Bench Marks report re ArcelorMittal So. Africa and company response - 2013
In November 2013, Bench Marks Foundation of South Africa issued a report accusing ArcelorMittal of showing "little respect for the health and wellbeing of communities surrounding its operations, nor for...workers". Research for the report "was done in collaboration with the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance (VEJA)" in the Vaal Triangle (Gauteng & Free State Provinces).
Bench Marks stated, "the company has ignored a court order to hand over its environmental master plan as well as details pertaining to its Vaal disposal site...where it illegally dumped hazardous waste in 2007..." Caroline Ntaopane of VEJA stated that VEJA repeatedly requested this information from ArcelorMittal since 2011, but the company did not provide it. Besides pollution, the report also raised concerns about worker health & safety, other labour rights, and further community impacts of the firm's environmental and labour practices. Bench Marks noted compnay contributions to the community, but Bishop Jo Seoka, chair of Bench Marks, asked, “What good is painting the community hall when people are living in houses with roofs made of asbestos, or are inhaling toxic dust and drinking polluted water, or living without basic necessities such as toilets, water & lights?”
Bench Marks wrote, "the company would not meet with [our] researchers or complete the questionnaire relating to the research report or allow interviews." The report recommends that the company call in national health agencies, environmental NGOs and the South African Human Rights Commission to investigate and deal with the company's impacts.
The company issued a response to Bench Marks, with sections on "Background on Interaction with VEJA", "Pollution under control", "Safety is our priority", "Bursaries" and "Stakeholder Engagement" - see below.
Report & statements by Bench Marks Foundation
"Steel giant still resisting transparency" [PDF], 28 Nov 2013
"ArcelorMittal’s actions seriously questioned by monitoring organisation" [PDF], 28 Nov 2013
"Bench Marks accuses ArcelorMittal SA of pervasive harm", Dineo Faku, IOL Business Report (So. Africa), 29 Nov 2013
"Report questions steel firm ArcelorMittal’s social responsibility", Sue Blaine, Business Day (So. Africa), 29 Nov 2013
ArcelorMittal South Africa response
"ArcelorMittal South Africa responds to the Bench Marks Foundation report", 28 Nov 2013
Excerpt of the response:
- ArcelorMittal South Africa has not recorded a fatality in more than two years and injuries are at a historic low.
- More than R1 billion has been spent in the past five years on environmental improvements at our facilities.
- Minimum dust emissions at Vereeniging Works since installation of R230 million dust extraction system in 2010.
- A list of ex-employees was submitted by VEJA to ArcelorMittal South Africa for medical assessment and feedback has been given to the organisation.
- ArcelorMittal South Africa’s operations are driven by a need to comply with relevant environmental legislation.
- ArcelorMittal South Africa’s CSR spend has delivered amongst others four schools, three science centres and a wellness clinic for thousands of residents in areas surrounding our operations."