2017 NEWS AND PRESS RELEASES
For all media enquiries please contact Nombulelo Shange by phone on +27 33 342 5662 or +27 64 900 9963, or WhatsApp (+27 64 900 9963), or click here to send an e-mail. Click here to access our News and Press Release ARCHIVES.
September Newsletter - Africans Resisting
12 October 2017 - The September 2017 edition of the groundWork newsletter is available from today.
groundWork Director, Bobby Peek, remarks in the introduction to the issue that "It was not difficult to get to the focus of "Africans Resisting", considering that this period covered the fifth anniversary of the Marikana massacre.
Nothing has changed for the people of the area or the workers. Poverty still prevails. And at one level the people of the area are taking on the struggle and the pain for all South Africans living in poverty. They have chosen not to accept government hand-outs in the form of housing. For the people of the area, poverty is not about housing, it is about changing the system, and piecemeal efforts are not going to be accepted. Changing the conditions for people on the ground means delivering on the political promises of 1994, delivering on the corporate promises that mining delivers for people and, above all else, it is about accountability for those who claim to be our leaders".
Operation Phakisa - a Disaster in the making
05 October 2017 - President Zuma today will no doubt sing the praises of government’s ‘Operation Phakisa’, an initiative designed to fast-track the extraction of oil and gas from our coastal waters. It is claimed that this is a unique initiative to address issues of poverty, unemployment and inequality as highlighted in the National Development Plan (NDP). This extraction has been labelled as ‘development’. It is further argued that Operation Phakisa is an innovative and pioneering approach to translate detailed plans into concrete results through dedicated delivery and collaboration. But at the outset it must be asked: delivery for whom and collaboration with whom?
Proposed coal plant developer withdraws opposition to legal challenge
04 October 2017 - Kuyasa Mining (Pty) Ltd and KiPower (Pty) Ltd have withdrawn their opposition to the court challenge launched by groundWork – with the assistance of the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) – of the proposed KiPower coal-fired power station, to be based near Delmas, Mpumalanga.
groundWork launched court proceedings in August 2017 against KiPower’s environmental authorisation and the Minister of Environmental Affairs’ decision to allow the power station to go ahead without a climate change impact assessment. The Minister could have averted the court proceedings if she had responded to letters from the CER sent before the litigation was launched.
KiPower and Kuyasa’s attorneys have now indicated that they plan to apply afresh for a new environmental authorisation for the power station, and that they will not be opposing the application to have KiPower’s existing environmental authorisation set aside.
It is not yet known whether the Department of Environmental Affairs and the Minister intend to oppose the litigation. KiPower’s existing environmental authorisation remains in place until set aside. It is also not clear whether KiPower’s new environmental impact assessment (EIA) application will include a climate change impact assessment and will address the numerous deficiencies and water pollution concerns that arose from the original EIA.
Broken Promises: The failure of South Africa's priority areas for air pollution - time for action
02 October 2017 - Today, we launched a new report entitled Broken Promises: the Failure of the Highveld Priority Area, exposing the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA)’s failing air pollution governance system – with a particular focus on the Mpumalanga Highveld. The report sets out urgent steps that should be taken by various authorities to improve the severe air pollution in several parts of South Africa, particularly in those parts which are supposed to be the priority areas aimed at reducing air pollution.
In November 2007, the Minister of Environmental Affairs declared 31,000 km2 of the heavily-polluted Mpumalanga Highveld, then home to about 3.6 million people, a "priority area" in terms of the Air Quality Act. The Highveld Priority Area (HPA) was declared because, as the DEA said at the time, "people living and working in these areas do not enjoy air quality that is not harmful to their health and well-being", as required by section 24 of the Constitution.
Our conclusions are that, a decade after the HPA's declaration, air quality in the HPA remains poor and out of compliance with health-based national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) (even though these are significantly weaker than the guidelines of the World Health Organisation).
Proposed new coal plants would make already dangerous levels of water pollution in Olifants River Catchment even more toxic
18 September 2017 - A 2014 epidemiological study conducted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research(CSIR) and other scientific institutions reveals that communities relying on the Lower Olifants River are being exposed to alarming and unacceptable levels of dangerous contamination in the Olifants River. Despite this, the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) continues to authorise developments that will have further devastating impacts on the water quality of the Olifants River and connected water resources, placing the health and wellbeing of communities and ecosystems relying on this river at enormous risk.
MPs to probe problems with air quality compliance, and impacts on health, tomorrow
12 September 2017 - On Wednesday, 13 September 2017, the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs is hosting a Colloquium on South Africa's poor air quality at Parliament. The Colloquium focuses in particular in the challenges of achieving compliance with South Africa's Air Quality Act.
Air pollution from coal power stations causes disease and kills thousands of South Africans every year, says UK expert
12 SEPTEMBER, 2017 - Air pollution from coal-fired power stations kills more than 2,200 South Africans every year, and causes thousands of cases of bronchitis and asthma in adults and children annually. This costs the country more than R30 billion annually, through hospital admissions and lost working days.
Another two proposed coal power plants taken to court for failing to consider climate impacts
11 September 2017 - Environmental justice organisation groundWork, represented by the Centre for Environmental Rights, has instituted two new court applications in the Pretoria High Court against the Minister of Environmental Affairs and others, challenging the decisions of the Minister and the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) to authorise proposed independent power producer (IPP) KiPower and Khanyisa coal-fired power stations, without a full assessment of the plants’ climate change impacts.
The True Effect of Mining
03 September 2017 - Mining is not part of a development plan. It is a process that extracts minerals from the earth and enriches a few and impoverishes the majority, so the claim that mining is necessary for social and economic development, is a political promise that will not be delivered.
Let’s take a closer look at what mining provides a society. The World Bank’s own research report, “Where is the Wealth of the Nations?” presents empirical evidence that mining reduces a country’s savings, i.e., it makes countries poorer rather than wealthier.
Courts ban prospecting inside Barberton Nature Reserve, but there are lessons for conservation agencies
30 August 2017 - Two weeks ago, the Constitutional Court refused to hear an appeal by Barberton Mines against a judgment of the Supreme Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) had previously overturned the High Court’s decision to grant an interdict to allow Barberton Mines access to the Barberton Nature Reserve in Mpumalanga to prospect. The Constitutional Court refused to hear the appeal because it was of the opinion that Barberton Mines’ appeal had no merit.
International Waste Pickers visiting South Africa
Pietermaritzburg, Monday, 22 August, 2017 - The South African Waste Pickers Association (SAWPA) and groundWork are hosting waste pickers from India and Brazil, from 21 – 31 August, to engage with local waste pickers, and share strategies to push back on waste privatisation, which destroys waste picker livelihoods globally and locally. Their visit will include visiting the Chemicals and Waste Phakisa meeting, visiting various landfill sites, SAWPA members and municipalities, as an important movement-building step for local waste pickers.
New Treaty’s Entry Into Force Set to Curtail Global Mercury Crisis, Say NGOs
16 August 2017- Today’s entry into force of the Minamata Convention establishes the first new multilateral environmental agreement in over a decade. The Zero Mercury Working Group has been calling for a legally binding treaty for over a decade and welcomes the new protocol.
Bertha Gxowa Hospital Takes on Waste Challenge
14th August 2017 – Bertha Gxowa Hospital is the latest health care facility to join the internationally recognised Global Green and Healthy Hospitals (GGHH) initiative, which serves to create a global network of hospitals and health systems seeking to improve environmental performance, while sharing best practices and finding solutions to the common challenges they share.
This Wednesday, 16 August, Bertha Gxowa Hospital will launch its recycling campaign that hopes to move to zero waste as a long-term goal. The launch will be held among staff, patients and visitors. The event will start at 9:30 am and the hospital is inviting media to join the celebration.
Appeal against provincial approval for mine in water hotspot heard in Nelspruit this week
15 August 2017 - This week, the coalition of eight civil society and community organisations challenging the proposed coal mine inside the Mabola Protected Environment outside Wakkerstroom, Mpumalanga, is presenting their appeal of the environmental authorisation issued by the Mpumalanga environment department (MDARDLEA) for the proposed mine to an expert panel appointed by the Mpumalanga MEC for Environment.
Thabametsi climate impact assessment reveals staggering greenhouse gas emissions
02 August 2017 - The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) could be giving the go-ahead for what will be one of the most greenhouse gas (GHG) emission intensive coal-fired power stations, not only in South Africa, but in the world. Its GHG emissions are likely to be 60% higher than Eskom’s new Medupi and Kusile coal plants.
This is apparent from the final climate change impact assessment for the proposed Thabametsi coal-fired power station, to be built near Lephalale, Limpopo.
Minemata Convention on mercury comes into force
28 July 2017 - groundWork has worked over the past fifteen years on various projects to eliminate the use of mercury in society. Mercury is essentially a harmful chemical that has known negative impacts on health and the environment. In South Africa, we have the sad legacy of imported toxic mercury waste leading to the death and injury of workers in the late 1980s and 90s.
The Minamata Convention text Article 8 deals specifically with emissions of mercury from coalfired power stations (one of five of the most significant source categories identified during the Convention negotiations).
Civil society and community coalition wins crucial concession in fight against coal mine in water hotspot
28 June 2017 - Yesterday, the interdict application launched by the coalition of eight organisations challenging the proposed coal mine by Atha-Africa Ventures Pty Ltd inside the Mabola Protected Environment and Ekangala-Drakensberg strategic water source area came before the Pretoria High Court.
This morning, the Court granted an order which had been agreed between the parties, recording that Atha-Africa has given the coalition a written undertaking that it will not commence any mining or mining-related activities before giving 3 weeks' prior written notice to the Coalition's attorneys. Atha-Africa also agreed to pay its own costs in opposing the Coalition's interdict.
New fact sheet: Proposed Mpumalanga coal mine - who benefits, and at what cost?
27 June 2017 - A new fact sheet – presenting the facts on the devastating implications of a proposed coal mine in the Mabola Protected Environment – was published by a coalition of eight NGOs and community organisations, earlier today.
The Mabola Protected Environment is situated outside Wakkerstroom in Mpumalanga and falls within what has been classified as one of 21 Strategic Water Source Areas by the South African National Biodiversity Institute, a government body, and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Strategic Water Source Areas are the 8% of our land that provides more than 50% of our freshwater.
Watership Down: The Reality of Mining Mabola
16 June 2017 - Mabola is a strategic water source that feeds four of South Africa's major rivers, but the government has approved a licence to mine coal there. Oxpeckers broke the story in 2015, and recently paid a site visit to the Mabola headwaters.
The Mabola river is a key component of the Mabola Protected Environment, a 8,772ha zone of protected wetlands, pans and endangered grassland ecosystem which together form the Enkangala strategic water source area.
Why are SA’s banks facilitating climate change?
12 June, 2017 - Four of South Africa’s biggest banks appear to have no problem with funding new projects that will fuel climate change. They also do not seem to be concerned about the fact that climate change will place these very projects at risk. These banks are also funding new coal despite the fact that they have all made public commitments on climate change.
In March, in the precedent-setting judgment in Earthlife Africa Johannesburg v Minister of Environmental Affairs & Others, the Pretoria High Court set aside the environmental approval for the proposed new Thabametsi coal-fired power station, because there was inadequate consideration of the project’s significant climate change impacts. The judgment highlights how new coal-fired power stations carry major risks not only for the climate and the communities in which they are situated, but also for the investors in such projects, and for the banks that finance them.
Nedbank, Standard Bank, ABSA and Rand Merchant Bank are listed as contributing to the financing of the Thabametsi project.
Petrochemical giant wants to postpone compliance with new standards of environmental health and safety
01 June 2017 - Oil and chemicals giant Sasol will start public consultations next year as part of a process of applying to postpone compliance with some of the new airquality standards applicable by 2020, Sasol's executive vicepresident of Southern African operations Bernard Klingenberg said on Wednesday.
Environmentalists and local communities in the Vaal Triangle and Highveld have complained for decades about air pollution by heavy industry, mainly Sasol, ArcelorMittal SA and Eskom.
All three entities operate old plants, built before current airquality standards were put in place, and have argued it will be expensive and not entirely effective to retrofit clean air technology.
Life After Coal/Impilo Ngaphandle Kwamalahle website launched
23 May 2017 - The Life After Coal/Impilo Ngaphandle Kwamalahle campaign has launched a new website to support its aims of discouraging new coal-fired power stations and mines; accelerating the retirement of SA’s coal infrastructure; and enabling a just transition to renewable energy systems for the people.
A collaboration by Earthlife Africa Johannesburg (ELA), groundWork (gW), and the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), the Life After Coal campaign counts the landmark court victory of SA’s first climate change case among its achievements. The website contains materials and updates on the ongoing work of the three organisations and their community partners in the fight against coal-fired power generation and coal mining; and to ensure that clean, cheap, reliable RE forms the mainstay of SA’s future energy mix.
Cost of health and water impacts of coal still missing from energy plans
16 May 2017 - The Life After Coal/Impilo Ngaphandle Kwamalahle campaign, together with Greenpeace Africa, welcome the rigorous research undertaken by the energy unit of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). This research has been described as a “comprehensive alternative” to the draft Integrated Resource Plan Base Case (IRP) published for comment by the Department of Energy (DoE) in November 2016.
Two scenarios are developed by the CSIR team for their alternative IRP, calculated on the basis of “least cost” and “decarbonised”. Both scenarios result in an energy plan that favours renewable energy, supplemented by storage and gas – with no new coal or nuclear plants.
These outcomes confirm the position of the Life After Coal campaign and Greenpeace Africa that there should be no new investment in coal-fired power plants, and that a just transition to renewable energy should be prioritised.
Joint Media Release: Molefe's return to Eskom is 10 steps back for transition to cleaner, greener energy
15 May 2017 - Read the media advisory in response to the announcement that Brian Molefe has been reinstated as the Chief Executive Officer of Eskom, from a civil society coalition consisting of 350Africa.org, African Climate Reality Project, Greenpeace Africa, the Life After Coal Campaign, Project 90 by 2030 and WWF South Africa.
groundWork releases its "Battle Map"
12 May 2017 - groundWork today released its new "Battle Map". This resource allows you to see the campaigns and issues in which we are involved, and where they are taking place.
CER to resist attempts by Australian mining company to intimidate attorneys and activists
05 May 2017 - A subsidiary of Australian mining company Mineral Commodities Limited (MRC), known for its controversial attempts to mine mineral sands at Xolobeni on the Wild Coast, has sued two Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) attorneys for defamation, claiming R500 000 in damages.
Strategic lawsuits against public participation, popularly known as “SLAPP” suits, are intended to censor, intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defence until they abandon their criticism or opposition. They are also aimed at sending a message to all activists that resisting that company, and others like it, poses personal risk. SLAPP suits have been made illegal in many jurisdictions around the world on the grounds that they impede freedom of speech.
Power to the wastepickers
26 April 2017 - Pickers gather recyclable materials from rubbish discarded by others. It is a difficult and risky job but an important one. Yet they also suffer discrimination, writes Kamcilla Pillay.
The Department of Environmental Affairs recently handed over 15 trolleys to several waste pickers of Bruntville, in Mooi River. These people, the department said, had in the past converted retail store trolleys into convenient modes of transport to move the collected waste material to a buyback centre with ease.
According to the last study conducted on waste generation in South Africa in 2011, South Africans generated about 108 million tons of waste. This, said the department, was roughly equivalent to the combined weight of 10 million doubledecker buses. "More worrying is the fact that 98 million tons of waste was disposed of at landfill sites. This means that only 10% of all waste generated in South Africa in 2011 was recycled".
The asbestos industry is deliberately misleading the public - Petition to the South African government to support the proposal by 12 African countries to amend the Rotterdam Convention at COP8
Pietermaritzburg, 24 April 2017 - The Rotterdam Convention was specifically created to address the double standard whereby hazardous chemicals and pesticides that are banned or severely restricted in industrialized countries are increasingly being shipped to developing countries and countries with economies in transition, thus populations in the global South are immorally and unjustly exposed to harmful chemicals and pesticides. The Rotterdam Convention seeks to stop this double standard by empowering countries with the right to Prior Informed Consent.
The asbestos industry is deliberately misleading the public. Because the parties of the Rotterdam Convention have not succeeded in listing chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance, industry representatives are publicly misrepresenting the facts by stating that chrysotile is not dangerous for human health.
Durban air quality shock
18 April 2017 - Ethekwini residents are in danger of breathing toxic fumes, contracting deadly illnesses and being unable to sue because air quality in the city is allegedly not being monitored, environmentalists have warned.
Bobby Peek of groundWork said many of the city's 14 sophisticated air quality monitoring stations were lying idle.
An undated letter from the Department of Environmental Affairs to the city said Wentworth, Southern Works, New Germany, Ganges, Alverstone, City Hall, Grosvenor, Warwick and Edgewood stations were not working.
Statement by groundWork on the political crisis and the environment
11 April 2017 - We, at groundWork, support the growing call for President Jacob Zuma to stand down but recognise that he will not do so unless forced.
Zuma’s sacking of finance ministers Pravin Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas leaves the national Treasury open for looting. His proclamation of ‘radical socio-economic transformation’ is akin to an old conjuror attempting to revive a failed illusion.
We also recognise and applaud the bravery with which Gordhan and Jonas resisted the demands to open up the state coffers to Zuma’s cronies. In particular, they resisted demands for a Treasury blank cheque on the nuclear procurement deal.
A Malodorous Mess
10 April 2017 - Environmentalists are worried the toxic stench emitting from a controversial landfill will simply be transplanted to another community, just moving the problems elsewhere.
On Tuesday, the KwaZuluNatal department of environmental affairs said it was suspending the operating licence for the EnviroServ dumpsite in Shongweni because of the "significant sources of odour" the company has failed to deal with.
Communities surrounding the landfill have blamed the emissions for poor health, including burning eyes and throats, and respiratory problems.
High cost of polluting foul air from Eskom's coal-fired power stations
8 April 2017 - A total of R33 billion a year. That's the staggering monetised cost of death and disease each year from air pollution emitted by Eskom's fleet of 14 coalfired power stations.
This is according to a first estimate of the health impacts and related social costs of emissions from existing coalfired power stations by Dr Mike Holland, a UK researcher. His assessment, commissioned by groundWork, an environmental lobby group, for its submissions on the Integrated Resource Plan Base Case and the draft Integrated Energy Plan by the Department of Energy, finds that Eskom's coal fleet results in 2 239 attributable deaths a year.
Mines left to pollute the soil
07 April 2017 - Both the industry and officials are responsible for continuing damage to the environment and for huge, unnecessary carbon dioxide emissions.
For more than six years, no large coal mine has been granted closure, meaning the mines cannot be rehabilitated and lie abandoned, leaving a legacy of pollution, according to 19 month data investigation of mine closures.
The country's operating and abandoned coal mines.combined release up to 4.3million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, the mining consulting firm Latona Consulting estimates. That is roughly equal to the consumption of 10million barrels of oil.
More than 2300 people die each year because of our addiction to coal energy.
31 March 2017 - Burning coal in Eskom's power stations cost South Africa, R30 Billion a year. This is from key research in response to the South African IEP which is the overall energy plan for liquid fuels (petrol, diesel, paraffin), gas and electricity. The IRP is the more detailed plan for electricity.
Both plans make projections of energy / electricity demand through to 2050 and consider how to supply that demand. The IEP contains four different scenarios which result in different levels of demand. The IRP does not refer to these scenarios but uses electricity demand projections developed by the CSIR.
groundWork sought assistance from a health economist to understand the impact of Eksom's Coal fired power stations on ones health and the economy. This was part of our submission to the Department of Energy.
You can download the document Health Impacts of Coal fired Power Plants in South Africa here and Integrated Energy Plan (IEP) and Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2016. (Comments by groundWork, Friends of the Earth, South Africa) here.
Winning SA’s first climate change court case: What it means for affected communities, industry, government and the people of South Africa
On 8 March 2017, the North Gauteng High Court handed down a landmark ruling in Earthlife Africa Johannesburg’s (ELA) case against the Minister of Environmental Affairs, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), and Thabametsi Power Company (Pty) Limited. Referred to as South Africa’s first climate change litigation, it was the first time that South Africa’s courts were asked to decide such a case. More significant was the court’s key finding: that ELA was correct in claiming that the Minister should have considered the power station’s climate change impacts before deciding whether to authorise it.
Global Green and Healthy Hospitals (GGHH) Webinar Series - Sustainable Solutions to Health Care Waste Management, an African Perspective
GGHH members in South Africa will be hosting a series of webinars to showcase their work. Join the first of these webinars on 16 March 2017, to learn how members are implementing environmentally sound waste management practices.
Victory in SA’s first climate change court case!
8 March, 2017 - Today the North Gauteng High Court ruled in favour of environmental justice organisation Earthlife Africa Johannesburg (ELA), and referred the appeal against the environmental authorisation for a new coal-fired power station back to the Minister of Environmental Affairs on the basis that its climate change impacts had not properly been considered.
Eskom flouts air pollution laws and World Bank loan conditions
21 February 2017 - The Life After Coal/Impilo Ngaphandle Kwamalahle Campaign (made up of the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), Earthlife Africa Johannesburg (ELA) and groundWork (gW)) is dismayed to learn that Eskom is once again applying to postpone compliance with pollution standards. This time, it is re-applying for postponements of standards that it was legally required to meet almost two years ago, for its two coal-fired power stations in Limpopo – Medupi, which is under construction, and Matimba.
SA's first climate change lawsuit coming soon
20 February 2017 - SA’s first climate change litigation starts in the Pretoria High Court on Thursday, 2 March 2017 when Earthlife Africa Johannesburg (ELA), represented by the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), will challenge the decision of the Minister of Environmental Affairs to uphold the environmental authorisation for the proposed Thabametsi coal-fired power plant.
Africa massively looted over the centuries and continues to suffer the severe impacts of resource exploitation and related conflicts
08 February 2017 - Pietermaritzburg Environmental Justice and Human Rights activists representatives from communities affected by coal mining in Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana and Sweden met in Tete, Mozambique, on the 3rd and 4th of November 2016, to discuss the impacts of coal mining in Southern Africa and to ponder on the responses needed to address these impacts.
At the end of the deliberations, it was agreed that Africa and its resources are being plundered, its peoples are being oppressed and their dignity as humans is being put in question. The meeting also noted that the environment in the areas of mining activity has also been affected and destroyed drastically, contributing to environmental and climatic injustice.
groundWork, Director Bobby Peek, shares his message in solidarity with Friends of the Earth, U.S.
Pietermaritzburg, 26 January 2017 - groundWork, Director Bobby Peek recently shared his message in solidarity with Friends of the Earth, U.S. who have rejected the nomination of the Trump Administration of Rex Tillerson for the post of Secretary of State. groundWork and many other Friends of the Earth environmental justice organisations, have shared their concerns and appealed to all senators including Senator Chris Coons to say NO to the appointment of Mr Tillerson. The pressure and unity has worked, as Senator Coons has announced that he intends to vote against the appointment of Mr Tillerson - see Sen. Coon's statement here.