Coal Use in Cement Factories, Egypt

With the support of the EBRD and profiting from the political instability, business tycoons of the cement industry pushed to advance the coal agenda, when the industry enjoys a rather high profit margin


Description
At a time of political instability and energy shortages, the Egyptian government turned to introducing imported coal as an energy source for the cement industry, due to insufficient natural gas supplies. Business tycoons of the cement industry claimed high losses, pushing to advance the coal agenda, when the industry enjoys a rather high profit margin and benefits from subsidised electricity and a strong lobbying power (1). Despite disapproval from civil society, and the industry's track record of causing high pollution, in April 2014 an interim cabinet decision approved the combustion of coal in cement plants in absence of an elected parliament (2,3). Environmental and human rights groups (most outspokenly the grassroots movement Egyptians Against Coal, the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR), as well as the previous Minister of Environment Laila Eskandar) have been mobilizing against this backward decision on legal, environmental and health premises (4, 3). Although the new government's rhetoric assures that strict environmental standards are in place, downplaying environmental and health risks with talk about usage of "clean coal" technologies (5), there are actual and potential environmental injustices committed against the health of millions of citizens living in proximity to these plants clustered in different regions of the country, as well as those living in areas where coal is being transported in open trucks (6, 1). The poorest urban citizens are condemned to reside near those power plants emitting high levels of pollution, risking their health while business elite continue to benefit from cheaper, dirtier energy (2, 6). EJOs and civil society organizations also engaged in dialogues with the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, urging it to refrain from funding coal use projects, to no avail (4). Cement industries started using coal in August, 2014 (7, 5) and coal projects continue, where the Minister of Electricity had recently announced projects to build a coal-powered thermal power plant (8). Strong public health and environmental concerns have been overlooked and muffled. Emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOX) and Mercury will likely translate into acid rain and smog formations, respiratory illnesses from particles, and transmission of a neurotoxin to foetuses respectively (9).
Basic Data
NameCoal Use in Cement Factories, Egypt
CountryEgypt
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Coal extraction and processing
Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Specific CommoditiesCement
Coal
Project Details and Actors
Type of PopulationUrban
Potential Affected Population20-40 million (the majority of cement power plants are concentrated in the most populous regions)
Start Date20/11/2013
Company Names or State EnterprisesCEMEX from Mexico
Suez Cement from Egypt
Lafarge from France - In Egypt, Lafarge was the first to adopt the coal policy, and had imported coal for use in its plants even before the cabinet's approval of the practice (7, 9).
Arabian Cement from Egypt - By November, 2014, it had started a gradual switch, and had imported 700,000 tonnes of coal from South Africa, Ukraine and Spain
Relevant government actorsMinistry of Environment

Ministry of Electricity

Egyptian Cabinet
International and Financial InstitutionsThe European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)
Environmental justice organisations and other supporters-Egyptians Against Coal

-The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR)

-The Association of Health and Environmental Development (AHED)

-The Society for Community Development in South Sinai

-The Egyptian Initaitve for Personal Rights

-Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association (HEPCA)

- Egyptian Center for Legislative and Civil Reform

- Tahrir Association of Doctors
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution
Potential: Global warming, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents, Other Health impacts
OtherRespiratory diseases
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Violations of human rights
Outcome
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (undecided)
Repression
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Cement factories already started using imported coal, with no evidence to suggest improved conditions in transportation or factory practices. Further, the new (anti)protest law in Egypt muffles the once active voices of civil society.
Sources and Materials
Links

(2) ECERS:Following Cabinet ِApproval of Coal Use to Generate Energy
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(3) Coal imports approval confirmed
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(4) ECESR Publishes Correspondence with the EBRD About Plans to Finance Egyptian Government’s Use of Coal
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(5) Report: Report: Suez Cement begins burning coal in Qattamiya
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(6) ECESR Welcomes Renewable Energy Tariff policy, Condemns Continue of Coal Use
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Is Egypt on the verge of an environmental disaster?
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(1) Court hears session in case against coal imports
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(7) Egyptian cement companies start coal use
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(9) The coal war
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Egypt's cement firms overcome gas shortages by importing coal
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(8) Alwafd - Egyptians Agains Coal: The Minister of Electricity's decision is disasterous
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Other Documents

Coal in Alexandria Port Transportation of coal. Photo from Mada Masr news website (http://www.madamasr.com/sections/environment/coal-war)
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Western Alexandria cement factory (1) A cement factory in Western Alexandria starts using coal. Three pictures were taken by a resident of the area on 21 June, 2015 and they were uploaded on Egyptians Agains Coal's facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/NoCoal?fref=ts)
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Western Alexandria cement factory (2)
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Western Alexandria cement factory (3)
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Meta Information
ContributorEJAtlas contributor
Last update29/07/2015
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