Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance scores court victory against ArcelorMittal, setting important precedent on community access to corporate environmental records

In a hard-hitting judgement handed down on 26 November 2014, South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal ordered ArcelorMittal South Africa Ltd (AMSA) to release various environmental records to the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance (VEJA), and to pay the communities’ legal costs...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”. Media and academic items on this story as well as the full judgement are provided below.

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Article
26 December 2014

So. Africa: Media coverage of the ArcelorMittal v Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance case regarding access to company environmental records

Author: Centre for Environmental Rights

Media coverage:

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Article
26 December 2014

So. Africa: Supreme Court of Appeal Judgement in the matter of ArcelorMittal v Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance

Author: Supreme Court of Appeal

'Company Secretary of Arcelormittal South Africa v Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance (69/2014) [2014] ZASCA 184', 26 Nov 2014: This case is adjudicated against the following backdrop. First, the world...is becoming increasingly ecologically sensitive. Second, citizens in democracies around the world are growing alert to the dangers of a culture of secrecy and unresponsiveness, both in respect of governments and in relation to corporations...The present litigation stems from a refusal by...ArcelorMittal South Africa (AM)...[to provide] Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance...[with] information relating to AM’s...activities...and strategic approach to the protection of the environment in the...areas..in which the...[company] operate[s] a major steel plant...The present litigation represents...two competing interests, namely industrial activity and its concomitant significance for the country’s development and economy, as against concerns about the preservation of the environment for the benefit of present and future generations...

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Article
26 November 2014

So. Africa: Court documents in the matter ArcelorMittal v Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance

Author: Centre for Environmental Rights

Company Secretary, ArcelorMittal SA and another v Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance

Court Papers:

  • High Court of South Africa Judgement application to compel disclosure of records under PAIA (10 September 2013): here
  • Notice of Motion and founding affidavit: part 1, part 2 & confirmatory affidavit
  • Respondent’s affidavits: answering affidavit and confirmatory affidavit
  • Applicant’s replying affidavit here
  • Annexures to applicant’s replying affidavit here
  • Applicant’s heads of argument here
  • Respondent’s heads of argument here
  • Legislation considered:
    • Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 here
    • National Environmental Management Act, 1998 here
    • Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2000 here

In early October 2013, ArcelorMittal South Africa (AMSA) gave notice of its intention to appeal the judgement of the South Gauteng High Court. ArcelorMittal obtained leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of  Appeal (SCA) on 9 December 2013:

  • ArcelorMittal leave to appeal application here
  • Leave to appeal judgement (9 Dec 2013) here
  • Notice of appeal (4 Feb 2014) here
  • ArcelorMittal heads of argument (20 June 2014)here
  • Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance heads of argument (21 Jul 2014) here

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Article
26 November 2014

So. Africa: Victory for Vaal communities as Supreme Court of Appeal orders ArcelorMittal to release environmental records

Author: Centre for Environmental Rights

'Victory for Vaal communities as the Supreme Court of Appeals orders ArcelorMittal to release environmental records’, 26 Nov 2014:...[T]he Supreme Court of Appeal [has] ordered ArcelorMittal South Africa...(AMSA) to release...environmental records to the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance (VEJA), and...pay the communities’ legal costs...The SCA...stat[ed] that “Corporations… must be left in no doubt that...constitutional values will be enforced”...[and] highlighted the “dangers of a culture of secrecy and unresponsiveness”... berat[ing]...AMSA’s “obstructive and contrived”, “disingenuous” approach in which it had “feigned ignorance”...The judgement highlights AMSA’s history of environmental impacts, pointing out that such impacts are of public interest and importance, and do not only affect persons and communities in the immediate vicinity of its facilities...The judgement recognises “the importance of consultation and interaction with the public...[and affirms VEJA’s right] “to monitor the operations of [AMSA] and its effects on the environment”...Samson Mokoena, Coordinator at VEJA, states: “This has been a long struggle. This judgement confirms...that we have a Constitutional right to know what AMSA’s impacts are on our health and the environment.  Polluting companies like AMSA can no longer to try to hide this kind of information.”...

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