

“If 1 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) was sufficient to launch PetroSA’s gas-to-liquids project in Mossel Bay, which provides approximately 5% of the national demand for liquid fuels and now entails 1500-1600 jobs, by making a moderately optimistic assumption that ultimately 30 Tcf will be produced (in the Karoo project) and using an indicative pricing of US$ 4 per thousand cubic feet of gas and an exchange rate of R8 per US dollar, the gross sales value would be almost R1 trillion”.

Aside from the ability to cut South Africa’s reliance on oil imports, the production of shale gas must have, the report assumes, an effect as an economic contributor, to South Africa’s growth “and its GDP would be enhanced by the necessary creation of service industries with all the attendant implications for sales of goods and services.”

Even though this process would be spread over a period of 20–30 years, the report notes that “the production of shale gas would thus clearly have the potential to make a major impact on the national economy.”

On this subject, the report notes that, “Although income tax and royalties accruing to the fiscus depend on profitability, it is expected that such amounts will run into tens or hundreds of millions of rand, augmented by VAT. The potential long-term direct employment opportunities are likely to number in the tens of thousands, with similar numbers in the industries consuming the gas extracted”.

Already, world production of shale gas has sent coal process plummeting down, even to a small degree affecting South Africans exports, although these are much protected from lower prices by the devaluation of the rand. However, the Working Group’s fracking report does not report on the effects on the coal industry or the coal fired energy market but confines itself to the viability and advisability of gas fracking alone.

Nevertheless, commentators note that the USA has cut its oil imports by 20% as a result of fracking.

The report, now released in full after the lifting of the moratorium on fracking but with a limitation on the start date of the hydraulic fracking process itself, is really all about a recommendation to proceed on exploration therefore and undertaking a lot more research particularly on water resources and the hydrological effects of fracking.

This raises the question of how limited the exploration will be from a hydrological viewpoint unless  some sort of limited fracking is done as testing. The second question on the need to draw lines of engagement on environmental issues during the exploration period.

The report notes that initially the projects involved deal with some thirty drilling points using two hectares of land per drill site and this over three years. Most job opportunities will be specialised skills from overseas. The location of the boreholes is yet to be decided.

On the subject of water use, the report says, “Hydraulic fracturing has been used in the oil and gas industry for more than 50 years and, in the last 20 years, together with the practice of horizontal drilling, has been instrumental in making the exploitation of unconventional resources technically and economically feasible.”

It goes on, “The initial stages of exploration can be conducted without the use of (water) reservoir stimulation. However, in order to assess the ‘producibility’ of a resource during the later stages of exploration and, finally, in order to produce the gas, hydraulic fracturing is essential in the exploration process.”

“The process requires the use of significantly large quantities of a base fluid, usually water, together with a small fraction of sand and chemicals pumped into the reservoir with sufficient pressure to create artificial fractures, thereby improving the permeability of the rock and allowing the gas to be produced.”

The report acknowledges that should the exploration period eventually result in large scale production, it is essential that during the earlier exploration period the possible later use of large volumes of water and chemical additives make it essential that the environmental and social implications of this process should be worked out and considered.

Presumably with the acid mine experience from mining operations in Gauteng over the years and with new legislation coming into place to bolt this down, the report remarks “Whereas existing environmental regulations adequately cover most of these factors, an immediate and important concern requiring additional attention is water usage and disposal: in particular, the volume and transportation of the water, the potential contamination of water resources and the disposal of ‘used’ fracturing fluid.

“There has to be further research in this area to investigate all potential sources of input water, as well as means of water disposal before any large scale operation gets off the ground and its seems that the exploration period is part of this. The use and disposal of water in such large amounts is expected to require a water use licence under the National Water Act.”

On dust and air pollution the report seems quite dismissive, saying that, “Noise, dust, emissions and naturally occurring radioactive mineral (NORM) contamination levels will differ at different stages and locations and can be controlled under existing legislation.” There will be no piles of rock and sand, the report says, “as seen in the mining industry”.

“South Africa’s regulatory framework must be robust enough to ensure that, if hydraulic fracturing associated with shale gas exploration and exploitation were approved, any resultant negative impacts would be mitigated”, the report warns.

The report goes into considerable detail regard astronomic effects on the Square Kilometre Array but says in conclusion that this can be controlled by the use of the Astronomy Geographic Advantage Act which clearly can and could control where fracking may and may not be undertaken.

“Astronomy research projects and shale gas in the Karoo may be mutually exclusive”, the report adds, “but the ‘footprint’ of the astronomy installations is only a fraction of the area presently considered to be prospective for shale gas.”

In its summing up, the report measures the “economic values of an “opportunity lost” against concern that the volumes of water required that may compromise other uses for this resource but says whilst the exact “hydrogeology of the Karoo at depth is unknown, potable aquifers are expected to be far removed from shale gas target formations and safe from contamination from injected fracking fluids”.

Presumably that is now is believed by the Working Group and what has to be proven.

Furthermore, the report says whilst the report is working on 30 Tcf, figures of up to 500Tcf have been expressed  and “further drilling, sampling and testing will be required to improve confidence in the existence and, subsequently, extent of the resource. A large resource would have the potential to reduce national dependence on other fossil fuels and may contribute to energy security and the reduction of our carbon footprint. These factors are a powerful justification for further investigation.”

In the event that a real resource is proven, the report adds, “It is possible that its size will be sufficient to justify proceeding to production which maybe coupled with, for example, the establishment of additional gas turbine electricity generation installations or gas-to-liquids (GTL) plants with associated employment opportunities in field operations and plant operation, potentially numbering in the thousands.”

“There would then also be significant implications for the GDP, with as much as R960bn added over 20–30 years. [Calculated at 30 Tcf @ US$ 4/Mcf and R8/US$].

Based on the conclusions set out above, the Working Group “considered a spectrum of options that might be recommended to the minister, ranging from (1) an outright ban; (2) unconditional approval of hydraulic fracturing under the existing regulatory framework.”

“Neither of these extremes was deemed suitable and, thus, an intermediate option (Option 3), specifically the ‘conditional approval of hydraulic fracturing”, was considered to be most appropriate” the report concludes.

Ongoing research is now to be conducted and facilitated by all relevant institutions and appropriate government departments

* the full report is available on http://www.dmr.gov.za

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