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South African Business 2022

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INTERVIEW a particular

INTERVIEW a particular position that takes into account South Africa’s specific societal circumstances. What are your goals with regard to staff? Our biggest competitive advantage is our human capital. We have around 500 people in total and two thirds of them are geoscientists. We intend to create at least 10 A-rated geoscientists on the global scale in the next five to 10 years because once you have created a capable institution then all these other things become very easy. Anything and everything is possible when you have competent, agile, committed world-class rated scientists. Currently, 37% of our scientific staff have Master’s degrees and doctorates. We have a very ambitious target of 60%. A geo-environmental baseline study for gas in the Karoo has recently been completed and the report is being compiled. Sasol plant. If we get that right we can have our contribution to carbon pollution reduced by between 60% and 80%. What role is the CGS playing in the debate over the just transition? We will not be driving the whole debate but the carbon capture utilisation and storage is a scientific intervention that asks the fundamental question – does transition necessarily mean transition from coal or does the transition mean we are making a commitment to transition from high carbon to low carbon? Over many years we have developed the capacity to generate our base load from coal, we still have vast of resources of coal in South Africa and we have installed generation infrastructure. On the other hand, we have correctly made commitments to be part of climate change protocols. There is no debate on the contribution of carbon in accelerating the climate change, there’s absolutely no debate there. As the Council for Geoscience, our contribution in the main is limited to the science. The Council for Geoscience must also play a prominent and critical role as a leader in mobilising society around What is CGS doing in terms of regulating the sector? We have realised that since the current legislation that governs us was enacted we have not developed the regulations to provide the framework for how to handle that data. Regulations clarify the provisions of the legislation. Historically, we have a disconnect where mining companies were collecting geological information and very few of them were making it available to the state. Now some of them have closed shop and left South Africa and that information is nowhere to be found. We are trying to correct that. Draft regulations were published in April 2021 and we requested comments. An absolute priority is to have the regulations finalised in the current financial year. Where information is commercially sensitive for active projects, we will give reassurance that the information is treated as such. We are not nationalising geoscience. It is global best practice that a condition of your right is that you must provide the geological information you have collected. You bank the information with the “library” and the library promises not to sell it to someone else until such time as your project is finished. Are your teams finding new areas of potential? Unless we study the geology, we will not be able to know what we have. Our scientists have now confirmed rare earth element (REE)- SOUTH AFRICAN BUSINESS 2022 36

The Council for Geoscience has launched its own research vessel, RV Nkosi, named for a renowned mineralseparation technician who passed away in 2019. Mapping the oceans is being done in support of the national Blue Economy programme. bearing rocks in the Northern Cape. Rare earth elements are vital in new industries such as renewable energy. We are looking at Northern Cape base metals like nickel, copper and chrome by adopting a mineralising system approach. We are investigating findings suggesting that the Wits Basin extends further into Mpumalanga and possibly the Free State area. The geo-environmental baseline study for gas in Beaufort West in the Karoo is complete and is being written. An environmental baseline study does not cover economic modelling but if the amounts of shale gas that we believe we have are indeed present, this may have a huge impact on our national fiscus. Are discussions taking place about a new Cadastre for SA mining? The Cadastre is the responsibility of the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) but we are having conversations as to where is the best place for it. Now a Cadastre without geological information is not complete. People want to be able to go onto that system and click there within your right and say well let’s see what geology is there. That currently doesn’t exist. We are not legislators, we are a science council. But we have geological information which is a critical component. Bridging that gap is what we have to resolve but we are having a conversation around that. The goal would be to have a geologically informative Cadastre. ■ 37 SOUTH AFRICAN BUSINESS 2022

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