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'Green Scorpions' swoop

By unknown | Mar 16, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Mary Papayya

Mary Papayya

The Foskor phosphate mine in Richards Bay on the KwaZulu-Natal north coast was yesterday visited by 30 environmental management inspectors conducting a two-day compliance inspection.

The visit by the inspectors, also known as the "Green Scorpions", follows allegations that the state-owned plant had been in serious breach of environmental legislation over the past five years.

Also present were KwaZulu-Natal MEC for agriculture and environmental affairs, Mtholepi Mthimkulu, and officials from the national and provincial environmental management inspectorate as well as the uMhlathuze local municipality.

Alfred Pitse, chief executive of Foskor, said measures had been taken to prevent incidents at the plant and to ensure a safe working environment.

"As a government-owned entity, we are obliged to adhere to safety rules and preserve the environment," he said.

"The safety of our employees and surrounding communities is a priority we cannot compromise."

In July 2002 there was a major sulphur emission at the plant that resulted in more than 200 people being admitted to hospital.

One person, Ruth Dube, died in the incident. Since then about eight similar accidents have taken place there, with the latest being earlier this month.

Pitse said: "In all the incidents, we engaged all the stakeholders to identify what the causes were. And we have always taken corrective measures.

"We have achieved 99,9percent compliance with safety regulations."

Mthimkhulu said his presence at the mine did not imply the government was adopting a "big-stick approach" to enforcing environmental laws.

He said he was merely there "to satisfy myself that there is compliance with the relevant legislation in the wake of the numerous incidents that have taken place in the past".


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