Every year groundWork publishes a report which focusses on a selected theme, and reflects on the state of environmental justice in South Africa. You can download any of these reports by clicking on the report title or image. groundWork has also published a number of Special Reports, links to which you can find by scrolling down or clicking here.


We Know Our Lives are in Danger

Cover of We know our lives are in Danger report People living in communities affected by mining activities across South Africa are exercising their human rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly to advocate for the government and companies to respect and protect community members' rights from the potentially serious environmental, social, and health-related harms of mining. In many cases, such activism has been met with harassment, intimidation, or violence.

This report documents threats, attacks, and other forms of intimidation against activists in mining-affected communities in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Northwest, and Eastern Cape provinces, and in domestic nongovernmental organizations challenging mining projects, between 2013 and 2018. Between January and November 2018, two South African nongovernmental organizations working on environmental justice issues, the Centre for Environmental Rights and groundWork, and two international nongovernmental organizations, Human Rights Watch and Earthjustice, conducted over 100 in-person and telephone interviews with activists, community leaders, environmentalists, lawyers representing activists, and police and other government officials.

Download the report here.

Coal Kills

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groundWork’s resistance to coal expansion is tied in with our partners the Centre for Environmental Rights, a public interest law NGO, and Earthlife Africa, South Africa’s older environmental justice organisation, under the banner of “Life After Coal”. Together we work with a variety of NGOs and community people and organisations throughout the country who have done amazing work documenting the impacts of coal on people and their environments.

This compilation of research was motivated by the words of the then Chair of the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs, Mr Jackson Mthembu, an ex-worker in the steel-mills of the Highveld. He asked for local research to highlight the evidence of the impact, rather than focusing on international studies.

Since then, groundWork and our community and NGO partners have been to parliament
to share our experiences and research with the powers that be. This, however, is the first time that these pieces have been put together.

Download the report here.

Guide and Checklist for Phasing Out Mercury-added Products Under the Minamata Convention on Mercury

This guide and checklist have been produced to promote the effective implementation of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, under the EEB/ZMWG project entitled: "Contributing to the preparation/implementation of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, with a focus on developing strategies for phasing out mercury-added products and on reducing mercury use in Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining through development of National Action Plans".

The requirements of the Convention on phasing out mercury-added products are found in Article 4 of the Convention. Parties are required to follow provisions on listed mercury-added products by 2020, including, but without being limited to, a ban on most mercury-added batteries, switches and relays, measuring devices, cosmetics, biocides and pesticides, and to follow mercury content standards for some types of lamps.

In addition, Article 4 also requires Parties to phase down the use of mercury in dental amalgam.

Download the guide here.

Broken Promises: The failure of South Africa's priority areas for air pollution - time for action.

Broken Promises report cover

The Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), in collaboration with groundWork and the Highveld Environmental Justice Network (HEJN), launched a new report on 02 Octover 2017, entitled Broken Promises: the Failure of the Highveld Priority Area, exposing the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA)’s failing air pollution governance system – with a particular focus on the Mpumalanga Highveld. The report sets out urgent steps that should be taken by various authorities to improve the severe air pollution in several parts of South Africa, particularly in those parts which are supposed to be the priority areas aimed at reducing air pollution.

Download the full report here.

Download the Executive Summary here.

Shell: Don't Frack the Karoo

This report, written in August 2014, was commissioned by groundWork (Friends of the Earth South Africa), Southern Cape Land Committee and Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands) as preparation for a fact-finding mission of Milieudefensie en Stichting Schaliegasvrij Nederland to the Karoo area.

The report is also available to download in Afrikaans, here.

Slow Poison: Air Pollution, Public Health and Failing Governance

A story of air pollution and political failure to protect South Africans from pollution, June 2014.

This report is produced as we pass the twenty-year mark of democracy. It shows how our democracy has failed to protect people from corporate pollution and how government's failure to deliver clean energy to people results in them relying on dirty fuels.

Unpacking Climate Change: Background Notes to the Catastrophe.

Reading about climate change can be confusing because there is a lot of jargon and it is not always clear what people are saying. This short guide is intended to let people know what is happening and to make the debate more accessible.

This booklet is a companion to groundWork's 'Position paper on Climate and Energy Justice'.

Toxic Futures: South Africa in the Crises of Energy, Environment and Capital.

There are three ways in which environmental injustice is imposed on people.

In the first place, people are polluted, their environments are degraded and they are coerced into working for less than it costs them to live.

In the second place, people are dispossessed and common resources or public goods are privatised.

Thirdly, people are excluded from the political and economic decisions that lead to their being polluted or dispossessed.

The institutions of the market are specifically designed to remove decision making from the public sphere and so exclude all who do not have an interest in profit. Thus, those who are dispossessed or who carry the externalised costs of production are prevented from contesting the theft or contamination of their resources.

Cover of 'Bankrolling Climate Change

Bankrolling Climate change: A Look into the Portfolios of the World's Largest Banks, a report published by urgewald, groundWork, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and BankTrack.

Do we know who is financing the dirty energy investments that are heating up the globe? Until now, little was known about banks' role and responsibility for global warming. While most large commercial banks provide figures on their annual investments into renewable energy, they neither track nor publish their annual investments into fossil fuel projects. Many banks have made farreaching statements on climate, but are they putting their money where their mouth is?

This study presents new research on the portfolios of 93 of the world's leading banks. It examines their lending for the coal industry, the prime source of global CO2 emissions. It provides the first comprehensive climate ranking for financial institutions and identifies the top "climate killers" in the banking world.

By naming and shaming these banks, we hope to set the stage for a race to the top, where banks compete with each other to clean up their portfolios and stop financing investments which are pushing our climate over the brink. We want banks to act and we want them to act now.

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World Bank and Eskom: Banking on Climate Destruction 2009

Banks funding fossil fuel development is not a new debate. Organisations have been challenging this for more than a decade now. During this period of intense and urgent negotiations on a new 'climate deal' loans such as this that favour the present carbon intensive development paradigm for corporate profit are a clear indication to the public that the World Bank and governments of the world in general are not honest in their attempts to deal with the real global crisis, our dependence on fossil fuels.


Cover of Position Paper on Climate and Energy Justice, 2011groundWork Position Paper on Climate and Energy Justice (2011).

Capitalism is not compatible with addressing climate change. It requires never ending economic growth for its survival. Growth has brought unprecedented wealth to the owners of capital, prosperity to the world's middle classes and untold misery to the majority of people, particularly in the global South. Capitalism plunders the resources of the earth and of the people. It is the driving force behind ecological disruption on all scales from the local to the global. Climate change is the ultimate symptom of this renting of the earth system.

Solidarity for Environmental Justice in South Africa - Report by Victor Munnik - Nov 2007

International Environmental Justice Forum: Speak Out! held on Saturday 25th August 2001  Durban, South Africa

South African People and Environments in the Global Economy: A series of five booklets published by groundWork, August 2002 Published to coincide with the World Summit on Sustainable Development which opened in South Africa in August this year, this series of five booklets gives an environmental justice perspective on challenges for sustainable development in South Africa. 

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