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Centre for Environmental Rights – Advancing Environmental Rights in South Africa

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Advocating for greater transparency in governance and for swift and easy access to information.

ArcelorMittal South Africa’s Environmental Master Plan

Company Secretary of ArcelorMittal South Africa Ltd and another v Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance

In this case the CER represented the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance (VEJA), a community organisation that had been trying to gain access to information for more than a decade regarding the environmental impact of ArcelorMittal (AMSA) (formerly Iscor) on the land surrounding the Vanderbijlpark plant.VEJA approached attorneys at the CER to act on VEJA’s behalf to use the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) formally to request disclosure of a large environmental impact study commissioned by Iscor (the so-called Environmental Master Plan). Records relating to the closure and rehabilitation of AMSA’s Vaal Disposal Site were also requested. AMSA refused both requests, arguing that VEJA had no right to access the documents. VEJA then applied to the High Court, which, in 2013, upheld VEJA’s arguments and ordered AMSA to release the documents. Instead, AMSA appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).

In a hard-hitting judgement handed down on 26 November 2014, the SCA ordered AMSA to release the Master Plan and other records to VEJA, and to pay VEJA’s legal costs.

The SCA made a number of critical findings in relation to AMSA’s lack of good faith in its engagement with VEJA and the discrepancies between AMSA’s shareholder communications and its actual conduct. The SCA also emphasised the importance of corporate transparency in relation to environmental issues, stating that “Corporations operating within our borders… must be left in no doubt that, in relation to the environment in circumstances such as those under discussion, there is no room for secrecy and that constitutional values will be enforced”.