Earthlife Africa (Johannesburg)
groundWork (Friends of the Earth South Africa)
Highveld Environmental Justice Network

Press conference: Lamu community members in South Africa’s coal-fields

Wednesday, 30 September 2015 – Kenya’s Lamu Archipelago, declared a UNESCO World Heritage site for its rich Kiswahili culture and semi-pristine islands, is set to be transformed if authorisation for a 1000MW coal-fired power station is given by the Kenyan government. The construction of the power station, together with the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET), will result in the displacement of indigenous peoples and the loss of their agricultural and fishing livelihoods [1].

Members of the community-based Kenyan NGO Save Lamu [2] are this week in the Mpumalanga Highveld on an exchange visit with the Highveld Environmental Justice Network [3], a coalition of communities on the fenceline of Eskom’s power stations. They will be joined by environmental justice NGOs Earthlife Africa (Johannesburg) [4] and groundWork [5], who are hosting the exchange.

If the Amu Power coal-fired power station goes ahead, it will be the first in Kenya and the largest in the East African region. The broader Lamu community is aware of the threats posed by the coal industry and it is through this exchange in South Africa that they will experience firsthand what it means to live with coal extraction and combustion.

If constructed, coal for the Kenyan power station will first be sourced from South Africa until the country begins extraction from its domestic coal reserves. Reports indicate that 31 blocks of coal reserve in Kenya’s Mui Basin in Kitui County have been bought out largely by international mining companies.

Only 23 percent of Kenya’s 45 million people have access to electricity. Nevertheless, Kenya boasts the ninth largest economy in Africa and the largest in the East African region. According to a news report [6], the Kenyan government hopes to decrease the industrial cost of electricity from $0.15 per kilowatt hour to $0.09 per kilowatt hour.

The Highveld is home to 12 of Eskom’s coal-fired power stations, with some of these being the biggest in the world. In addition, independent power producers are planning at least four additional coal-fired power stations in the area, these being Khanyisa, KiPower, Umbani and Transalloys.

Whilst the South African government praises the virtues of coal and the economic empowerment it supposedly brings for local communities, those living at the coal-face tell a different story of unfulfilled promises, impoverishment and ill-health. 


Members of Save Lamu (Kenya), the Highveld Environmental Justice Network, Earthlife Africa (Johannesburg) and groundWork will address the media on community perspectives on the coal industry in South Africa, the current situation in Kenya regarding both the proposed coal-fired power station and port, and finally, the business relationship between South African and Kenya.

Date: Thursday, 1 October 2015
Time: 14h00
Venue: Earthlife Africa Offices, 87 De Korte Street, 5th Floor, Hereengracht Building, Braamfontein, Johannesburg



[1] For more information, read the Media Brief here.
[2] In 2009, in response to the Kenyan government’s plans to establish the multipurpose transport and communication corridor known as the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor, the Lamu Environmental Protection and Conservation (LEPAC) spearheaded an initiative to unite groups and individuals in a campaign to save the Lamu Archipelago. Out of this initiative, a coalition of groups came together under the banner Save Lamu
[3] The Highveld Environmental Justice Network (HEJN) is a voluntary association that joins together various non-governmental movements and organisations within the Highveld Air Priority Area fighting for people’s right to a clean and healthy environment, in an area that is well-known for its high levels of pollution as a result of the coal and other industries.
[4] Earthlife Africa seeks a better life for all people without exploiting other people or degrading their environment. Our aim is to encourage and support individuals, businesses and industries to reduce pollution, minimise waste and protect our natural resources
[5] groundWork is an environmental justice organisation working with community people from around South Africa, and increasingly Southern Africa, on environmental justice and human rights issues focusing on Coal, Climate and Energy Justice, Waste and Environmental Health. groundWork is the South African member of Friends of the Earth International
[6] For more on this source, visit


Earthlife Africa (Johannesburg)
Makoma Lekalakala

Sustainable Energy and Climate Change Project Manager
(W): 011 339 3662
(M): 082 682 9177
(E): or

Megan Lewis
Media and Communications Campaign Manager

(W): 033 342 5662
(M): 083 450 5541

Robby Mokgalaka
Coal Campaigner

(W): 033 342 5662
(M): 073 774 3362

Highveld Environmental Justice Network
Khensani Shilubane

(M): 081 326 5900