Global Outcry: NGOs Unite to Expose ArcelorMittal’s Environmental Atrocities and Human Rights Abuses

By: Jeremiah Sackie Cooper Gmail:

Fifteen non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have joined forces under the banner of the Steel and Equity coalition to unveil a scathing report titled “Fair Steel Coalition,” shedding light on the devastating repercussions of ArcelorMittal’s steelworks and mines on both the environment and local communities.

Noticeable among the 15 non-governmental organizations campaigning this are: the Centre for Environmental Rights, Steelwatc, Green Advocate International, Bank Track, Tsikini, EDLC, VEJA, and Qaraqar. 

The report which was issued on April 27 this year, is a testament to the true cost of steel, exposes the steel industry’s staggering contribution of 7% to global greenhouse gas emissions and the egregious toll it exacts on the regions where it operates, particularly in developing countries like South Africa and Liberia.

In the sprawling steel mills near Johannesburg, South Africa, where 2.8 million tonnes of liquid steel were churned out last year, the situation is dire. 

The factories, reliant on colossal amounts of coal, spew toxic fumes into the air, plunging nearby residents into a living nightmare of pollution. 

Leanne Govindsamy from the Center for Environmental Rights has expressed frustration over  ArcelorMittal’s environmental and human rights disregard.

“Residents endure perilously high pollution levels, including hydrogen sulfide, a noxious gas notorious for its rotten egg stench and its insidious health impacts ranging from headaches to neurological disorders.” The region’s air, soil, and water stand contaminated, far surpassing international safety standards and leaving communities grappling with perpetual hardship,” he said.

Despite a previous fine of nearly US$220,000 levied against ArcelorMittal in 2016 for excessive hydrogen sulfide emissions, the Steel Valley remains shrouded in pollution, a stark testament to the company’s disregard for environmental and human well-being.

However, the environmental havoc wrought by ArcelorMittal extends beyond South Africa’s borders, casting a shadow of exploitation and injustice over Liberia’s mining communities. 

Activists like John Brownell of Green Advocate International in Liberia have sounded the alarm, highlighting the company’s land-grabbing tactics and its callous disregard for local livelihoods. 

Brownell recounts tales of police brutality and communities left destitute as their lands are seized and their voices silenced in the relentless pursuit of profit.

ArcelorMittal’s response, delivered in a letter to the associations, falls short of addressing the gravity of the allegations.

 While the company touts its commitment to sustainable development, its actions speak louder than words.

 In Liberia, where accusations of human rights violations abound, promises of soil and water repair ring hollow against the backdrop of continued exploitation and environmental degradation.

The stories emerging from Liberia paint a harrowing picture of communities uprooted, livelihoods destroyed, and ecosystems decimated in the relentless pursuit of profit. 

 “Economic development must go hand in hand with respect for local people.” It is high time for ArcelorMittal to be held accountable for its actions, and for the international community to stand in solidarity with the affected communities in demanding justice and restitution”, Dada Kondah, a frontline environmental and human rights defender in Nimba County added. 

They entered my and 25 other families’ land with an excavator while we were away. They destroyed all of our crops for the construction of a dam, now the whole area is flooded. We have no place to live, no crops to eat. No compensation has been paid so far. The company is turning a blind eye on our suffering” Dada Knodah narrated.

On March 8, the Steel Coalition launched the “Shiny Claims, Dirty Flames campaign against  steel giant, ArcelorMittal who is serving as the official sponsor of the Olympics in France this year 

As the Olympic Torch makes its way through France, civil society organizations continue to challenge steelmaker and official sponsor ArcelorMittal over its tarnishing of the eternal flame with its greenwashing and complicity in human rights abuses.

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