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tv   Earth Focus  LINKTV  November 29, 2021 7:30am-8:01am PST

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[water dripping] [indistinct chatter] man: just watch your steps, yeah? voice-over: most of the people that work here, they used to work at mines before. so when the mine decides to shut down, they have nothing to do but to go down there and dig for themselves. [coal crunching underfoot] man 2: we find that coal is our national resources. it's the only thing that can generate electricity at this point in time. woman: the owner of the mines are here to get profit. they
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don't care what going on with the communities. man 2: any activity by human beings will somehow, you know, like, change the ecosystem that we operate in. zulu: where the guys work, it's way, way, way too far. i think we can--about 1.5 kilometer. man, voice-over: yes, south africa does have mountains of coal, but we also have mountains of asbestos, and we decide to leave asbestos in the ground where it belongs. man 2, voice-over: where the coal mines and the power stations are located is amongst one of the most polluted areas on earth. man 3, voice-over: a very, very large cost to coal-mining. you're basically signing death warrants for people who live there. zulu: the people here are working just to put food on
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the table. there, they just have to survive. [camera lens clicking] announcer: "earth focus" is made possible in part by a grant from anne ray foundation--a margaret a. cargill philanthropy-- the orange county community foundation, and the farvue foundation. [distant rumbling]
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man: and we've got 17 coal fields in south africa, and more than half of them are bunched together on mpumalanga highveld. it's called the central basin. in our research, we have spoken to many people. i think this is really bad on the ground. it's really, really bad. woman: there are two mines here. that one is the old mine. if you can see the dust that is coming out when they are blasting, you
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can even smell it. even if you wipe yourself like this, you-- there's a black dust in your hand. so what about if you inhale it? [distant chatter] [child's congested coughing] woman: i moved to mpumalanga highveld for better future. i've worked in the mines, and i was affected with sinus while i was working there. in 2013, i got my firstborn. [coughing continues] woman: so he gets sick, is struggling to breathe. he was admitted at the hospital. they diagnosed him with bronchitis asthma. i visited one doctor and asked why, so he told me, "the area that you are living in is too dirty, so most of the kids are affectedith asthma because they're inhaling dirty air."
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2015, i get my second-born. 6 months down the line, she was admitted at the hospital, having the very same signs. they sometimes struggle to breathe and they struggle to speak. sometimes they don't breathe at all. you can even see that she or he's gone. munnick: we know from international studies that a range of about two kilometers around each power station, the soil is enriched in heavy metals that come out of the coal. there's sizable pollution, and for a long time, i know, you know, since the late eighties, i think wee known that we were equal to what was in east germany in the bad air quality on the highveld. and there's something called a [indistinct], which is a test you do before you get employment, mostly at
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power stations and in the mines, and locals tell us that they regularly fail the [indistinct] test because they've grown up in a very polluted area. as they've grown up, they're unfit for work. [birds chirping] [tau coughs]
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munnick: this pollution was particulate matter, primary explanations of all the respiratory problems that we see on the highveld--particulate matter 2.5, small enough to get very deep into your lungs. [overlapping chatter] rachel mokgtsana: 30% of the patient around this [indistinct], they are suffering from asthma because of the--what you call the pollution that is from the [indistinct] around us. we have asthmatic patient, we have t.b. patient, h.i.v. patient, and so on.
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mathabule: something that is painful--the government doesn't take us seriously. they don't know what you are going through, and even if we go to our consule to ask if they can move us from here to somewhere, it doesn't take us seriously because they think that maybe we are--[sniffles]--playing or we just want some houses somewhere. [child's congested coughing] mathabule: it's painful to... to watch your kids dying in front of you. [boy humming quietly] munnick: the highveld is a sacrifice zone for the carbon-intensive economy, and the people who live there have been sacrificed.
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man: eskom is a 100% state-owned company, so the government owns eskom. eskom does support, you know, like, the coal industry. the big portion of our energy generation is based, you know, like, on coal. there's been-- it's called a [indistinct] symbiotic relationship between the coal-mining industry and eskom. let me put it this way: about 70% of the energy requirement in south africa are met through coal. i think, uh, the simple fact is that we've got it, it's in abundance. we still have probably00 more years of coal, you know, like, in the ground. woman: is it immoral to open yet another one in an area like highveld that's clearly got extraordinary levels of
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pollution on a local level? mashigo: yeah, what you need to realize, as i mention, i mean, on average over the past 10 years, coal production in south africa has remained fairly stable, between 250 and 260 million tons per annum. as in when you open new mines, other mines are closing down. man: coal, for the last hundred years or so, has really powered the economy. it was critical to the industrialization of this country. now, with the declining world markets for coal, the price of the export coal has collapsed, so the economics of the thing has changed. i'm a public interest lawyer concerned particularly about mining and mine communities. presently we're putting together a series of legal actions against the coal-mining industry. it's a bit of a race against time. there is massive restructuring and reorganization taking place. essentially, the big majors, the big players who
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were all involved in the south african coal-mining industry are getting out as fast as they can, selling off their assets, splitting them up into tiny parcels, and a corresponding upsurge in small, fly-by-night little companies with very little accountability doing what they will. there's no management, so the richest seams are being mined out, and everything else is being abandoned. i mean, optimum is a perfect example, one of the biggest coal producers in the country for years. announcer: welcome to optimum coal, a company that combines productivity... spoor: captured by gangsters, they looted the rehabilitation fans and walked away. you know, the mines closed, thousands of people lost their jobs... announcer: we believe in enriching the lives of our employees and enhancing values... spoor: and we're left with these gaping holes in the earth... announcer: ...over 3,000 employees... spoor: and no reurces to fix them, so we've got a toxic mess of an environmental disaster,
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social decay, a collapsing infrastructure--urban infrastructure; you know, water systems, sewerage systems, and the like--and you're lt sitting with what looks like a post-apocalyptic nightmare. zulu: here, where we live, there are a lot of abandoned mines. when a mine is abandoned, people go there and mine for themselves. there's nothing else there is because there are no jobs. there are big mining companies, but they employ people from outside in all of that. we want the story of the artisanal miners to be heard. [man speaking native language]
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zulu: so they work the coal over there and take the coal and put it here on a stockpile and then load it on the sacks, and then they take it up. as you can see, it's--it's quite heavy. this is another shaft. the coal, many kilometers down there to work, and when they come back, they throw--they stockpile the coal here and same, which--and again, pack it and take it out. i'm in environmental activities, so i know that mining is bad. and we have huge eskom power stations that are busy destroying the environment and contributing to climate change. just come here and take the minerals, and leave the people here angry and leave the people here not working. this guy is-- yeah, they are tapped illegally, so there is that stigma around them. yes, see, this guy hauls
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this sack from all the way down there and up the stairs. and when he came here, when he just put the sacks down, and there is a police van here coming and saying, "no, this guy is a criminal." after all this hard work, this guy has that. [man 2 speaks native language] zulu: and they're just going to take it away and say the coal belongs to the mine. officially, the coal was here before the mine was here, and they say it's mine property and the coal belongs to the mine, stuff like that. these people are not criminals because they are just fathers and brothers, looking for something to put on the table. spoor: try and find out whose mine that is, i mean, for starters. try and work out--if you see these abandoned workers, you try and work out. it's layers upon layers of companies and rights and sessions. the dmr couldn't tell you who they belong to. where are the records? we don't know. no, dead end.
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man: there is, of course, a big coal-mining industry in south africa. it is multi-faceted, from mining to transportation of coal tall kinds of services in communities that have built up around the coal-mining towns of south africa. the coal-mining sector has been an extremely successful example of black economic empowerment, and now suddenly they've been told, "no, no, the future is green, the future is not coal." for them, this is a disaster because of their new investments into the coal sector that they see as possibly becoming stranded assets. [crowd chanting indistinctly] man: oh, the challenges that we find ourself into would be the low salaries to our members, and as the union, our role and responsibility is to fight for
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job security. the mines, some of them are closing because they are saying the export price has dropped and so on, so forth, the coal price has dropped, and so on, so forth. we are of the view that the price has been manipulated. week ago, the president was addressing a watered-back region, that we had mines in that area that can rvive or be in existence for the next hundred years. that tells you that we have abundance of coal as a rawaterial, and that should be the only source of energy in our country. you know, and unfortunately, we are not going to talk about the global and whatsoever sentiment that people might advance. those that are scientists, they can raise what their views. it is a myth, and we are not going to allow to be dictated by anyone. [men chanting in native language]
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[man speaking indistinctly]
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spoor: the proposed mine near the kruger--a very large, very extensive mine--would be devastating for that area for a number of reasons: 1--water, there simply isn't adequate water; 2--it would destroy thousands of hectares of high-yield agricultural land; and thirdly, it would be on the border of the kruger national park, which is a world heritage site, and it would do damage to the tourism industry, which is one of the few bright spots we have here. we've been approached regarding this kruger coal-mining project by a number of local community organizations. the technique that we've developed is to put up these demands, make these calls, note those objections, and then wait for the dmr to award the license anyway. i must be frank about it. i mean, it would be a really bad thing if there was a coal mine there, but it wouldn't surprise me if the right were granted.
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[man saking instinctly] i was at a meeting where they promised 5 jobs with a specific mine, but what happened is that the mining company brought their own laborers in. they did not recruit locals to work at the mine because their laborers were already trained as miners, so they just brought them in and started mining. they make all these promises about jobs and security and the contribution to the local economy and the community, and then they just leave. [sea bird squawks] ooshuizen: we've got wonderful
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sun, we've got a great wind resource. if you look at south africa, it could be, you know, one of the big contributors to renewable energy in the world. it's something that can make the economy grow. it just needs to get tapped into. we are still not even at 10% of the country's electricity being supplied by renewables. i think, with technology moving forward, you could get very close to supplying all the energy that the country needs from renewables. the resource is there. quite a few of the turbines in the country can actually produce more electricity than what they were originally designed for. a day like today, when the wind is blowing nicely, if we could actually sell the excess capacity into the grid, that could supply electricity to about 14,000 basic households. unfortunately, we are not allowed to sell that excess capacity into the grid at this point. we are capped at the old contractual capacity. matharka: if we were to rely on solar, um, look at today's
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weather. it's raining, and we don't control weather. if we don't--we go all over a month without wind and so on, so forth, what would then happen to the electricity security of the country? so we are saying we have coal, we have shoal. we go, we mine. come rain, come shine, eveverything is always fine with coal. spoor: more and more people are realizing that we are a very water-scarce country. if you look at some of the coal-fired power plants in mpumalanga and other parts of the country, it's actually massive amounts of water that they consume. one of the big benefits of the renewables--they don't consume any water. yelland: i don't believe anybody in south africa is seriously suggesting that we can switch off our coal-fired power stations, which provide 80% of the power in south africa currently tomorrow. hmm.
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it's a vision and a goal towards which we can strive. this is not a south african trend--"let's move away from coal"--it's a global trend, so, you know, one can try all one likes to hang on to a dying industry, but you can't fight a wave. you have to ride the wave, and the wave of the future is not coal. for me, you know, it's better that they ride the wave instead of being left out to sea, looking for the next wave while the winners are having cocktails on the beach. [sea gulls crying] matharka: if we say we are no longer going to generate coal through coal-fired power stations, and they're going to solars and sand so, how many people are going to employed in those initiatives? spoor: if you compare per-unit of electricity produced, both in the operating and in the construction phase, the number of jobs in the renewable area is higher.
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there's the old coal fields of mpumalanga province, where there is an entire coal-mining industry in decline, but the big opportunity is that these towns have got roads and schools and clinics and housing and skills. they've got welders, electricians, builders--all looking for jobs. and the most important thing that they've got is a grid connection. this makes them an incredibly good opportunity to become renewable energy development zones of the future. spoor: in the last few years, renewables has actually become the cheapest form of energy that's available, and that is definitely adding impetus to
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this whole transition to renewables. we just can't wait much longer to make that transition. munnick: there is big scope for renewables to expand. what it needs is to have a proper renewable energy industrial strategy. it would be a much more inclusive economy. mashigo: the evidence is there, the proof is there. i mean, why else would we participate, you know, like, in all the initiatives to try and address it at a global level and acknowledge that--i mean, eskom, we contribute probably 40%, you know, like, of the carbon emissions in the country, so, i mean, it's the. we've admitted it. wee never said nay. we're not denialists. we are not denialists. woman: and the eskom ready to change? 'cause you're the key energy supplier. are you ready for that change? mashingo: heh heh! i'm not going to answer that. i don't think i'm the one to answer that. ha ha ha! yeah, but the road map is there. i know we're going there, but, yeah, no, that i will not answer.
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may i please not answer that? yeah. announcer: "earth focus" is made possible in part by a grant from anne ray foundation--a margaret a. cargill philanthropy-- the orange county community foundation, and the farvue foundat■x■x
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11/29/21 11/29/21 [captioning made possible by democracy now!] amy: from new york, this is democracy now! >> the emergence of the omicron variant should be a wake-up call to the world that vaccine inequality cannot allowed to continue. until everyone is vaccinated, everyone will continue to be addressed -- at risk. amy: scientists across the globe are scraling to learn more about the newly discovered omicron coronavirus variant,

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