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Bushveld communities gear up to fight Thabametsi

Publish date: 09 July 2019
Issue Number: 613
Diary: Legalbrief Environmental
Category: Energy

The people of the Bushveld around the Waterberg, where the power plant Medupi has already destroyed the area’s ecological and social fabric, are fighting government’s plans to build another coal-fired power station in the vicinity, writes Elana Greyling, freelance journalist and member of Earthlife Africa, in a Daily Maverick analysis. ‘As Japan continues to invest more money in the coal sector, and stalls on its commitments to decarbonise, the community of Lephalale is pushing back against plans by South African and Japanese companies to develop Thabametsi, a new coal-fired power station in their area. They are calling for an unequivocal ban on new finance for coal development,’ explains Greyling. ‘We were shocked to find out that in 2016 Marubeni, a Japanese multinational, was in talks to develop Thabametsi,’ she writes. ‘Japan and Marubeni, one of its largest corporations, are well known for renewable energy projects and it remains incomprehensible that they would want to build a new coal power station in clear contravention of the spirit of the Paris Agreement,’ she goes on to say. ‘While Marubeni and the Thabametsi Power Company claim that the power station uses new technology, with lower sulphur dioxide emissions, their own team of specialists admitted the station will have a significant impact on climate change due to the huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions,’ she explains. ‘Thus, we are taking the matter to court. South African law clearly states that the Minister cannot give environmental authorisation if a project is proven to significantly contribute to climate change and pollution,’ she notes. ‘Still, the then Minister of Environment, Edna Molewa, gave consent twice. Earthlife Africa and the Centre for Environmental Rights have already won one case and we believe the law is on their side and that the court will protect the community of this beautiful bushveld,’ opines Greyling. ‘We speak for our people and for our environment, the trees, plants, animals and insects that cannot speak for themselves. We say: keep coal in the ground!’ concludes Greyling.

Full Daily Maverick analysis