Amsa, Africa’s largest steel producer, told shareholders yesterday of an intention to institute criminal proceedings against it on three alleged transgressions of its Atmospheric Emissions Licence (AEL) at Vanderbijlpark.
If found guilty on all three charges, Amsa will be fined a maximum of R15 million.
It told investors that the summons instituting criminal proceedings was served on the company on Saturday.
“There are three charges, two of which relate to the alleged conduct of certain activities without an AEL and one relating to the alleged failure to adhere to the AEL by exceeding certain minimum emission standards,” the company said.
It said that it had obtained legal advice from senior counsel regarding these matters and will now adhere to the relevant legal processes that will follow.
“As a responsible corporate citizen ArcelorMittal South Africa believes that it should always be mindful that the business of the company should be conducted in a responsible and ethical manner. The company remains committed to focusing on and improving its social, economic, financial and environmental performance to ensure a sustainable organisation,” it said.
Since 2004, South African companies which produce atmospheric emissions have been required to have an effective air quality management plan, and are required to adhere to the national emission standards. Certain plants like Vanderbijlpark producing emissions are required to also follow through with AEL applications if they want to operate legally and with environmental and human health responsibility.
Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance coordinator Samson Mokoena yesterday welcomed the criminal charges, saying communities in the Vaal had suffered the effects of pollution from Amsa’s Vanderbijlpark plant for many decades.
“The charges are overdue. Amsa has been taking the government for a ride, especially because of weak implementation of the law. Sasol, Eskom and Amsa need to adhere to AEL standards and have decided not to comply. The government must take radical steps against non compliance. Non-compliance means the Vaal Triangle will remain polluted by the industry, which continues to ignore the law,” said Mokeona.
Local environmental justice group, the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance, together with local communities from Sebokeng, Boipatong, Bophelong and Sharpeville, protested outside Amsa’s Vanderbijlpark premises last month to raise concerns about emissions.
The company said in its 2018 annual report despite spending R340 million on a new coke gas-cleaning facility in 2010, Vanderbijlpark had continued to experience technical and operational challenges with this facility.
In May 2018 the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development issued a pre-compliance notice relating to Vanderbijlpark’s AEL and authorisation concerning the gas-cleaning plant. The company said prior to receiving this notice, it had begun working on plans to improve performance of the plant.
It said it had responded to the pre-compliance notice, by explaining in detail the unforeseen difficulties experienced at the gas-cleaning facility and proposed improving and rebuilding the facility, to be fully operational within two-and-a-half years.