Limpopo coal plant project may be abandoned

The plant was planned in Limpopo province – pictured. (Wikimedia Commons)

A plan to build a privately-owned coal-fired power plant in South Africa has been set back and may be abandoned after it lost its environmental approval and shareholders ditched the project.

The environmental approval for the Thabametsi plant in Limpopo Province was set aside this month, and, should project backers decide to go ahead, it could take years to secure a new approval, said a lawyer representing environmentalists who opposed the plant.

“Its hard to say whether this means this is the end of the project entirely,” said Nicole Loser, a lawyer at Cape Town’s Centre for Environmental Rights, who represented environmental activists in the case, which has taken five years. “If they want to go ahead, that environmental assessment will need to be considered essentially afresh.”

The victory comes as coal-fired power plants face increasing opposition in South Africa, where they account for almost all the electricity produced. The country produces the same amount of greenhouse gases as the U.K., which has an economy eight times larger.

The 557 megawatt plant has also lost most of its financial backers. The Public Investment Corp., Africa’s biggest fund manager, said it has abandoned a plan to invest while Marubeni Corp. and the Industrial Development Corp. were reported by Reuters to have done the same.

South Africa’s environment ministry didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

(By Lwazi Maseko)

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