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Coal Use in Cement Factories, Egypt


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

Name of conflict:Coal Use in Cement Factories, Egypt

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 commodities:Cement

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:20-40 million (the majority of cement power plants are concentrated in the most populous regions)
Start of the conflict:20/11/2013
Company names or state enterprises:CEMEX 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 actors:Ministry of Environment
Ministry of Electricity
Egyptian Cabinet
International and Finance InstitutionsThe European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:-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

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Social movements
Forms of mobilization:Creation 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


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
Other Health impactsRespiratory diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Violations of human rights


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (undecided)
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain: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 & Materials

(6) ECESR Welcomes Renewable Energy Tariff policy, Condemns Continue of Coal Use

(5) Report: Report: Suez Cement begins burning coal in Qattamiya

Is Egypt on the verge of an environmental disaster?

(1) Court hears session in case against coal imports

(7) Egyptian cement companies start coal use

(9) The coal war

Egypt's cement firms overcome gas shortages by importing coal

(8) Alwafd - Egyptians Agains Coal: The Minister of Electricity's decision is disasterous

(2) ECERS:Following Cabinet ِApproval of Coal Use to Generate Energy

(3) Coal imports approval confirmed

(4) ECESR Publishes Correspondence with the EBRD About Plans to Finance Egyptian Government’s Use of Coal

Meta information

Contributor:EJAtlas contributor
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2078



Western Alexandria cement factory (3)


Coal in Alexandria Port

Transportation of coal. Photo from Mada Masr news website (

Western Alexandria cement factory (2)


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 (