2016 NEWS AND PRESS RELEASES
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WHY ARE SA'S BIG FOUR BANKS FINANCING A NEW COAL POWER PLANT THAT RISKS BECOMING A STRANDED ASSET?
South African’s big four banks are financing a new coal-fired power station in the Waterberg. This is despite the fact that a 2016 report by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)has found that including any new coal in South Africa’s energy mix would be unnecessary, and more expensive. Moreover, building any new coal-fired power stations effectively means that South Africa would be unlikely to meet its climate change commitments under the Paris Agreement.
On 25 November 2016, Thabametsi Power Company (Pty) Ltd gave notice to interested and affected parties of its application to the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA), for a licence to operate 557.3MW of a 1200MW proposed coal-fired power plant near Lephalale, Limpopo, under the Coal Baseload Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme.
Earthlife Africa Johannesburg (ELA), represented by the Centre for Environmental Rights, has instituted review proceedings in the High Court in August 2016 to have the environmental authorisation for this power plant set aside. ELA contends that the environmental authorisation was granted without any serious consideration of the climate change implications of the new coal-fired power plant, and on the basis that the plant would use a significant amount of water in a drought-stricken part of the country.
NGOS AND COMMUNITY GROUPS CALL FOR MORE TIME FOR PUBLIC INPUT INTO ENERGY PLANS
30 November 2016 - Yesterday, the Life After Coal/Impilo Ngaphandle Kwamalahle Campaign (consisting of the Centre for Environmental Rights, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, and groundWork), together with the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance, the Highveld Environmental Justice Network, the South African Waste Pickers Association, Bopanang Bangalano, the Climate Action Group, Nthole Morwalo, and the Women Energy and Climate Change Forum called upon the Minister of Energy and the Department of Energy to provide a fair, reasonable, and procedurally fair opportunity for comment on the Integrated Energy Plan (IEP) and the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) update.
JOINT STATEMENT: CIVIL SOCIETY REJECTS IRP BASE CASE SCENARIO UNRESERVEDLY
25 November 2016 - Reacting to the draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) base case scenario introduced by the Department of Energy earlier this week, civil society groups and individuals have responded by rejecting the IRP ‘base case scenario’ as nothing more than renewed attempts by the Department of Energy and Eskom to promote vested interests in nuclear and coal.
Nuclear and coal power should not appear in the base case at all if it is modelled purely for cost optimisation, which is what the IRP base case model claims to be based on.
Following hot on the heels of the 22nd COP (Conference of the Parties) in Marrakesh focusing on the health of the planet, it is an absolute priority that, if we are to have any chance of keeping global average temperature increases below 1.5 degrees Celsius, we must put all our investments in renewables and cut out nuclear and coal.
DRAFT ENERGY PLANS INTRODUCED: FIRST COMMENTS FROM LIFE AFTER COAL CAMPAIGN
22 November 2016 - Earlier today, the Minister of Energy announced the publication of the long-awaited draft Integrated Energy Plan (IEP) and draft Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity (IRP) Assumptions and Base Case Reports – a move welcomed by the Life After Coal Campaign (made up of groundWork, the Centre for Environmental Rights and Earthlife Africa, Johannesburg). These are vital policy documents setting out government’s plans for South Africa’s future energy mix.
The presentations released today are not adequate for purposes of comprehensive comment on the IRP or IEP, as the presentations do not represent a full set of assumptions, contain gaps, and have not been fully explained.
SA PLANS ITS ZERO MERCURY STRATEGY
Zero Mercury is the goal, as the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) in collaboration with the Africa Institute plans its Global Environment Facility(GEF) funded Mercury Initial Assessment Project (MIA). This effort together with DEA’s Mercury inventory and cost benefit analysis project and the recent National Consultative Workshop on mercury added products (MAPS), are the first steps government, private sector and NGOs are taking towards the ratification and subsequent implementation of the Minamata Convention.
ENVIRONMENTAL ORGANISATIONS' MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS FOR SA'S IRP AND IEP, DUE FOR RELEASE TOMORROW
21 November 2016 - On Tuesday, 22 November 2016, the Department of Energy is briefing the media on the release the Draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) and Integrated Energy Plan (IEP) for public consultation. The IEP “aims to guide future energy infrastructure investments over the period up to 2050, and identify and recommend policy options to shape the future energy landscape of the country. The IRP serves to guide government’s plan for electricity provision within the energy mix.”
MOLEWA DECIDES IN FAVOUR OF MORE CARBON EMISSIONS
Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 15 November 2016 - South Africa made a great fanfare of ratifying the Paris climate agreement on 2nd November 2016 just before environment minister Edna Molewa headed up the South African delegation for the next round of negotiations in Marrakech, Morocco.
She celebrated her arrival in Marrakech by approving an extra 16 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year from two new coal fired power stations in South Africa.
NO ROOM FOR SECRECY - Environmental organisations publish minimum requirements for SA's overdue Integrated Resource Plan for electricity
Cape Town and Pietermaritzburg, 31 October - The Life After Coal Campaign (made up of groundWork, the Centre for Environmental Rights and Earthlife Africa, Johannesburg) together with Greenpeace Africa are deeply concerned about the current state of South Africa's energy policy. Vital procurement decisions are being made in a turbulent, chaotic environment, mired by controversy, secrecy and misrepresentation. At this critical juncture in our energy future, our choices have to be based on sound, accurate, current and accepted energy policy that will benefit all South Africans.
Central to proper decision-making is the long-overdue update to the Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity 2010-2030 (IRP). The Minister of Energy has expressed intentions to release the updated IRP before the end of this year, but there is some doubt as to whether this will be subject to a reasonable and fair opportunity for the public to make input. Since these energy decisions have significant impacts for all South Africans, and for constitutional environmental rights, there is no room for secrecy or box-ticking: there must be full and meaningful stakeholder engagement in all stages of the process towards finalising an updated IRP.
ESKOM' NUCLEAR DEAL COULD PUT US IN DEBT
29 October 2016 - Between Eskom' public anti-renewable energy campaign, claims of #StateCapture around the nuclear deal being at the heart of moves against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, energy investments going ahead based on a badly outdated plan, and the SA Wind Energy Association taking steps to hold Eskom accountable for its unwillingness to sign new power purchase agreements (without which, new renewable energy projects cannot connect to the grid), it' difficult to keep track of what is going on in South Africa' turbulent energy landscape.
HOSPITALS GO GREEN FOR THEIR PATIENTS
Global Green and Healthy Health Systems side event at World Health Congress
Durban, South Africa, 24 October 2016 – Health care institutions from around the globe will gather on Sunday at the Durban ICC for the start of the 40th World Health Congress, under the International Hospital Federation. The importance of environmentally healthy health care will intersect with this year’s congress theme “Addressing the Challenge of Patient-Centred Care and Safety” at a side event hosted by international health network Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) in partnership with its South African member groundWork.
On 31 October, the side event “Leadership for Sustainability” will bring together hospital leaders from Africa that have voluntarily joined the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Network (GGHH) – a project under HCWH – as well as other leading international health care experts to share approaches to low-carbon, sustainable health care ideas and systems.
RIGHTS FOR PEOPLE, RULES FOR BUSINESS
Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 20 October 2016 – From 24 to 28 October, UN negotiations that could provide a historic opportunity for justice and an end to corporate impunity will resume in Geneva.
The talks are taking place in a critical context of global climate, biodiversity, financial, food and humanitarian crises, for which transnational corporations are largely responsible, but which impact the vulnerable most, mainly people in the Global South. Companies’ operations systematically result in environmental crimes, and the intimidation of activists defending their rights and the environment. Just last week, a community leader of Honduras’ COPINH movement, which has been at the forefront of the grassroots opposition to the controversial Agua Zarca and other hydro projects for many years, suffered yet another assassination attempt.
“A legally binding instrument to control transnational corporations with respect to human rights and provide victims of corporate abuse with justice is long overdue. What is currently happening in Honduras is just one of the many examples of the systemic rights violations suffered by activists and communities on a daily basis around the world. Transnational companies and their international financiers are responsible for these violations. We call on governments to stand with social movements and affected people worldwide to demand a binding Treaty and engage constructively in this new round of negotiations”, said Lucia Ortiz, Friends of the Earth International.
MINING, COAL-BURNING AND HUMAN RIGHTS
Cape Town and Pietermaritzburg, 5 October 2016 - Poorly-regulated mining and coal-fired power generation in South Africa are responsible for air and water pollution, destruction of arable land, and biodiversity loss, violating the human rights of many communities, including their rights to life, health, water, food, culture and a healthy environment. Despite the human rights harms of mining and of coal-burning, the South African government is not enforcing the relevant environmental standards, and allows excessive pollution to continue. Government has also allowed the mining industry to be one of the least transparent industries in SA.
This dire situation has increased public opposition to mining projects. Tragically, the response has been a pattern of harassment and violence against opponents exercising their human rights to freedom of expression and assembly. In March 2016, a culture of intimidation and violence around a proposed mine in the Eastern Cape led to the assassination of Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe, a leader of the opposition to the proposed mineral-sands mine near his community. To date, no one has been brought to justice for this crime.
These concerns form the basis of a submission made by a group of civil society organisations to the United Nations’ (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC) on Wednesday 5 October 2016, in preparation for its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of SA, which is set to take place in Geneva, in March 2017.
STATEMENT OF THE PARTICIPANTS FROM A DIALOGUE ON FRACKING AND THE EXPANSION OF FOSSIL FUELS
The participants in a dialogue to build unity, solidarity and learning, concerning fracking and the expansion of fossil fuels, held in the Eastern Cape town of Matatiele on the 3rd and 4th of October 2016, have released a statement which you can read here.
FRACK-FREE-FESTIVAL BEGINS TODAY IN HOTSPOT OF RESISTANCE TO FRACKING
Matatiele, South Africa, 03 October 2016 – Communities who stand to be affected by unconventional gas exploration and extraction in South Africa – namely in the KwaZulu Natal, Eastern Cape and Free State Provinces – and those who are currently fighting existing or proposed mines across the country will be meeting from 3rd to 5th of October in Matatiele, Eastern Cape.
ENVIROSERVE RUNNING SCARED AND ETHEKWINI METRO IN SHAME-FACED RETREAT
Durban, South Africa, 23 September 2016 – The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) Oceans and Coasts section has stopped, with immediate effect, all toxic waste leachate waste from being tankered by EnviroServ from its Shongweni landfill site to the Southern Waste Water Plant destined for the ocean.
In the future, permits will have to be sought by Ethekwini from the DEA – Oceans and Coasts – who have instigated research and analysis to take informed decisions on the standards and guidelines for waste and toxic emissions into the sea.
The DEA also confirmed that investigations are currently underway into alleged criminal activities of EnviroServ for submission to the National Prosecuting Authority.
SA COAL COMMUNITIES MEET AT KZN COAL HOTSPOT
Mtubatuba & Kwambonambi, South Africa, Wednesday, 21 September 2016 – Communities from the different coal fields in South Africa will for the next three days meet at the heart of KwaZulu Natal’s coal struggle to exchange information and experiences and build solidarity.
Over a decade ago, the Somkhele community welcomed the Petmin coal mine in the hope of employment, which to this day remains a largely unfulfilled promise. Within the same area, the Fuleni community has for the last two years been resisting Ibutho Coal’s coal mine proposed for the border of the Hluhluwe/Mfolozi Game Reserve.
Communities from Johannesburg, the Highveld and the Waterberg will join their KwaZulu Natal compatriots from Newcastle and Xolobeni in visiting Somkhele and Fuleni. The Kwambonambi and Mtubatuba areas in northern KwaZulu Natal show the brutal evidence of how coal has created environmental injustices and increased poverty, and how the promise of development through mining has failed society.
BATTLE ESCALATES BETWEEN CIVIL SOCIETY AND ENVIROSERV AT SHONGWENI LANDFILL
Durban, South Africa, 15 September 2016 – In its latest communication with the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) regarding its problematic Shongweni landfill site – the source of 300 complaints in one week in August – EnviroServ has called statements by the environmental justice watchdog “sensational and factually incorrect”.
Residents of Hillcrest, Shongweni, Waterfall, KwaNdengezi and Dassenhoek have since December 2015 been complaining of malodour emanating from the Shongweni landfill site, allegedly causing “asthma, nausea, vomiting and bronchitis”. Together with the SDCEA and members of these communities, pressure has been placed both on the company and the Department of Environmental Affairs with little success – as the problem continues today.
Alarm was further sounded when it was announced that EnviroServ received authorisation from the department in an 11 point plan to dump approximately 27 million litres of toxic waste leachate into the ocean through the Southern Sewerage Works.
CALL ON MINISTERS TO ENSURE ESKOM'S COMPLIANCE WITH OBLIGATIONS TO PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC HEALTH
Cape Town, 6 September 2016 - 30 civil society organisations wrote an open letter to the Ministers of Public Enterprises, Energy, Environmental Affairs, and Health, expressing their alarm at recent statements and actions by Eskom management. This related particularly to Eskom’s statements on renewable energy and the implications thereof for climate justice, but also to Eskom’s failure to disclose records that provide evidence of steps taken to reduce air pollution that damage people’s health.
MONEY HIDDEN IN TAX HAVENS COULD POWER SOUTH AFRICA AND HALF THE WORLD WITH 100% RENEWABLE ENERGY - Time for G20 to act.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands and Pietermaritzburg, South Africa– 2 September 2016 – Globally every year up to $600 billion dollars of government tax revenue is lost through tax avoidance alone. In a new report, launched today, Friends of the Earth International calculates that government revenue lost to tax havens over a 15-year period could power Africa, Latin America and much of Asia with 100% renewable energy.
ENVIRONMENTAL ORGANISATION TAKES MINISTER TO COURT OVER NEW COAL-FIRED POWER PLANT
Cape Town, 01 September 2016 - On Tuesday, 23 August 2016, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg (ELA), represented by the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), instituted legal proceedings in the Pretoria High Court to set aside the environmental authorisation for the proposed 1200MW Thabametsi coal-fired power station near Lephalale in the Limpopo province.
ELA has asked the court to review and set aside the Department of Environmental Affairs’ decision to authorise the proposed power station, as well as the Minister of Environmental Affairs’ March 2016 decision to uphold that authorisation on appeal.
Although the Minister upheld the authorisation on appeal, she also required Thabametsi to conduct a climate change impact assessment for the power station – a first for a proposed coal-fired power station in South Africa. That climate change impact assessment is currently underway.
ELA and CER have always maintained that the power station could not have been authorised in the absence of an assessment of the climate change impacts.
PORT EXPANSION SQUASHED – VICTORY FOR COMMUNITIES AND ENVIRONMENT
Durban, South Africa, 25 August 2016 – The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) has recently won a protracted battle with Transnet after it was announced that the Durban dig-out port project would be delayed until 2032.
As a result of SDCEA’s organised resistance over many years, the organisation was in discussion with Transnet, of which the final outcome was this latest announcement. This is an important victory for SDCEA and the communities it represents, as it means retention of the community space as a residential zone, and no displacement of residents and workers such as the old Durban airport farmers.
The organisation, however, has come out stating that the fight for a community-driven development model in south Durban is far from over.
FAILURE TO ESTABLISH CLEAR GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSION REDUCTION OUTCOMES REFERRED TO PUBLIC PROTECTOR
Today a range of civil society organisations are taking their call for urgent clarification of greenhouse gas emissions objectives to the Public Protector. The complaint regards failure to implement provisions on mitigation in the National Climate Change Response White Paper, adopted by Cabinet in October 2011; most particularly the setting of "desired emission reduction outcomes" (DEROs) for 2030 and 2050, which was supposed to be completed within two years.
CITY SILENT ON KELVIN POWER STATION FACTS: EARTHLIFE AFRICA TO DEMONSTRATE
Johannesburg, 24th of August 2016 - Earthlife Africa Johannesburg will protest on Thursday the 25th of August outside the Kelvin Power Station located in Kempton Park in the East of Johannesburg.
The demonstration will take place from 10: 00 am.
Supporters of Earthlife Africa Johannesburg are demanding answers from the City of Johannesburg about how much the power station actually costs Johannesburg residents in terms of electricity costs and in terms of pollution and potential health risks.
GREENING GREY’S HOSPITAL
Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 23 August 2016 – Grey’s 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 Thursday, Grey’s Hospital will launch its “Greening Grey’s” awareness campaign among staff, patients and visitors.
“Grey’s Hospital became a member of the GGHH initiative in May because we wanted to make a difference to the lives we serve. It is our social responsibility to reduce our carbon footprint as a health care facility,” explains Dr Kandolo Benoit Bilenge, CEO of Grey’s Hospital.
PIETERMARITZBURG CHOKING ON PERSISTANT AIR POLUTION
August 17, 2016 - Pietermaritzburg residents are coughing and choking on the persistent air pollution hanging over the city as doctors and hospitals battle with an influx of chest infections and an increase in reported asthma cases.
A series of recent blazes has added to the dense pollution leaving a noticeable cloud of smog looming over Pietermaritzburg.
Last week's disastrous fire at the City's landfill site resulted in tremendous amounts of noxious gasses being released into the atmosphere, which affected the operation of many schools and businesses in close proximity due to the health risks of breathing in the fumes.
Read the full Maritzburg Sun article here.
GROUNDWORK REFLECTS ON THE OCCASION OF ITS 17TH ANNIVERSARY
August 16, 2016 - groundWork recently celebrated its 17th anniversary. Writing in Oilwatch, groundWork's Executive Director, Bobby Peek notes that:
"It has been an exiting 17 years. Critically, we have made great strides in keeping the flames of environmental justice alive and burning strongly. But despite this we feel that the need for our work is ever more so critical now as there is an onslaught by the alignment of government and corporate power that seeks to undermine democracy for the furtherance of the elite wealth project"
SASOL USA EXPANSION MET BY FIERCE OPPOSITION FROM SOUTH DURBAN ENVIRONMENTAL STALWART
Durban, South Africa, 15 August 2016 – As Sasol edges in closer to build the second largest gas-to-liquid (GTL) facility in the world in Mossville, Louisiana, environmental justice activist from the South Durban Basin, Desmond D'Sa today meets with the community which is set to be yet another of the fuel giant's displaced victims.
Sasol's Louisiana facility will turn natural gas into chemicals, diesel and other fuels. It will be the biggest project of its kind in the US, and the second-biggest GTL plant in the world, producing 96,000 b/d of diesel and other liquids.
Mossville is an historic community in southwest Louisiana that African American people began to settle in before the Civil War. They are determined to keep their land free of polluting industries.
ENVIRONMENTAL ORGANISATIONS CALL ON GOVERNMENT TO TIGHTEN REQUIREMENTS FOR REPORTING ON EMISSIONS OF GREENHOUSE GASES
August 10, 2016 - Environmental justice organisations groundWork, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance and the Highveld Environmental Justice Network, with the support of the Centre for Environmental Rights, have called on government to tighten proposed requirements for reporting of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by industry.
The Centre, on behalf of the above organisations, submitted comments to the Department of Environmental Affairs in July 2016 on the Draft National Greenhouse Gas Reporting Regulations, 2016.
The draft Regulations are intended to regulate the reporting of GHG emissions by mainly industrial facilities for purposes of, among other things, establishing and maintaining a national GHG inventory.
FUELLING THE FIRE: NEW COAL TECHNOLOGIES SPELL DISASTER FOR CLIMATE
25 July 2016 – A new report by Friends of the Earth International demonstrates how Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) and Coal Chemical technologies threaten to destabilise the earth’s climate and irreversibly damage local environments.
The report, launched today, comes in the wake of UCG being banned in Queensland, Australia. There is interest in and development of UCG in Europe, Russia, Canada, the US, China and India. It is currently under moratorium in Scotland.
The report includes case studies from Australia, China, South Africa, the UK and the USA.
THE 12 QUESTIONS EVERY CLIMATE ACTIVIST HEARS
19 July 2016 - The Climate Reality Project has published a handy guide to the most common arguments against the reality of man-made climate change and why they're totally wrong. You can download a copy of the guide here.
FRIENDS OF THE EARTH INTERNATIONAL IN SOLIDARITY WITH BLACK LIVES MATTER
Washington DC, USA, 14 July 2016 - In response to the two senseless killing of African Americans by police in Baton Rouge and Falcon Heights, Minn., the deadly attack that killed five police officers in Dallas, and the July 13 anniversary of Black Lives Matter, Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica has released a statement which you can read here.
GLOBAL GREEN AND HEALTHY HOSPITAL INITIATIVE
Pietermaritzburg, 8 July 2016 - groundWork, through the Global Green and Healthy Hospital (GGHH) initiative, has been working with health care leaders and hospitals for the past six years on the issues of sustainable waste management strategies that will promote environmental health in both the hospital and the environment.
The decision by the Department of Health in KwaZulu-Natal to join the GGHH initiative is a timely boost and a step in the right direction. Six hospitals in the province – Edendale, Ngwelezana, Inkosi Albert Luthuli, Port Shepstone, King Edward and Grey – have all pledged to promote public health by continuously reducing their environmental impact and ultimately eliminating their contribution to the burden of disease.
SOMKHELE COMMUNITY PROTEST AGAINST INJUSTICES CARRIED OUT BY COAL MINE
Somkhele/Matubatuba, South Africa, 4 July 2016 – Today, members of the community in Somkhele took to the streets once against to protest against the corruption and injustices associated with the coal mine that borders their community.
This mine is supported by traditional leaders, who have themselves allegedly been corrupted by the mine officials. This march has strong solidarity from the people in Fuleni, a nearby rural community that are themselves fighting the onslaught of a new coal mine proposed by Ibutho Coal. The mine officials at Somkhele consequently obtained an interdict against the protesters. However, the march went ahead and the provincial Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) came to receive the memorandum. The community declared the mine closed in front of the DMR, until the mine officials came to address the community on their issues.
FRACKING SCOPING APPLICATIONS PROLIFERATE
Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 15th June 2016 - It is apparent that despite opposition to the use of fracking technology and the exploitation of new fossil fuel reserves, the process leading to the possible commercial implementation of fracking in South Africa continues to gather momentum.
GROUNDWORK CELEBRATES WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY WITH ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE SCHOOL
Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 2 June 2016 – As World Environment Day is celebrated across the globe on Sunday, 5th June, groundWork will kick off its third annual Environmental Justice School. The school aims to build a cadre of informed environmental justice activists who will contribute towards the mobilization, resistance and transformation to a just society.
Twenty activists from South Africa, Mozambique and Kenya will for an intensive three weeks be engaged on issues of development, environmental legislation in South Africa and campaigning in areas of climate, energy, air quality, waste, water, land and food.
SAFETY OF WORKERS IN CHEMICAL INDUSTRY AT RISK
Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 31 May 2016 – A recently released international report on chemical safety has indicated that in South Africa 25% of domestic market chemical companies do not provide their employees with chemical safety training. This comes at a time when the global chemical industry enters into annual general meetings with shareholders.
In 2015, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation together with groundWork and nine other collaborative partners carried out two sets of polls on chemical safety issues addressing consumer opinions in 14 cities (in 10 countries) and company opinions in 10 countries. In South Africa, the city of Durban was involved in the poll.
DMR IS SUCKING SOUTH AFRICA’S ‘WATER FACTORIES’ DRY
Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 23 May 2016 – The Centre for Environmental Rights’ latest report Zero Hour: Poor Governance of Mining and the Violation of Environmental Rights in Mpumalanga , has found that the Department of Minerals Resources (DMR) has placed South Africa’s strategic water source areas at serious risk of endemic contamination. This while the country remains slave to the worst drought it has experienced in 30 years.
Last week, the International Federation of Red Cross and the Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) pledged $110 million to a new initiative to help drought-stricken Southern African countries, including South Africa.
Despite Mpumalanga containing areas of hydrological significance, which are critical for the country’s supply of potable water, the DMR has continued to grant mining and water use rights in these areas, particularly for coal developments. While the mining industry uses up and pollutes this water the people of South Africa are at risk of not having access to clean water.
NGOS SEEK ESKOM’S PLANS FOR COMPLYING WITH AIR QUALITY STANDARDS
Cape Town, South Africa, 18 May 2016 – In late February 2015, despite intense civil society opposition, the Department of Environmental Affairs’ National Air Quality Officer largely approved Eskom’s applications to postpone compliance with the air pollution minimum emission standards that applied from 1 April 2015. These standards were then incorporated into Eskom’s licences.
Despite the reprieve granted to Eskom, even the postponed compliance with the air emission standards means that Eskom must act now to ensure that it has the relevant funds and approvals in place in time to start installation of the equipment necessary to limit the air pollution from its coal-fired power stations.
COMMUNITY SAYS NO TO IBUTHO COAL MINE
Fuleni/Richards Bay, South Africa, 21 April 2016 – This morning an angry but well-behaved crowd of well over a thousand Fuleni residents forced the Regional Mining Development Environmental Committee (RMDEC) to abort their visit to Fuleni, the site of Ibutho Coal's proposed open cast mine on the boundary of the iMfolozi Wilderness Area. The site visit was to familiarise RMDEC with the area before the meeting tomorrow, at 10h30, at Enseleni Nature Reserve, KZN, to hear submissions from I&APs and their lawyers to substantiate their comments and objections to the Fuleni mine.
Irate Fuleni residents blocked the main road to Ocilwane with rocks and burning tyres to create a barricade to prevent vehicles entering Fuleni. Ocilwane is the village that will be most affected by the proposed coal mine. The police eventually managed to get assistance from members of the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation (MCEJO) and researchers from the Centre for Civil Society (CCS) – UKZN, who persuaded the local residents to assist with removing the rocks and tyres.
GOVERNMENT TO SIGN ONTO SHAM OF A PARIS CLIMATE AGREEMENT - We can’t count on the Paris Agreement to stop climate change
Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 20 April 2016 – The Paris Climate Agreement will this Friday be signed by representatives of over 130 nations, including South Africa, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. According to environmental justice organisation groundWork , the commitments made in Paris were too late and too weak. This means that the hope to keep the temperature increase to below 1.5 degrees has been overshot.
This signing on by parties brings them one step closer towards ratifying a meaningless agreement through national parliaments in most cases – with nations turning their intended pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (known as INDCs) into their agreed actual climate contribution to the climate effort.
This does not bring the world closer to a real solution for climate change. To the contrary, it stands in the way of real solutions. The world’s leaders are calling on us to have faith in them but the call is made in bad faith; the world’s leaders are leading us to ever growing destruction.
UNDERMINING LIFE: NEW SHORT DOCUMENTARY ON MINING IN SOUTH AFRICA
Sphiwe Mazibuko's 9 minute documentary exposes the intimidation and violence facing anti-mining activists on the Wild Coast and Zululand, in South Africa. Xolobeni residents have fought for 10 years to prevent an Australian company from mining their titanium rich dunes.
The unwavering response of the Pondo people to protect their traditional lands, a paradise where they have lived for over 1500 years, has been met by increasing intimidation and violence that culminated in the violent murder of Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe, on 22 March 2016. Two men posing as police arrived at night and shot Rhadebe 8 times in the head in front of his 15 year old son. The next person on the hit list, Nonhle Mbuthuma, is featured in this film together with four other activists on the Wild Coast whose lives have been threatened. In Zululand, mining activists from Fuleni, Somkhele and Melmoth also face death threats. Reverend Mavuso frequently has to go into hiding for fear of his life, while the police have been notified of recent death threats to Phila Ndimande. Bongani Pearce’s vehicle was burned after a peaceful protest march following 8 years of being silenced by corrupt traditional leaders and exploited by Tendele’s Somkhele coal mine.
The film was commissioned by Mupo Foundation (now EarthLore) and funded by the European Commission, and can be viewed here.
ANTI-MINING ACTIVIST GUNNED DOWN IN MBIZANA HOME
Durban, South Africa, 23 March 2016 – groundWork/Friends of the Earth South Africa offers our condolences and support at this time of tragedy to the Amadiba Crises Committee and family of their Chairperson. We learn with great sadness of the passing of Sikhosiphi Bazooka Radhebe, who was brutally assassinated outside his house in Mbizana, in connection with his activism against the titanium dune mining in Xolobeni. We understand that this forms part of on-going violence against members of the Amadiba community who are being harassed for their democratic right to freedom of speech and assembly around an activity that threatens the survival of their ancestral land on the Wild Coast.
INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY MISSION TO HONDURAS: JUSTICE FOR BERTA CÁCERES AND COPINH
Honduras, March 17, 2016 – Representatives of social networks from different regions of the world will travel to Honduras today as part of the International Mission “Justice for Berta Cáceres”. The mission is organised by the Honduran organisation Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH) - from the National Network of Human Rights defenders in Honduras - and individuals, collectives and organisations making up an international network of solidarity with the people of Honduras. The mission demands an impartial investigation of the brutal assassination of the indigenous Lenca leader Berta Cáceres, on the 3rd of March.
The mission will coincide with a number of mass demonstrations, protests and other actions by Honduran civil society in the coming three days. The protests will condemn the assassination of Berta Cáceres and show solidarity with Gustavo Castro, who was injured in the attack against Berta. Gustavo has been denied permission to leave Honduras, despite cooperating with the police investigation and indicating his willingness to answer any further questions from Mexico.
SA DROUGHT UNDER THE CLIMATE CHANGE SPOTLIGHT
Durban, South Africa, 14 March 2016 – As the world’s leaders once again side-stepped commitments on emission reductions at the annual climate negotiations in Paris 2015, South Africa continues to be in the midst of its worst drought in the last two decades. The continent is set to burn, as Africa’s temperature will soar an extra 2 degrees above the global average temperature increase if nothing is done to curb climate change.
This week, key members of Friends of the Earth International, the largest network of grassroots organisations in the world, will meet in Durban, South Africa. Meeting with local organisations, groundWork (Friends of the Earth, South Africa) and the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance. The Friends of the Earth group will strategise on how to tackle the global threat to climate and energy justice.
GUSTAVO CASTRO: HELP HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS AT RISK IN HONDURAS
Honduras, 11 March 2016 – Gustavo Castro, the Director of Otros Mundos Mexico/Friends of the Earth Mexico is in danger in Honduras. Help us get him home. Gustavo Castro was wounded in the same attack as Berta Cáceres one week ago. As a witness to Berta's murder, we consider him to be at risk in Honduras. He is currently not allowed to leave the country.
Help us to ensure Gustavo returns safely home and to protect other community and environmental activists in Honduras.
ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE ORGANISATIONS COMMENCE LEGAL ACTION AND CALL FOR ROLL-OUT OF CLEAN RENEWABLE ENERGY
South Africa, 10 March 2016 – While most of South Africa’s attention is focused on Medupi and Kusile – South Africa’s much delayed and over-budget, new coal-fired Eskom power stations – little public attention has been given to the additional 2500 megawatts (MW) of privately owned coal-fired electricity that the Minister of Energy has planned.
The new coal energy will be sold to Eskom by those independent coal-fired power producers (IPPs) that are successful bidders in terms of the Coal Baseload Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (CBLIPPPP). These plans are, however, under threat of widespread public resistance via environmental justice organisations that are opposed to coal-fired power because of its detrimental impact on the environment and human health.
GLOBAL MERCURY AGREEMENT UNDERMINED BY UNCONTROLLED PRODUCTION & TRADE
Amman, Jordan, 9 March 2016 - Commitments toward stronger global mercury controls are being hampered by illegal, unreported and unregulated mercury production and trade, an international NGO coalition revealed today on the eve of a UN mercury treaty meeting in Jordan.
The Zero Mercury Working Group(ZMWG) said that global efforts to reduce emissions of mercury may be derailed if gaps in mercury production and trade controls are not addressed before the treaty enters into force.
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY – REPORT LAUNCH
08 March 2015 – As the world celebrates International Women's Day, Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF), is proud to announce the launch of its new publication Women and Chemicals: The impact of hazardous chemicals and women. Women and Chemicals a deeper look at the nexus between gender roles and women's exposure to hazardous chemicals worldwide.
Women are exposed to a range of hazardous chemicals at home and at work. The publication, developed with support expertise from the United Nations, civil society and scientific institutes, looks at impacts on women's health from amongst others highly hazardous pesticides, mercury and endocrine disrupting chemicals.
UNILEVER, CLEAN UP YOUR MESS IN INDIA!
Durban, South Africa, 7 March 2015 – Today marks the 15th anniversary of the environmental and public health disaster that occurred in Kodaikanal, India at the Hindustan Unilever mercury thermometer factory operations, where toxic mercury waste was dumped in a nearby forest and a scrapyard in a crowded part of town, killing several workers and poisoning the community.
GROUNDWORK AND SDCEA APPEAL COLENSO ENVIRONMENTAL AUTHORISATION
Durban & Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 3 March 2016 – groundWork  and the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) , represented by the Centre for Environmental Rights  on 1 March 2016 launched an appeal to the Minister of Environmental Affairs against the environmental authorisation granted to Colenso Power (Pty) Ltd for its proposed coal-fired power station near the town of Colenso .
The entire Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process was conducted within just a few months, in keeping with the severely-restricted timeframes in the latest EIA Regulations. groundWork and SDCEA argue that these timeframes fail to provide an adequate opportunity to assess the significant negative impacts the power station is set to have on people and their ability to live in a clean, healthy environment, or for interested and affected parties to participate meaningfully in the EIA process.
HIGH PROFILE HONDURAN ACTIVIST BERTA CACERES MURDERED
03 March 2016 – Berta Cáceres, 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize winner, was murdered last night in her home. Reportedly, her assassins waited until well after dark before breaking into the house where she slept.
Mining proposed for Norway's Fjords
Norway, 18 February 2016 – It is currently in a test phase but permission has been granted for mountain-top removal and for waste to be dumped in the pristine Forde fjord. Earlier this week a pod of orca wales flanked by sea eagles were spotted in the fjord.
Young activists are climbing the mountain every day to chain themselves to machinery. Every day they are arrested, fined ~1000 EUR each and given an exclusion order not to come back. Every day fresh activists go up to take their place.
To take action sign the petition and ask the Norwegian Prime Minister to stop plans to dump mining waste in the pristine Førdefjord
SASOL'S OFFSET PLAN CONDONES NON-COMPLIANCE
Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 29 January 2016 – groundWork has submitted its comments to SRK Consulting who is, on behalf of its client Sasol, coordinating the plans for the company's offset program. The Air Quality Act (AQA) of 2004 provided for ambient and emission standards. These standards were thoroughly debated over the next five years and minimum emission standards were promulgated in 2010 for implementation in 2015. In all those ten years, Sasol and Eskom did nothing to prepare for implementation of the standards. Instead they declared, in 2013, that they would not meet the standards. Offsets were then produced, like a rabbit from a conjuror's hat, to condone non-compliance.
JUSTICE ORGANISATIONS MEET TO PLAN FOR 2016
Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 27 January 2016 – groundWork convened its annual Community Planning Meeting between the 19th to the 21st of January 2016 in Pietermaritzburg. The following non-governmental and community based organisations were involved: Centre for Environmental Rights, Highveld Environmental Justice Network, iMfolozi Community and Wilderness Alliance, South African Waste Pickers' Association, South Durban Community Environmental Alliance and Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance.
GROUNDWORK APPEALS NPC HAZARDOUS WASTE INCINERATOR
Port Shepstone, South Africa, 27 January 2016 – Environmental justice watchdog groundWork  is appealing Natal Portland Cement’s environmental authorisation to burn ‘alternative fuels and resources’ at the company’s Simuma Works . This authorisation, granted by the MEC of the KwaZulu Natal Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA), as it exists is essentially a licence to operate a hazardous waste incinerator that can burn any industrial hazardous waste at the discretion of the licence holder. It effectively puts the fox in charge of the henhouse.
RHINO OIL & GAS: NOTICE OF ADDITIONAL PUBLIC MEETINGS
Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 20 January 2016 – Rhino Oil and Gas Exploration South Africa (Pty) Ltd (Rhino Oil and Gas) has lodged an application for an exploration right to the Petroleum Agency South Africa (PASA). In addition Rhino Oil and Gas has made an application to PASA for environmental authorisation of exploration activities.
The proposed exploration area includes nearly 10 000 farms over an area of about 1 500 000 ha. In broad terms the exploration area extends from Richmond in the south to Ladysmith and Dundee in the north-west, passing just eastwards of Mooi River and Estcourt. In the north the area extends east almost to Ulundi and includes the regions around Tugela Ferry and Nkandla. The extent of the area narrows toward the south, including Kranskop, New Hanover and Ashburton but being bounded just west of Camperdown. Protected areas and residential properties within the block are excluded from the rights application.
In this application Rhino Oil and Gas has only applied for approval to undertake early-phase exploration for oil and gas which might be located within suitable geological strata.
The following repeat public scoping meetings have been arranged in larger venues. All stakeholders are invited to attend:
Tuesday 2 February 2016, Howick West Community Hall, 2:30pm;
Wednesday 3 February 2016, Mooi River Town Hall, 10 Claughton Terrace, 2:30pm;
Thursday 4 February 2016, Greytown Community Hall, 61 Cathcart Street, 2:30pm.
ESKOM’S TARIFF CLAW BACK TO CRIPPLE RATEPAYERS
Durban, South Africa, 20 January 2016 – Eskom is asking for a tariff increase of about 8.6% in its Regulatory Clearing Account (RCA)  application to National Energy Regulator of South Africa’s (NERSA). If granted, this will bring the total 2016 tariff hike to 16.6%, sinking the poorest deeper into poverty and darkness.
Eskom’s requests for grossly inflated tariff hikes come round every year or, as in 2015, more than once a year. The energy utility has established a pattern of late and/or repeated application stretching back to 2008. This has the appearance of a tactic to forestall public consultation and put the National Energy Regulator of South Africa’s (NERSA) decision-making under pressure.
BUILDING SOLIDARITY WITH GERMANY IN THE STRUGGLE AGAINST COAL
Bielefeld, Germany, 20 January 2016 – Lucky Maisanye, resident in the Witbank community, the heart of the Highveld’s coal industry, and member of the Highveld Environmental Justice Network has been on a one year exchange to Germany, through KOSA. This is his six month report of his activities and experiences of solidarity in the struggle against coal between Germany and Mpumalanga: “It is a great opportunity being here in Germany. I have learned a lot about myself and work. Every day I learn something new and gain a lot of experience. I hope all the things I learn will be fruitful for our struggle against coal mining back home.”
SAVING LAMU: KENYA’S INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ FIGHT FOR LAND AND LIVELIHOOD
Lamu, Kenya, 6 January 2016 – Off the coast of Kenya is a group of fifty five islands, the Lamu Archipelago, known for its semi-pristine biodiversity and rich cultural heritage. One of these islands, Lamu, is home to the oldest and best-preserved Kiswahili settlement in East Africa and in 2001, Old Lamu Town was declared a cultural World Heritage site.
The livelihoods of those indigenous peoples living in the broader Lamu County – consisting of the north-eastern coastal mainland and the Lamu Archipelago – are predominantly small-scale agriculture and fishing, and employment in the tourism industry which is an important part of the economy.
The privately owned Amu Power Company – a consortium of companies including Kenyan Gulf Energy, and Centum Investment, and the Chinese Sichuan Electric Power and Design – has proposed to build a coal-fired power plant of between 900 and 1000 megawatts in Manda Bay, Lamu County. The project was supposedly set to be completed in 2016 with that target moving to 2017, however various recent setbacks have made this date unlikely. In the initial stages, the power station will use coal imported from South Africa before using coal extracted from the Mui Basin.
DEATH OF AN ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE HERO
Vanderbijlpark, Gauteng, 30 December 2015 – Ntata “Strike” Matshepe, long time campaigner against ArcelorMittal South Africa (AMSA - previously Iscor) passed away in the in the early hours of Sunday morning, the 27th December 2015, at his house in Unitas Park, Vereeniging.
Strike’s family was one of the last three remaining families in Steel Valley, who stood firm against AMSA and refused to sell their land to AMSA, but rather demanded environmental justice calling on AMSA to clean up their pollution and compensate people fairly for the loss of their land, due to the pollution from AMSA.