Sasol: A Global Leader or a Major Polluter? - South African and African American Communities on the Fencelines of Sasol Facilities Warn Investors of Sasol’s Liabilities for Environmental Destruction & Health Threats

Secunda, Sasolburg; Pietermaritzburg, South Africa; Boston, MA; Lake Charles, LA, - April 8, 2003 - On April 9, 2003, as Sasol Ltd., headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa, celebrates its listing on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: SSL), communities living next to Sasol’s facilities in the United States and South Africa are warning investors about Sasol’s environmentally destructive industrial operations by launching a new website called SASOLWATCH.COM. The communities and supporting environmental organizations have also sent a letter of warning to hundreds of key investment advisors in the United States.

While some investors have heralded Sasol as one of Africa’s bright stars, many of Sasol’s poorer neighbours paint an entirely different picture of a company that places profits before people. In South Africa, air samples taken in 2001 and 2002 by residents in Sasolburg, the town named after the company, identified elevated levels of many toxic pollutants, including methyl ketone, xylene, styrene, toluene, trichloroethene and vinyl chloride. In its March 2003 “Environmental Brief” even Sasol has acknowledged that ambient levels of benzene in Sasolburg have exceeded US guidelines on at least eight occasions during 2002. Benzene is known to cause leukemia and cancer. Sasolburg residents complain of many health problems, which they believe are caused by pollution emanating from the many Sasol-owned industries in the area. In the early 1980s, when Sasol first began developing in Secunda, black people were relocated downwind to a township called eMbalenhle where many young people now suffer from respiratory illnesses such as sinus problems, asthma, burning sensations in the throat and chest, as well as skin irritations and burning eyes.

"“After going from mine to mine, doctor to doctor, I realized that the disease my father has is incurable and that many people in my community who have never been to the mines also have the same disease. That is when I realized that this pollution affects the whole community",” said Patrick Duma from HECEMA (Highveld East Community Environmental Monitoring Association), a residents’ organization in Secunda, South Africa. Sasol annually releases over 264,600 pounds of hydrogen disulfide, a broad-spectrum poison affecting the eyes, respiratory, and nervous systems. Sasol officials dismiss this health threat as nothing more than an "“odor nuisance".”

In early 2001, Sasol acquired Condea Vista (the chemical division of Conoco which later became the Condea Group), which operates facilities in Louisiana, Maryland, and Arizona. In southwest Louisiana, Sasol now owns and operates a petrochemical facility that has plagued the African American community of Mossville with dangerous levels of toxic chemicals, hazardous accidents, and fish and groundwater contamination. Through its ownership of the Louisiana facility, Sasol is connected to the dioxin crisis in Mossville. In 1999 the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) reported that Mossville residents have two to three times more dioxin in their bodies than the general public. Sasol’s petrochemical facility has been linked to known sources of dioxin in the Mossville community, as ATSDR’s health consultant found that local sources were likely responsible for the dioxin exposures. Sadly, three of the Mossville residents tested with significant dioxin levels have died, and many more Mossville residents continue to die from diseases related to toxic chemical exposures.

“We want investors to know that Sasol’s profits come at our expense,” said Edgar Mouton Jr., President of Mossville Environmental Action Now (M.E.A.N.). “Our health and lives are threatened by Sasol’s facility and the other industries that have taken over and polluted our historic community.”

Issued by groundWork (South Africa) and the South African Exchange Programme on Environmental Justice (SAEPEJ) and the Mossville Environmental Action Now (M.E.A.N.), both of the USA.


Ardiel Soeker (groundWork) on 082 940 8669 or

Heeten Kalan (SAEPEJ) on 091-617-522-0604 or