South Africa’s Limpopo province gave environmental authorisation to a China-backed proposal to spend more than $10 billion building a 4 600 megawatt coal-fired power plant, a coking facility and ferroalloy and steel plants.
The authorisation, granted on Wednesday, backed the establishment of the Musina-Makhado Special Economic Zone, in which a number of Chinese companies have pledged to invest, according to South Africa’s Trade, Industry and Competition ministry.
The project, which is not factored into the country’s emissions targets, may still be opposed by the government at a national level and will draw opposition from activists concerned about its impact on thousands of Baobab trees, which take hundred of years to grow, water supplies and air pollution.
The Chinese government has also said it won’t invest in coal projects outside the country.
The province acknowledged the potential impact on ancestral graves, cautioned against air pollution, saying measures would need to be taken to mitigate emissions and water will be imported from neighbouring Zimbabwe. Still, in justifying the decision, it said the province is South Africa’s poorest and has high unemployment.