Amsa environmental manager Johan Hattingh is scheduled to appear before the Vanderbijlpark Regional Court on June 26 in response to the summons for violating the Air Quality Act.
The company faces a fine of up to R15million or imprisonment (for those responsible) if found guilty.
Amsa was served with a summons instituting the criminal proceedings in May.
Albi Modise, the spokesperson for the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), said the criminal investigation followed ongoing non-compliances detected at the Vanderbijlpark facility during an inspection undertaken by environmental management inspectors from the department and the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
“Over the years the authorities have been monitoring compliance within the Ferro Alloy Iron and Steel sector. Three prior inspections had been undertaken at this facility - in November 2008, October 2012 and August 2014 - followed by a number of enforcement interventions.
"ArcelorMittal had been given sufficient opportunity since 2009 to effect the necessary changes required to ensure that its operations were being conducted in line with the legal requirements,” Modise said.
Modise also said this facility was within the Vaal Triangle Airshed Priority Area.
“The area was declared a priority in 2006 and is one of three priority areas identified nationally in terms of the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act due to concerns about elevated pollution,” said Modise.
Michelle Koyama, an attorney at the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), said the communities in and around the Amsa facilities in Vanderbijlpark had been experiencing negative impacts from Amsa’s pollution for a number of years. This was not only in relation to air, but also due to violations of water, waste and land pollution, Koyama said.
“The failure by the DEA to treat Amsa’s land, air, and water pollution issues as anything but urgent meant that the DEA is not fulfilling its legal duty to hold Amsa accountable for its violations of environmental law,” Koyama said.
The violations include operating certain facilities in Vanderbijlpark without the requisite Atmospheric Emission Licence (AEL) and for not complying with the AEL conditions.
Koyama said the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance and groundWork, together with the CER had been requesting that the department take action against Amsa for a number of years - since DEA’s own investigation reports revealed that there had been non-compliance of its air emission licence, its water use licence and waste management licence.
“Amsa’s land was found to be contaminated, and tar and tar remnants were found in and around Amsa Vanderbijlpark’s operations,” Koyama said