Amsa says it is undertaking efforts to decarbonise despite heavy criticism

Published May 31, 2024


ArcelorMittal South Africa (Amsa), which was recently caught up in a global strike action regarding emissions from its operations, is undertaking efforts to minimise its climate risks although some lobby groups allege the company was struggling to attain this.

Last month the Fair Steel Coalition, representing South African communities where Amsa has steel manufacturing operations in South Africa, staged protests against the alleged environmental pollution by the steel producer.

The protests were staged at the Luxembourg head office of ArcelorMittal, the parent company for Amsa.

Following Amsa’s annual general meeting (AGM) last week, Just Share – a shareholder activist group – said Amsa was South Africa’s third-largest carbon emitter.

However, Amsa told Business Report yesterday that it had put in place a robust set of mitigation actions to address climate related risks.

The largest steelmaker in the country said these included “advocacy to influence the development of an effective policy framework for industry emitters tailored for economic and other realities” faced by South Africa.

In emailed responses to Business Report questions yesterday, Amsa spokesperson Tami Didiza said they were seeking to “ensure that carbon prices stay aligned to technological advances” through engagements with South African policymakers so as to remain sustainable and within the context of a just transition.

“Our risk management process enables us to understand our exposure to existing and new emerging risks and to build appropriate resilience and recovery plans,” Didiza said.

“We developed unique water-saving and supply processes and technologies, for example, zero effluent discharge.”

However, according to Emma Schuster, senior climate risk analyst at Just Share, Amsa’s long-term sustainability was under serious challenge.

Other campaigners for a cleaner environment said Amsa belches out a daily dose of hydrogen sulphide from some of its operations, a charge that the company refutes, previously saying its “carbon emissions are minimal” while they have been peer-reviewed, with “no health impact” on communities.

“Amsa is facing a huge challenge when it comes to decarbonising its operations but the opportunities are also significant, including an increasing demand for green direct reduced iron, for which South Africa is well-placed to become a major supplier,” Schuster told Business Report in an interview.

She added that Amsa was “already facing serious challenges to its financial and long-term sustainability” and could not “afford to spend capital on extremely expensive and highly questionable” carbon reduction technologies.

The increasing demand for green direct reduced iron and South Africa’s strategic positioning to capitalise on this, however, requires companies such as Amsa “to be highly strategic and focused on positioning to take advantage” of the demand.

“At the moment Amsa’s decarbonisation plans, especially in the medium to long term, are rather uncertain. It has a significant focus on carbon capture and utilisation (CCU), for example,” explained Schuster.

“But none of the many CCU ‘pilot projects’ anywhere in the world have been successful in the development of commercially viable CCU, at scale.“

Amsa held an AGM on Friday, with attendants saying the company failed to respond to detailed questions regarding its carbon emissions and progress.

Amsa has previously said it openly engages on issues related to its carbon emissions.

Amsa told Business Report that its planned installation of 200MW of embedded solar power at the Vanderbijlpark works had progressed according to plan.

The project was geared to fulfil about 43% of Vanderbijlpark’s electricity requirement, while strengthening the local Vaal grid.

It also plans to commission an electric arc furnace at Vanderbijlpark by 2030, while last year the company invested R6.5 million capital expenditure in energy-efficiency projects.