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NCOP Briefed on SKA Convention

November 22, 2019

Department of Science and Innovation

22 November 2019

The science and innovation department recently briefed the national council of provinces on the Convention Establishing the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Observatory.

The national assembly passed the SKA Convention last week.

In October 2019, the portfolio committee on higher education, science and technology approved the Convention.

In a statement issued at the time, the committee pointed out that the SKA will “act as a catalyst for science, technology and engineering business opportunities, jobs and innovation, with the potential to put Africa on the map as a world Big Data and analytics hub”.

The committee chairperson, Philly Mapulane, declared that the “adoption by the committee of this Convention Establishing Square Kilometre Array Observatory represents a significant development in the process of formal ratification by Parliament of this important international protocol that will facilitate the biggest scientific collaboration the world has ever seen, and will further help to attract foreign direct investment into our country.”

In the briefing, the department pointed out that the Convention will enter into force when a minimum of five countries have completed ratification including the three host countries of South Africa, Australia and the United Kingdom.

It is anticipated that the SKA Observatory will come into force by the middle of 2020 with the Council likely to be convened for the first time in the second half of 2020.

The department emphasised that Council needs to meet in order for formal approval for the construction of the first phase of the SKA including funding schedules to be given.

Therefore, it is in South Africa’s interest for early ratification of the Convention to be obtained.

Meanwhile, the department, in a statement, announced that the Mandela Mining Precinct recently unveiled two new rock drill prototypes developed by local innovators to enhance drilling operations and advance the local mining sector.

The Mandela Mining Precinct, hosted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, is focused on the revitalisation of mining research, development and innovation in South Africa to ensure the sustainability of the mining industry.

In order to advance mine safety, the two new rock drill prototypes are designed to reduce exposure to danger for operators.

According to the department, South Africa’s mining research, development and innovation is gaining momentum after a slow down following the closure of the Chamber of Mines Research Organisation in 1990.