Women’s rights group to protest outside South32 AGM over coal mine impacts

25/10/2018: Women’s rights organisation ActionAid Australia will protest outside South32’s AGM in Perth Thursday morning with a team of activists holding giant postcards from women impacted by their coal operations in South Africa. The group are calling on the major Australian mining company to address the women’s concerns.  


ActionAid says that local women from Phola, a community just a few kilometres from South32’s Klipspruit mine, have documented evidence of significant failures on behalf of South32 to protect women’s rights and uphold their obligations to the local community. 

Ahead of the protest, ActionAid Australia Executive Director, Michelle Higelin, said: “South32 claims to be ‘socially and environmentally responsible’, but the community affected by their Klipspruit coal mine in South Africa has a different story to tell.

“Through a community-led investigation local women affected by the Klipspruit mine have brought to light evidence of serious human rights and sustainability concerns that South32 must address. The vast majority of local women interviewed as part of this investigation say that violence against women and girls has increased due to mining, and they have identified extremely concerning impacts caused by the Klipspruit mine such as chronic health problems, cracks in houses from mine blasting, water contamination and environmental pollution.

“Perhaps most troublingly, 92% of women say they’ve already raised these concerns with South32 to no avail. We are here with their messages to make sure that South32’s board, management, and shareholders can no longer ignore the women of Phola.

“As one of Australia’s largest mining companies, South32 has an obligation to uphold women’s rights and listen to the concerns of the community,” concluded Ms Higelin. 

Millicent Nomfundo Shungube, an activist from Phola, said: “Ever since the mine came in there’s been a lot of changes to our livelihoods. In terms of health, illnesses have increased. Small children are suffering from asthma, sinus issues and eye irritation because of the dust that the mine causes. 

“We no longer live in an environment that is stable. Things have really changed. It’s so sad because the mine doesn’t want to be held accountable, they want to come and go,” she concluded.

“They care about coal, not about our health. We are getting sick while they are getting rich,” added Sarah*, another resident of Phola.

South32 called a last minute meeting with the Greater Phola Ogies Women’s Forum on Wednesday ahead of the AGM. This is the first time South32 has met with the women despite the group attempting to meet with the company multiple times. The group views this last minute effort to engage as too little too late.

ActionAid Australia will be delivering postcards from women in Phola affected by South32’s Klipspruit mine, and distributing flyers to shareholders urging them to question South32 during the AGM. They have written to South32 and launched a petition calling on the company’s board and senior management to meet with representatives of the Phola women’s organisation conducting this investigation.


Photo opportunity: 

When: 9.30am – 11.30am, Thursday 25th October

Where: Outside the Pan Pacific Hotel, 207 Adelaide Terrace, Perth

Visuals: Approximately 10 activists will be stationed outside South32’s AGM with large postcards exposing the women’s rights impacts of their operations in South Africa through direct quotes from  the impacted community. Activists will be distributing flyers with further information to shareholders and the public. 

Interviews: ActionAid Australia Executive Director, Michelle Higelin.

For further information and photographic content contact:

ActionAid Australia:

Solaye Snider 0401 510 994 or [email protected]

**Note to Editors**

About ActionAid Australia – www.actionaid.org.au

ActionAid Australia is a global justice organisation working to empower women to challenge injustice and inequality and claim their human rights.

*Name changed to protect anonymity