||Polluting industries singled out at green group’s ceremony
The Grim Reaper has spoken. Civil society will not tolerate dirty
industry. That was the gist of the 2006 Corpse Awards on Friday night,
with the master of ceremonies dressed up as the Reaper, which recognised
corporate bad practice, corporate greenwash and compliant government
Organised by environmental watchdog organisation groundWork and the
Centre for Civil Society at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the Corpse
Awards received nominations from workers, people living next door to
corporate plants, and civil society organisations concerned about the
“trashing” of people and environments, explained groundWork director
“All the nominated businesses boasted a stellar commitment to corporate
social responsibility and the environment. Some have even won awards for
environmental and social reporting,” Peek said.
But none of them have actually convinced their workers and neighbours
who live with the burden of ill-health that their intentions or their
actions that their efforts amount to much, Peek said.
Taking home the It Wasn’t Me award was Pietermaritzburg oil refinery FFS
Refiners following a decade of complaints from residents about “dirty
oily petrol chemical smells”. Air samples taken outside the facility
indicated the presence of benzene, p-xylene, hydrogen sulphide, toluene,
ethyl benzene, xylene, methyl ethyl ketone, tetrachloroethane, and
styrene, all chemicals associated with the oil refinery industry,
despite the company’s insistence that their “world-class facilities”
operate “under stringent environmental management systems and are ISO
The national Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) gets
a supporting actor award for refusing to meet with residents in
Pietermaritzburg to hear their concerns and for ignoring demands that
the FFS Refineries operation permit be made available for scrutiny by
the Msunduzi Municipality. The KZN Department of Agriculture and
Environmental Affairs also gets a supporting actor award, for granting
FFS Refineries a positive record of decision on their development
despite concerns raised by civil society.
Winning the Privatising Public Participation Award was the south Durban
Engen oil refinery, thanks to its notorious record in local communities.
Municipal air pollution monitoring has verified the problem. Over the
last two years, Engen’s pollution has exceeded the health guidelines
values on more than 400 occasions.
Peek said Engen and the provincial KZN DAEA have “privatised” public
participation by claiming that “public meetings are not a constructive
method of public participation” in the Environmental Impact Assessment
process, in which complaints arose about Engen’s increasing use of the
dangerous catalyst hydrofluoric acid.
The uncoveted Do you Think We’re Stupid Award went to South Africa’s
cement industry. “Deploying a similar abuse of the English language, our
own cement firms have launched a grand frontal attack on the brains of
politicians, claiming that it is good for the environment to incinerate
hazardous waste from energy-intensive industries. They call hazardous
waste an “alternative fuel” and aim to upgrade and expand their
activities for the huge stadiums required for the 2010 World Cup. If we
can afford the tickets, we will watch the games high up in stadiums
constructed by cement made from hazardous waste,” Peek said.
The Smoked Out at Last Award went to Chevron Oil Refinery, formerly
known as Caltex, which was nominated by the Table View Residents’
Association. Air samples there have picked up high levels of benzene and
other chemicals. Members of the association reported that refinery
management has been arrogant and in the past indicated that “they will
continue to pollute because their permit allows them”.
The Mangling the Workers award went to Samancor Manganese Pty Limited,
for poisoning workers with manganese. The company is based in the
infamous Vaal Triangle and has been nominated by the Samancor Retrenched
Workers Crisis Committee.
The Loot the Minerals and Bloodstain the Soil award went to AngloGold
Ashanti, after nominations came in from mining communities, not only
Carletonville’s Tautona mine, which, according to trade unions, “had an
‘unrelenting scenario of fatalities’ — 11 in 2006”, but from Colombia as
The Baying For Your Rice award went to Bayer Cropscience, which Peek
said is bankrolling the South African Sugarcane Research Institution, to
test GM sugar varieties. “Because of rejection of GMOs by consumers
around the world, Bayer Cropscience has been forced out of the UK,
withdrew its plans to commercialise GM canola in Australia, and has
abandoned its research in India. Now, the company is busy illegally
contaminating the world’s rice supply,” he said.
Picking the Public Pocket Award went to Paladin Resources, an Australian
uranium mining company, which is proposing to mine uranium in Malawi
against the wishes of a range of civil organisations.