Multi-billion rand ‘mega project’ sparks major pollution concerns

A multi-billion rand industrial project planned for Limpopo has raised concerns of catastrophic pollution and environmental damage.

Reuters reported that the Musina-Makhado Energy-Metallurgical Special Economic Zone (EMSEZ) will consist of a cluster of 20 steel and other metalworking plants which are fuelled by a coal-fired power station.

The project aims to provide nearly 54 000 jobs in Limpopo, according to government data. It will cover 8 000 hectares with industrial facilities including a coal washery and plants for coking coal, ferromanganese, steel and cement.

However, the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), a South African environmental law organisation, has submitted comments opposing the project on behalf of green groups.

“We have strong objections to the project – which entails the development of massive, unnecessary and expensive polluting infrastructure,” said Michelle Koyama, an attorney with the CER to Reuters.

The EMSEZ is the largest such zone planned for South Africa, according to the EIA published in February by Delta BEC, a South African environmental consulting firm. Chinese company Shenzhen Hoi Mor has also reportedly pledged to invest $3.8 billion in the zone.

The project is expected to generate about 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide over its lifetime – equal to a little more than double South Africa’s current annual emissions.

There are also concerns that there is not enough water in the area to support the project, in an area that is facing increasing volatility due to climate change.