Helter skelter Coega ferro-manganese smelter February 9, 2007Posted by Andreas in "The Economy", Coega, rant, South Africa.
Oh joy of joys, my favourite industrial development zone, Coega (near Port Elizabeth) has secured yet another major investor.
Earlier this year I bemoaned the impact that the recently announced Alcan aluminium smelter at Coega will have. Now it’s a ferro-manganese smelter. Sorry, let me rephrase that, it’s a multi-billion rand ferro-manganese smelter!
Plans are to build
[…] a 1,5-million ton per annum manganese mine and sinter plant in the Kuruman area of the Northern Cape […] and a ferro-manganese alloy production facility in Coega.
[t]his project will almost certainly mean a speedy upgrade of the railway link between Coega and the Northern Cape.
Sounds great, hey!? Jobs, investment, infra-structure and “a women-led broad-based black empowerment company” (Kalahari Resources).
Take a closer look and things don’t look quite so rosy. For one, it turns out that occupational manganese exposure can be quite nasty:
Chronic exposure to manganese can result in symptoms similar to Parkinson’s Disease, a serious and progressive impairment or deterioration of nerve cells in the brain. Common characteristics of manganism, the chronic exposure to high levels of manganese, can include:
- Slow movements
- Leg cramps
- Poor balance
- Walking problems
And it’s not even like we have no experience with these sorts of health risks in South Africa. On Wednesday, Tony Carnie reported in The Mercury that
[t]he labour department is investigating the death of a foreman and about 20 suspected cases of manganese metal poisoning among factory workers in Cato Ridge, north of Durban.
The investigation follows the death of 49-year-old father of three Freddy Wright, and the discovery of least five cases of a highly debilitating brain and nerve system illness among staff at the Assmang ferromanganese smelter.
Occupational health and injury attorney Richard Spoor believes the manganese poisoning cases discovered so far may be the tip of an iceberg of illnesses […]
Great, lets have more of that. I did mention the jobs and the multi-billion rand investment, didn’t I.
[Why do the media report on related issues as though there is no connection? Here’s another recent example.]
When I look at Coega (and Richards Bay and Saldanha Bay and Mozal…), what I see are coastal draining points connected to the inland via sophisticated infra-structure from which valuable resources are extracted and injected into the world-wide corporate matrix.
From the land to the multi-national companies. From “the people” to the multi-millionaire “entrepreneurs”.
It’s called globalisation. It used to be called colonialism.