Sappi has agreed to remove gypsum contaminated with coal fly ash before Friday 26th of September from the river banks of the Umkomasi River near Amanzimtoti. This follows a telephonic conversation between Chris Fourie from AfriForum and Peter Morris general Manager from the plant.
On the 22nd of September Afriforum carried out an inspection and found that Sappi was transporting fly ash contaminated gypsum from the storage area to the plant offloading it on the riverbank. The storage facility became under investigation after a local environmentalist Les Spens lodge a complaint concerning uncontrolled coal fly ash and ash on the site. The concerns were raised on the possible illegal storage facility after environmentalists found the toxic ash been supplied to unauthorised block yards. The block yards were situated on river banks and streams where toxic ash leached into the water ways. Afriforum, an NGO group representing minority rights in South Africa, was called in to assist environmentalists to stop the environmental contamination, and possible disaster.
During a meeting held at Sappi between sappi management and myself, Mr. Craig Daniel admitted that the so called gypsum heap was contaminated with fly ash. Sappi committed to move all ash to a safe location in Durban (40km) away. They however decided to move the ash heap into their plant and out of sight of the environmentalist groups. Afriforum confronted them this afternoon and instructed them to clean the ash next to the river up immediately.
AfriForum will investigate on Friday to determine if the company has kept their agreement.
Possible legal steps will follow if the agreement is once again not upheld.