JOHANNESBURG – ENVIRONMENTAL lobby group the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) turned up the heat on ArcelorMittal South Africa (Amsa) to decarbonise urgently during the group’s annual general meeting (AGM) held virtually yesterday.
Amsa is South Africa’s third-largest greenhouse gas emitter after Sasol, accounting for 2.81 percent of the country’s emissions, according to the CER’s Full Disclosure 5 report. CER lawyers, who hold a share in Amsa, said this was the third consecutive year in which the organisation participated in the AGM and protested against Amsa’s failure to respect environmental laws.
The CER’s head of corporate accountability and transparency, Leanne Govindsamy, said they had seen little change in the manner in which Amsa handled environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.
“Amsa’s refusal to take steps to address concerns about environmental degradation, severe impacts on human health and well-being, as well as its role in the climate crisis illustrates a company which is inflexible, unresponsive and not living up to its claim of corporate responsibility,” said Govindsamy.
Last year, the company agreed to pay a R3.64 million fine to the Department of Environmental Affairs and Forestry as a settlement for violating three atmospheric emissions licence conditions at its Vanderbijlpark operations.
Three employees died in an explosion at Vanderbijlpark in February. The CER argued that Amsa was lagging behind its parent, the ArcelorMittal group, which pledged to be carbon neutral by 2050 and to cut its emissions in Europe by 30 percent by 2030.
The CER said Amsa, in its 2020 integrated annual report, recognised that climate change posed a risk to its operations but failed to disclose a strategy to mitigate its climate-related impacts and risk.
The Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance (Veja), a non-profit organisation in the Vaal, said it wanted the company to commit to regular and meaningful consultations when it came to pollution, access to information and climate-change commitments.
Veja co-ordinator Samson Mokoena said communities living in the Vaal Triangle Airshed Priority Area continued to suffer the deadly environmental effects of Amsa’s pollution in violation of their constitutional right to a healthy environment. “We bear the brunt of Amsa’s pollution of air, water and land, and remain in the dark about how it plans to address these issues,” said Mokoena.
Veja led a protest at Amsa’s Vanderbijlpark office yesterday to highlight the need for meaningful consultation.
Amsa turned the corner during the year to end of December 2020, returning to profitability in the second half. Amsa made a R1.02 billion profit in the second half of 2020.