afrol News / Savana, 20 November - The large aluminium smelter Mozal, set up as a major Mozambique industry investment by foreign capital, is emitting polluting fumes and dusts emissions bypassing filters. Complaints are ignored.
Mozal has started emitting unfiltered pollution to be able to reconstruct its run-down fume treatment building. Environmentalists call Mozal's announcement on Monday to start its polluting operations "arrogant" and "illegal".
The Mozal plant, located in the outskirts of the Mozambican capital Maputo, on Wednesday started emitting fumes and dusts, bypassing the filters that should protect the environment and local residents from pollution. Mozal thus ignored an upcoming decision from the Maputo Administrative Tribunal on whether its pollution was legal or not.
The Tribunal has yet to comment on a request for injunction, put forward to it by six environmentalist groups: Livaningo, Environmental Justice, Centro Terra Viva, Kulima, Mozambican Human Rights League, and the Centre for Public Integrity. The coalition believes that the court should, referring to public interest, cancel the authorisation given by the Mozambican government to operate bypassing the filters.
"This decision by Mozal is arrogant and illegal," said Antonio Reina, director of the local environmental group Livaningo.
"It is arrogant to announce the start the bypass in a five-line press release without any legal justification. And it is illegal because there is a case pending before the Administrative Tribunal," Mr Reina told the independent Mozambican weekly 'Savana'.
Among other things, the coalition is demanding to see the full text of the environmental impact studies carried out before the start-up of the smelter, carry out an independent study, and establish a formal mechanism for consultation with the public and other stakeholders.
Besides the injunction, the environmentalist coalition has sent a formal complaint to the Social Responsibility Index (SRI) of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. The mining company BHP Billiton, the largest shareholder ar Mozal, holds the second position at the SRI.
The fact that Mozal
Mozambique's Mozal smelter produces large quantities of aluminium
has allowed its emission treatment centre to corrode to such a point that it will take six months to reconstruct it, indicates "high negligence by Mozal," says the complaint sent to SRI.
Corl Le Roux, a representative of the SRI, confirmed that the Johannesburg institution is currently investigating a complaint against BHP Billiton.
The SRI sets the parameters of "good practice" regarding environmental and social responsibility and ranks companies according to this. It therefore helps investors to make decisions and companies listed at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange to achieve a balance between profit and social and environmental responsibility.
The environmentalist coalition has also sent a complaint to the other investors of Mozal, such as Mitsubishi, the European Investment Bank and the US-based International Finance Corporation (IFC). The IFC has financed part of the mega-project worth US$ 1.34 billion established ten years ago.
Vanessa Cabanelas of Environmental Justice invited the ombudsman of IFC to visit Maputo in December to investigate the case.
Meanwhile, Mozambique's Environment Minister Alcinda Abreu told the Maputo parliament that Mozal must be allowed time to rebuild its corroded fume treatment centre. There was currently a serious risk that these buildings would collapse, causing a human and environmental catastrophe, Ms Abreu warned.
She added that, to be able to rebuild the fume treatment centre, Mozal would need to bypass filters during the 137 days the reconstruction would take, meanwhile allowing the emissions from the carbon plant to flow directly into the atmosphere via a 62 metre tall chimney.
Minister Abreu told MPs the government permission to bypass filters was "the most viable solution that would defend the health of the public and the environment." A Mozal study from April had reached the conclusion that there was no viable alternative to the bypass.
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