Johannesburg, 08 April 2014 – Earthlife Africa Johannesburg applauds the Department of Environmental Affairs for living up to its mandate. The Department has put its foot down at the further senseless carving up of the Waterberg by the unholy alliance of Anglo American and Vedanta Zinc. In late March, interested and affected parties received the news that the Final Scoping Report for the proposed 600 MW coal-fired power plant to be developed in the Waterberg region has been rejected for amendments. In doing so, the Department of Environmental Affairs ensures the basic right – as is enshrined in the South African Constitution – for people to an environment that is not harmful to human well-being.
Earthlife Africa Johannesburg has been actively contesting the Anglo American and Vedanta plans for yet another coal-fired power station in the Lephalale region and an adjacent coal mine for some time. In 2013, Earthlife Africa and their civil society partners staged several protests outside the Anglo American headquarters in Johannesburg opposing the proposed development. But, the cries from communities have so far failed to attract a response from the mining giant. In addition, the submission date for comments on the amended scoping report is the 2nd of May 2014 leaving communities and other parties little time to prepare meaningful contributions.
The reasons behind Earthlife Africa’s objections to the Anglo American and Vedanta coal complex are numerous. Already the plans are being developed without a transparent strategy for exactly where the generated electricity is going to be used. The plans indicate that the electricity is potentially for sale to the South African national grid. But that it could also be intended for Vedanta mining operations at the Scorpion/Skorpian Zinc mine in Namibia and the Konkola Copper Mine in Zambia.
“The massive social and environmental costs of coal that are not worth what the local communities are suffering in return,” states Makoma Lekalakala, Earthlife Africa’s Senior Programme Officer. “Our fellow South Africans in the Waterberg area are paying with their health and their livelihoods in order to support the mining efforts of transnational co-operations elsewhere on the continent.”
Communities continue to demand answers as to why Anglo America Thermal Coal is pushing ahead with the proposed complex when all evidence shows that there simply is not enough water and clean air in the Waterberg region to allow for more wide-scale pollution.
The town of Lephalale – which is situated the heart of the planned coal complex – was recently struck by devastating floods. Severe weather conditions like these are rare but have increased in the past years. They are likely to further increase in the future given the mass increase in local greenhouse gas emissions from the soon to be online Medupi power station. Additionally, communities in the area are experiencing increases in childhood respiratory disease for which there is little care available. The Anglo American and Vedanta coal complex plans to mine and burn such low quality coal that the challenges of local communities will be far worse in the future. Once the cheap coal has been exploited, the South African public will be left to foot the bill of the people’s poor health and a devastated environment.
Earthlife Africa Johannesburg will also be commenting on the amended Final Scoping Report for the proposed Anglo American and Vedanta coal mine. Albeit Earthlife Africa has written to the consultants, Digby Wells, to ask for more time so that the concerns of communities can be adequately incorporated, but the organisation has so far received no response.
Sustainable Energy and Climate Change Programme Officer
Tel (w): +27 (0) 11 339 3662
Mobile: +27 (0) 82 682 9177
Email: makoma [at] earthlife.org.za
Energy Policy Officer
Tel (w): +27 (0) 11 339 3662
Mobile: +27 (0) 79 331 2028
Email: dominique [at] earthlife.org.za