CCS Events
CCS Libraries
About CCS
CCS Projects
CCS Highlights

Publication Details

Gausdal, L & Sharife, K (2011) Quick and Dirty - But Not Cheap: South Africa’s Minerals-Energy Complex. Pre-COP 17 Meeting, Durban, November 25-26 : 1-23.

In late November South Africa (Durban) will host world governments committed to tackling the problem of climate change at the 17th annual Conference of the Parties (COP17).

COP17 falls under the umbrella of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a convention that emerged from the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992.

Governments that ratified the convention – presently over 190 signatories, are known as the ‘Parties’ and meet annually at the COP. The spirit of the UNFCCC is underpinned by two principles: i) common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, and ii) polluter pays. The question at the heart of the COP17 meeting is greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions. The UNFCCC’s Kyoto Protocol, finalised in Japan (1997) legally binds 37 industrialised nations (known as Annex 1 countries) to cut emissions, while developing nations like South Africa are excluded.

But even as South Africa talks the green talk, actions prove otherwise evidenced in the construction of the third- and fourth-largest coal-fired power plants in the world (Kusile and Medupi) for the benefit of large mining houses such as BHP Billiton, accessing what is claimed to be the cheapest electricity in the world thanks to four decade-long apartheid-era negotiated ‘discount’ deals.

As this article unpacks, at the cost of R125 billion, Medupi alone - pegged to generate 4800MW - is estimated to emit more than 30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, places it ahead of 115 countries globally, once operation begins in 2012. Ironically, the Uppington solar plant – forecast to produce 5000MW of solar energy, has been slated as a ‘private sector’ project (NPR 2010).

Beyond emissions, the nation faces a crisis arguably more immediate than climate change: acid mine drainage (AMD) – the ‘by-product’ of the country’s colonial and apartheid-era history rooted in exploitation of lucrative finite resources, such as gold, uranium and coal. Not only does AMD, constituting about 88% of waste generated in SA, threaten to contaminate scarce water resources in a country where the water crisis is not looming, but already present; but it simultaneously catalyses ecosystem destruction and the externalisation of the true costs of the ‘world’s cheapest electricity’ – coal.

Though the costs of mitigating water pollution has been pegged at R360 billion over the next 15 years by one specialist report unpacked below, the real costs – to the ecosystem (including land, air, water resources), citizen, and labour health and safety; and commercial ventures such as agriculture, is incalculable.

Despite these profound realities, and others – such as overestimated coal reserves, the government has embarked on a programme of continuing South Africa’s uneven development, rooted in the apartheid-era formulated ‘minerals-energy complex’ (MEC) via the seven-year long R440 billion coal- expansion programme – and this, in the name of the people.

Read Publication 
 cast your net a little wider...
 Radical Philosophy 
 African Studies Association (USA)  
 New Dawn Engineering 
 Indymedia Radio 
 Southern Africa Report online 
 Online Anti Apartheid Periodicals, 1960 - 1994 
 Autonomy & Solidarity 
 New Formulation 
 We Write 
 International Journal of Socialist Renewal 
 Journal of African Philosophy 
 British Library for Development Studies 
 The Nordic Africa Institute Online Library 
 Political Economy Research Institute Bulletin (PERI) 
 Feminist Africa 
 Jacques Depelchin's Tribute to Harold Wolpe 
 African Studies Quarterly 
 The Industrial Workers of the World 
 Anarchist Archives 
 Wholewheat Radio 
 Transformation: Critical Perspectives on Southern Africa  
 Zanon Workers 
 Public Citizen  
 Open Directory Project 
 Big noise films 
 London Review of Books  
 New York Review of Books 
 Monthly Review 
 New Left Review 
 Bureau of Public Secrets  
 Zed Books 
 Pluto Press 
 Duke University Press  
 Abe Books 
 The Electric Book Company 
 Project Guttenberg 
 Newspeak Dictionary 
 Feral Script Kiddies 
 Go Open Source 
 Source Forge 
 Ubuntu Linux Home Page 
 Software for Apple Computers 

|  Contact Information  |  Terms of Use  |  Privacy