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Greenpeace activists arrested at Kusile coal station

Staff Reporter

Three Greenpeace activists have been arrested at the Kusile power station's construction site in Mpumalanga after scaling a crane.

Three Greenpeace activists were arrested at the Kusile power station’s construction site in Mpumalanga on Monday after scaling a crane.

Six activists gained entry to the site around 10am and climbed a crane, said Eskom spokesperson Hilary Joffe.

“We are most concerned about the safety of all on site and cannot condone illegal entry, nor the climbing of a crane.”

Greenpeace spokesperson Fiona Musana said the three were charged with forced entry and taken to the Ogies police station. By noon, police were still trying to remove the remaining activists. They gained access through the back of the site.

A group of about 20 activists demonstrated at the gates of the new power station, in Emalahleni, early on Monday morning, with seven chaining themselves to the gate.

They were protesting against South Africa’s reliance on the burning of coal to generate electricity, which emits greenhouse gases.

Greenpeace claims in a recent document that Kusile’s external and hidden costs could be between R31.2-billion and R60.6-billion a year.

The Greenpeace-commissioned True Cost of Coal report was compiled by the University of Pretoria and released at the end of October.

It investigated the actual costs of Kusile’s entire coal chain, from climate change to water use, the impact on health and the damaging effects of coal mining.

“If Kusile was a country, it would be the fifth most polluting country in the world. It’s not sustainable. The impact [of R60-billion] on South Africans would be devastating,” Musana said.

“Eskom is reluctant to speak with us… we want to hand over a memorandum with the report findings. We want a just transition from coal to renewable energy as it’s a win-win situation in terms of job creation, the climate and energy.”

Eskom earlier welcomed a protest over cleaner energy as long as it was peaceful and didn’t disrupt operations.

“An important part though is that we don’t apologise for building two large coal-fired stations. We are a developing country with a great need for economic growth and job creation,” Joffe said.

“We need a secure and affordable supply of electricity in the short and long term, and coal is part of that future. We need to balance that supply with reducing emissions.”

Kusile is expected to add 4 800 megawatts to the power grid on completion in 2017. The Medupi power station, being built in Lephalale, Limpopo, will add another 4 800 megawatts of coal-powered energy.

The stations would use advanced technology to burn less coal for the same amount of energy and achieve reduced emissions. Air quality would be improved by removing oxides of sulphur from exhaust gases released into the atmosphere.—Sapa

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