This compilation of research from various institutions details the environmental and social harm caused by South Africa’s coal industry. The report provides detailed analysis of the social, gender, and environmental impacts of coal mining and identifies the failures of South Africa’s social and environmental policy frameworks.
Coal regions such as Highveld and Mpumalanga, which contain the largest fertile lands in the country and were once an important source of fresh water, have been reduced to “toxic lands.” Several essays in the report criticize the government’s failure to regulate air pollution, calling for tighter regulatory oversight and a new focus on sustainability founded in economic, social, and environmental justice. The report criticizes the lack of enforcement of the Social and Labor Plans (SLPs) that coal companies must submit to win mining licenses. The Centre for Applied Legal Studies outlines the absence of community involvement or transparency in such plans, which often means communities have no access to them. Two organizations, groundWork and Friends of the Earth South Africa, call for a just transition as the only way forward for South Africans. An appendix in the report includes recommended links to reports and studies by other environmental groups.