Over the last few months, we at the Bench Marks Foundation have been following the environmental disaster at Zululand Anthracite Colliery (ZAC) and the subsequent involvement of many government agencies in an attempt to get ZAC to clean up its mess.
Your article published on May 13 and headlined ‘Slurry clean-up completed to DMRE’s satisfaction’ states that ZAC "reports that the coal slurry clean-up has been completed successfully to the satisfaction of the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE)”. Presenting reports is one thing, but this is usually followed by a process of verification, which often takes much longer.
While it is presented that the clean-up has been done and meets with the satisfaction of the DMRE, the article contains no comment from the DMRE or the affected community. If the company did in fact get a clean bill of health, why was the DMRE not quoted as doing this? Why were the views of affected communities not solicited or quoted?
We were particularly surprised to read that, taking the words of ZAC environmental superintendent Msawenkosi Buthelezi, “there was no environmental degradation in the Black Umfolozi river”. Yet the various government agencies investigating the matter did not get a voice in your article.
The Bench Marks Foundation has obtained a copy of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) application from attorney Kirsen Youens from All Rise, the attorneys for Climate and Environmental Justice. They further inform us that they have lodged the request for information on behalf of the Global Environmental Trust, a nongovernmental organisation that has been engaged in the impacted areas of Hluhluwe/Mfolozi Park for at least ten years as well as the mining-affected communities.
They sent the PAIA request in February 2022 and we believe the company requested additional time, promising to obtain all the documents by the end of March. Sadly, All Rise have informed us that they have yet to receive the information they and the community urgently need.
These issues were not reported in your ‘story’. Since it was presented as a news story and not an advertorial, the writer was obliged to follow the guidelines of the Press Council for writing news.
Bench Marks Foundation
* When asked to comment on this letter, ZAC responded as follows: “DMRE site inspectors expressed satisfaction with the progress made when they visited the site. ZAC has continued to file reports to all relevant authorities, including the DMRE, regarding the successful handling of the spill.”