Posted on: June 17, 2011 Posted by: Diane Swarts Comments: 1

South Africa has published industrial air emissions sources and assessment results for its Highveld region, with a draft Highveld Air Quality Management Plan.

The Department of Environmental Affairs has published a draft Highveld Priority Area Air Quality Management Plan for comment, under authority of the Air Quality Act of 2004, under Notice 270 in Govoernment Gazette 34250 of 5 May 2011.

The draft includes results of a baseline assessment of atmospheric emissions resulting from industrial sources, and of general air quality, in the declared Highveld Priority Area (HPA) of South Africa, which excludes Sasolburg, the major fuel from coal and petrochemical plant on the Gauteng -Free State border.

Secunda, another major Sasol site, is included in the HPA. Highveld petrochemicals emissions contribute 15% NOx, 12% SO2, and similar amounts of particulate matter and other emissions to air in the Highveld Priority Area study.

The Highveld area, in parts of Gauteng and parts of Mpumalanga provinces in South Africa, is associated with gold and platinum group minerals mines, coal mines, coal based electrical power generation, and many informal settlers using wood fuel.

Parts of the region suffer from poor air quality and elevated concentrations of ‘criteria pollutants’ due to concentration of industrial and domestic sources in some areas.

The former SA environmental minister had declared the Highveld Priority Area (HPA) in late 2007. The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) now manages the priority area and is developing an air quality management plan, AQMP.

Dust, NOx, SO2

Air emissions of fine particulate matter (PM10) in the Highveld Priority Area over a year, is estimated at 279 630 tons, including;
• 89% PM10 from general industrial sources
• 50% PM10 from opencast mine haul roads dust
• 17% PM10 from primary metallurgical industries
• 12 % PM10 from coal power generation

NOx air emission total 978 781 tons per year in the Highveld Priority Area, including;
• 90% NOx from industrial sources
• 73% NOx from coal power generation

SO2 air emissions in the Highveld total 1 622 233 tons per year, including;
• 99% SO2 from industrial sources
• 82% SO2 from coal power generation

Big eight air emissions sources

Major industrial air emissions sources are grouped into these categories:
1. Power Generation
2. Coal Mining
3. Primary Metallurgical Operations
4. Secondary Metallurgical Operations
5. Brick Manufacturers
6. Petrochemicals Industry
7. Other Ekurhuleni (East Rand) Industrial Sources
8. Other Mpumalanga Highveld Industrial Sources

Smaller air emissions sources categories include;
Motor Vehicles
Household Fuel Burning
Biomass Burning (wood fires)

Poor Highveld air quality

Parts of the HPA have relatively good air quality, but generally ambient air quality in the HPA is poor. Eight extensive areas occur where ambient SO2, PM10 and ozone (O3) concentrations exceed air quality standards.

Air emissions hot spots regularly exceed 24-hour SO2 and PM10 standards, as confirmed by ambient monitoring. Air quality hotspots result mostly from a combination of emissions from local  industrial sectors and residential fuel burning.

Motor vehicles, mining and cross-boundary transport of pollutants into the HPA, add to the base loading.

A separate study had earlier found that in winter, grassland ‘veld’ fires and woodland fires in southern African and central Africa contribute to streams of smoke over southern Africa. Project Safari involved satellite, airborne and ground observation by a combined team of USA NASA, SA CSIR, and environmental agencies.

Highveld air pollution hot spots

Areas of concern include Kendal, Witbank 2, Middelburg, Secunda, Ermelo, Standerton, Balfour, and Komati.

Air emissions assessment and monitoring sites, for which results are published in the state assessment report,  included these residential and industrial areas; Emalahleni municipality, Kendal, Witbank, Steve Tshwete municipality, Columbus Ssteel, Komati, Hendrina, Middelburg, Govan Mbeki municipality,  Langverwacht, Bosjesspruit coal mine, Elandsfontein, Leandra, Sasol Secunda, Msukaligwa municipality, Camden, Ermelo, Pixley Ka Seme municipality, Amersfoort, Majuba, Verkykkop, Lekwa Standerton, Dipaleseng Balfour.

Effects of poor air dispersion conditions in winter are evident for all pollutants. PM10 displays a striking seasonal trend. Ozone (O3) peaks in spring, partly due to polar air streams, lightning and rain clouds.

CO and benzene are within acceptable limits at new sites, using newer petrochemicals technology. Trends in pollutant concentrations could not be identified in the data.

Air pollution versus health

Outdoor air pollution in urban areas cause;
* 3.7% of mortality, from cardiopulmonary disease in adults 30 years and older
* 5.1% of mortality, from cancers of trachea, bronchus, and lung in adults
* 1.1% of mortality, from acute respiratory infections in children under 5 years
(Norman et al, 2007a).

Exposure to indoor air pollution is associated with diseases like COPD, lung cancer, nasopharyngeal cancer, tuberculosis, cataracts, asthma, birth defects, and acute lower respiratory infections (ALRI) among children younger than 5 years (Norman et al, 2007b).

ALRIs were the leading cause of death of children under 5 years worldwide, and fourth highest in South African children. ALRI burden on children under 5 years was 24% in 2000, attributable to indoor air pollution from household fuel use (Norman et al, 2007b).

For COPD, females experienced more than double the male attributable burden. Lung cancer burden was relatively minor from indoor air pollution as a result of household fuel use. Indoor air pollution from household fuel use was responsible for 2489 deaths, or 0.5% of the total health burden on individuals, and resulted in the loss of 60 934 disability adjusted life years, or 0.4% of the total burden (Norman et al, 2007b).

Air emissions exposure problem areas

Air quality hotspots on the HPA include Emalahleni, Kriel, Steve Tshwete municipality, Ermelo, Secunda, Ekurhuleni (East Rand), Lekwa, Balfour, and Delmas.

Residential areas where wood and coal are used, suffer high concentrations of particulates and CO, particularly those that are densely populated, leading to high exposure.

An earlier and separate air quality biomonitoring test indicated that hexavalent chrome is among airborne toxins in some areas. The first application of lichen bio-monitoring as an indicator of ambient air quality in South Africa, was used to assess air quality in the Steelpoort Valley, and to assess deposition of Hexavalent chrome (chrome VI) containing particulates from a nearby ferrochrome smelter.

Air emissions abatement technology issues

Several technology challenges are listed in the official Highveld air quality assessment, as facing major air emissions industries on the Highveld, including management of fugitive and non-point sources, SO2 and NO2 emission management and control, and petrochemicals technology. Legislation and carbon trade regimes are expected to force continuous improvement.

Brick kiln emissions

Clay brick manufacturing face poor uptake of tunnel kiln technology, and lack of abatement on clamp kilns, particularly of PM and CO emissions. Tunnel kiln technology is promoted in new, regulated operations.

Opencast coal dust

Opencast coal mining should control of particulate matter (PM) on mine haul roads. Water spraying is a cheap and effective means of control, and should be consistently applied across mines in the HPA. Other studies have indicated that some haul road temporary chemicals re-surfacing techniques are effective.

Home fires

Domestic fuel burning continues partly due to poor uptake of technology, and high pace of settlement growth. Awareness and technology promotion activities are increasing, although local and provincial authorities have lacked capacity and means to ensure awareness and conversion.

Vehicle emissions improving

Motor vehicle emissions face slow infiltration of new technology vehicles, as well as steady growth in the South African vehicle fleet, and diffuse VOC emissions from filling stations and fuel storage facilities. Vehicle emission standards at manufacturers continue to improve. Introduction of cleaner fuels, like low sulphur diesel, and low emission vehicles, are increasing. Vapour recovery units could address re-fuelling emissions.

Air quality management and measurement problems

Air quality management capacity challenges in the Highveld Priority Area include;
• Low level of capacity, human resources and skills at authorities
• Two municipalities were not confident to implement the Air Quality Act
• Five municipalities have not made air quality officer (AQO) appointments
• 12 municipalities and both provincial departments have identified capacity building needs, including technical, legal, and general AQM training and assistance.

Six municipalities had indicated that they do not do ambient air quality monitoring. Monitoring initiatives were not integrated, there was no standardised monitoring, reporting, or quality control approach.

Air emission data growing

All of 12 municipalities and one provincial department on the Highveld, had undertaken an emission inventory. The HPA project has initiated a comprehensive emission inventory to be completed and maintained.

Two district municipalities and one provincial department have not initiated steps to prepare for the delegation of the AEL function with the repeal of the APP Act.

Air emissions and air quality management issues have been forwarded into strategy analysis and management planning stages of the air quality management programme (AQMP).

Workshops will assist officials in developing aspects of the AQMP. Stakeholders will work towards interventions to be implemented in the HPA, led by the DEA.


The above report is based on a draft Highveld air quality report, which informed the DEA draft of the Highveld Priority Area Air Quality Management Plan, under authority of the Air Quality Act of 2004, in Notice 270 in Gazette 34250 of 5 May 2011. The draft report was compiled by;
• Mark Zunckel, Yegeshni Naiker and Atham Raghunandan of uMoya-NILU Consulting
• Theo Fischer, Hanre Crouse, Abdul Ebrahim and Warren Carter of Environmental Science Associates
• Project managers Sean O’Beirne and Brad Johnson of SE Solutions
• Public Participation by David de Waal and Marti Moolman of BKS

They report acknowledges participation by;
• Department of Environmental Affairs, in particular Peter Lukey, Thuli Mduli, Mathabo Phoshoko, Bathabile Songxaba, and Humbu Mafumo
• Gauteng provincial environmental departments in the HPA, Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and the Mpumalanga Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism
• District, metropolitan and local municipalities in the HPA
• AQOF and MSRG fora, including private sector businesses and associations, and civil society organisations
• Individuals and organisations that provided data for the determination of the baseline assessment
• Individuals and organisations who participated in the research workshop and presented research results on Highveld air quality
• A modelling peer group, who provided input into model setup and parameterisation and aided in refining the model outputs, particularly Avishkar Koosialee of Sasol

PHOTO; Air emissions sources in the industrialised Highveld region include coal mining, coal electriticy power generation, metallurgy (as at this steel mill), petrochemicals, vehicles, domestic fires, and wild veld fires.


1 people reacted on this

  1. I am a student at Unisa for a degree in mechanical engineering. I am pleased to know the government has measures in place to combat the pollution problem facing part of our country.
    As a student majoring in airconditioning and refrigeration, among others, I would appreciate to read current developments on these matters.

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