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2018 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.

Community participation in KZN Mining Indaba restricted

18 April 2018 - The KwaZulu Natal Mining Indaba is taking place on Wednesday and Thursday, 18 - 19 April, 2018. The Department of Mineral Resource is convening the KZN Mining Indaba in Newcastle, a town devastated and impoverished because of historical coal mining. The meeting restricted community participation to only 3 participants, meaning the truth of mining in the area will not be meaningfully discussed. With unemployment close to 40% in South Africa we cannot rely on an apartheid economic model of mining that has caused ill health, violence and destroyed people’s environments. 

The meeting will be attended by the Minister of Mineral Resources, Gwede Mantashe; KZN MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Sihle Zikala; Mayor of Amajuba District Municipality, Councillor Dr Musa Ngubane; KZN Premier, Mr. Willies Mchunu, mining companies and a limited affected communities.

Ironically, the meeting is being hosted in areas where there were recent forced removals to make way for mining. The Kliprand community in Danhauser, Newcastle, had their homes demolished at the end of March 2018, to make way for Ikwezi Coal Mine operations. The Kliprand community has been involved in a long legal battle over land with Ikwezi Coal Mine, their forced removal was unlawful and was done before the case had been concluded. Communities were placed in temporary iron structures after the homes they had for over 50 years were destroyed.

Read the full media release here.

Battle against the climate-destroying coal IPPs escalates

Environmental activists demonstrate outside the court during the hearing of the first Thabametsi coal-fired power station court case in March 2017

Image: James Oatway for CER

03 APRIL 2018 -In the past week, the Life After Coal Campaign (which comprises: the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), Earthlife Africa, and groundWork) has instituted fresh court proceedings against the Minister of Environmental Affairs in relation to the proposed Thabametsi independent power producer (IPP) coal-fired power station. The Campaign has also made further written and oral objections against both preferred bidders under the Coal Baseload IPP Procurement Programme (being Thabametsi, as well as the proposed Khanyisa coal-fired power station) to the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) – during public hearings hosted by NERSA on 27 March 2018.

groundWork and Earthlife Africa have sought an order setting aside the Minister’s decision and referring Thabametsi’s authorisation application back to the Department of Environmental Affairs for reconsideration. They have also asked for an order confirming that the National Environmental Management Act and the Constitution require competent authorities to consider site-specific climate change impacts associated with proposed projects; and that they do not permit competent authorities to rely blindly on the IRP 2010 and other policies or Ministerial determinations as determinative of their decision.

Read the full media release here.

In Memory of Comrade DORCAS DUMSILE MWELASE (25 February 1966   -  25 February 2018)

03 April 2018 -Dorcas Dumsile Mwelase, was a dedicated, humble, loyal, selfless, friend, mother, sister and comrade. Her activism led her to become a member of the Mpukunyoni Community Property Association (MCPA), which challenges negative mining impacts created by Somkhele Coal Mine.

A hard-working cadre, she did everything in her power to succeed in whatever she was doing and also strived to put the needs of the community and association first. She fought against injustice and mobilizer community members so that they could empower themselves.

Read the full tribute here.

Life After Coal sets record straight on inaccurate statements by Colenso Power

20 March 2018 - The Life After Coal Campaign (which comprises the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, and groundWork) has issued a media release to correct numerous factual inaccuracies in statements attributed to the CEO of Colenso Power (Pty) Ltd – the developer of the proposed Colenso 1050MW independent power producer (IPP) coal-fired power station,  to be based in KwaZulu-Natal.

The statements appeared in an Engineering News article of 16 March 2018 and are disputed by the Life After Coal campaign.

For details see the full media release here.

Civil society organisations take battle against new coal plants to NERSA

19 March 2018 - On 27 March 2018, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) will hold public hearings for the generation licence applications by the two preferred bidders under the first bid window of the Coal Baseload Independent Power Producer (IPP) Procurement Programme – Thabametsi and Khanyisa. Thabametsi coal power plant would be based in Limpopo, and Khanyisa coal power plant would be based in Mpumalanga.

The Life After Coal Campaign (which comprises the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), Earthlife Africa Johannesburg (“Earthlife”) and groundWork) has opposed Thabametsi and Khanyisa’s applications, and will be presenting their objections, alongside numerous other experts and community representatives opposed to the proposed coal power stations, to NERSA next Tuesday 27 March.

The Life After Coal campaign is challenging these new coal plants on the grounds that they would be harmful to the environment and human health, and are risky projects that would produce expensive electricity that South Africa does not need. Despite this, on 8 March 2018, Minister of Energy Jeff Radebe that he had requested the office of the Director-General of the Department of Energy and the Independent Power Producer (IPP) Office to sign the two coal baseload IPP projects.

Members of the public are invited to attend the NERSA hearings and/or make presentations.  The deadline for registration is 20 March 2018.

Read the full media release here.

Another Waste Picker Dies on the Pietermaritzburg Waste Dumpsite

15 March 2018 - In the early hours of the day Ntsiki Mhlakwane was killed by a municipal waste compactor which crushed her. She is the fifth person to have been killed or badly injured on the landfill site since 2007. Such incidents  where waste pickers have been killed or badly injured by the heavy machinery operating at the landfill is a sad reminder of how waste pickers have been neglected by our government.

groundWork and the South African Waste Pickers Association (SAWPA), representing more than 1000 waste picker’s country wide, have been telling Msunduzi Local Municipality about the danger to which waste pickers are exposed.

In 2010 funding was approved at the The uMgungundlovu District Municipality for a Materials Recovery Facility ( MRF – also known as a recycling centre) but that was never built due to political clashes between the district and local municipality. Lives would have been saved by an MRF due to safer working conditions. The best way of managing waste is to have an MRF where waste pickers would work to recover and sort recyclable materials, rather than work on the dumpsite where waste is being dumped.

groundWork and SAWPA are saddened that waste pickers must die in this way. They have never resorted to crime but instead they have opted for recycling as a means to earn an honest meagre living. Waste pickers and groundWork have scheduled an urgent meeting with the Msunduzi Municipality on Monday 19th March where amongst other things, incidents such as this will be discussed and a solution that will be much safer than the current situation will be sought.

Despite severe health impacts, Eskom again seeks to delay compliance with air pollution standards

15 March 2018 - Eskom has again applied to postpone compliance with the minimum emission standards for air pollution, this time for its Tutuka power station near Standerton. This area falls within the already heavily polluted Highveld Priority Area in Mpumalanga.

The minimum emission standards (MES) regulate the maximum amount of air pollution released by industries, to limit harmful impacts on human health, wellbeing, and the environment. They were first published in 2010 following a 5 year multi-stakeholder process, and require existing industries (including all of Eskom’s coal-fired power stations) to comply with a set of MES by 1 April 2015, and a stricter set by 1 April 2020.

In early 2015, despite vehement objections from civil society and community organisationsEskom was granted widespread postponements of deadlines to meet the MES. Multiple additional postponement applications for the majority of their power stations are expected later this year.

Read the full media release here.

The transition to a low carbon future must be rapid, and must be for everyone

14 March 2018 - In response to the interdict sought to stop yesterday’s signature of the Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) for 27 renewable independent power producer procurement programme (REIPPPP) projects, the Life After Coal Campaign emphasises the urgent need for a rapid, but just transition from coal to a low carbon future.

Workers in power stations and coal mines are understandably concerned about what such a transition means for their employment future. Coal workers must have a place in the renewable economy. At the same time, in the context of 40% unemployment and gross inequality in South Africa, a just transition must be about creating a more equal society in which everyone has a place. This is not only the responsibility of government: workers and community groups, particularly those who are affected by the coal economy, should be at the centre of the process.

The transformation of the South African national power system has reached a critical moment. Climate change impacts are very evident in the recent country-wide drought, which is ongoing in the Western and Eastern Cape. Impacts will intensify over the next decades. As it is, air pollution from the coal-fired power stations results in early death of thousands of people and in poor health for hundreds of thousands each year.

The REIPPPP has contributed towards our national climate change response and our international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Approximately 11.2 Mton of CO2 (carbon dioxide) equivalent emissions have been avoided since the inception of REIPPPP.

Read the full media release here.

#ThumaMina: Heed the call, say no to coal DBSA.

08 March 2018 - The #ThumaMina, DBSA campaign asks the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) to publicly commit to not funding the Thabametsi coal-fired power plant, proposed to be built in Lephalale, Limpopo. Thabametsi is one of 12 coal-fired plants considered under the Independent Power Producers Programme in South Africa. The coal plant will use outdated technology and is set to be extremely emissions intensive, leaving untold impacts on human health, water availability, and agricultural productivity in an age when a new coal plant is a climate crime.

The impacts of climate change are being felt in South Africa today more than ever, and developing another power plant in a water-stressed region stands to threaten communities living in Lephalale. In order to avoid catastrophic climate change, no new coal infrastructure should be built.

While we welcome the Development Bank's investments in renewable energy initiatives, these positive steps risk being undermined by support for coal infrastructure. Instead, DBSA can play a bigger role in scaling up action on climate change and delivering on the ambitions that South Africa committed to during the global climate talks held in Paris in 2015.

The Life After Coal campaign has made great strides towards stopping Thabametsi and other coal-fired power station projects from going ahead, and we are joining this struggle, focusing on the institutions financing Thabametsi.

350.org is calling on the DBSA to commit to not financing Thabametsi coal-fired power plant. It is an opportunity for them to stand out and be a leader amongst financiers in South Africa, and not waiver from fulfilling their development aims of improving affordable energy access for all South Africans.

Click here to sign the 350.org petition.

EJS 2018 Clean Air Action

07 March 2018 - As the groundWork Environmental Justice school draws to an end, the participants have a strong message for all governments, corporations and citizens - "We want clean air and we want it now!!!"

South Africa's energy future at stake: Life After Coal campaign writes to new Energy Minister Jeff Radebe

28 February 2018 - The Life After Coal Campaign (made up of groundWork, the Centre for Environmental Rights and Earthlife Africa, Johannesburg) has written to newly appointed Energy Minister Jeff Hadebe.

"The Life After Coal Campaign writes to congratulate you on your appointment as Minister of Energy. We believe that the Energy Ministry is of critical importance in determining future energy security for all the people in our country, and supporting the just transition to a low-carbon future; specifically how South Africa meets the need to provide clean, healthy and affordable energy to the poor, while ensuring that South Africa reduces its greenhouse gas emissions. We believe these two objectives are complementary and we look forward to a robust engagement with you on these and other issues."

Read the full communication to Minister Hadebe here.

Air Quality in the Highveld Remains Poor

19 February 2018 - The inability of government to enforce minimum emissions standards in the Highveld Priority Area (HPA) means that air quality remains poor and has an adverse impact on the health and well being of the people living in the area.

"The situation in the Highveld is not getting any better, pollution levels are high" said environmental activist Thomas Mnguni from groundWork in Middelburg.

Read the full press item here.

Call for more research into oil, gas exploration plan

09 February 2018 - Non-governmental organisations have slammed proposed oil and gas exploration off the coasts of Durban and Richards Bay.

This comes as Environmental Resources Management (ERM) and Italian oil and gas exploration company Eni South Africa BV (Eni) held a public hearing into exploration on Wednesday. This was one of a series of public hearings being held.

Environmental activist Desmond D'Sa, of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, said the drilling would have a negative impact on fish.

Read the full Daily News story here.

How did we get to be eating plastic?

10 January 2018 - At our recent Africa-wide #BreakFreeFromPlastic gathering we heard from some local scientists who painted a bleak picture of plastics in the Indian Ocean and in particular about how plastics are bio-accumulating in our local food web. The food web is the entirety of interrelated food chains in an ecological community, so this includes the food that we eat! Worryingly, micro plastics are now a ubiquitous pollutant in all the oceans around the world, and pose a serious potential threat to marine ecology. In particular, the facts following were presented, which I thought merited further research to inform our work.

Steve Cohen from the Durban Partnership against Plastic Pollution described a "plastic ocean" around Durban in which 70% of the Mullet fish species surveyed in Durban contained micro-plastics, most worryingly in their brains (UKZN Mace Lab). We also heard that 77% of Maasbankerfish species (mainly horse mackerel) sampled from the Durban Harbour, Vetch's Pier, Isipingo and the uMngeni and Mdloti river mouths contained tiny plastic fibres, fragments and beads in their tissues and organs. The team that undertook this research also found that these fish contained micro plastic fibres, irrespective of their size, at Vetch's Pier and also in Durban (UKZN School of Life Sciences).

Read the full article, by groundWork staff member Rico Euripidou, in the December 2017 Newsletter here.

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