15 December 2020
South Durban Community Environmental Alliance
Respected Members of the Community
Response to Community Memo
Dear SDCEA members and affected community partners,
Engen confirms receipt of your Memorandum titled “MEMORANDUM TO ENGEN” which was delivered to the Engen Refinery on Friday, 11 December 2020. We also acknowledge the concerns and demands of the representative organizations as contained in the memorandum.
Engen regrets the unfortunate fire incident of 04 December 2020. The company has commissioned a thorough investigation into the events leading up to the incident and is working with local authorities to address related concerns. We remain committed to identifying and understanding what occurred in order to ensure adequate mitigations are put in place to prevent any potential future re-occurrence.
WORKING TOWARDS A SHARED SOLUTION
We take all stakeholder concerns very seriously. As some of the issues raised in the Memorandum are of an ongoing nature, we propose to address these through constructive, sustained, good faith, community engagements. We are committed to partnering with you to optimize engagement and achieve a long-term, sustainable resolution to concerns, that is in the best interests of all parties.
We propose a formal engagement with nominated community leaders on Friday, 18th December 2020 from 10h30 to 12h30 in the Fairvale Secondary School Hall. This will be a forum to table concerns and work towards shared solutions in the interests of all parties concerned.
Please note that due to Covid-19 regulations and in line with the guidelines issued by His Excellency, President Cyril Ramaphosa in his address to the nation on Monday 14 December, the number of attendees at the community leaders meeting will need to comply with stipulated restrictions.
To ensure that we adhere to legislated safety procedures, please submit the names of the proposed community ‘in-person’ attendees by Thursday, 17 December 2020. Entrance to the meeting will be strictly managed according to the registered attendee’s list – this is in pursuit of transmission risk reduction as required by law.
We will provide a Zoom link for those interested parties who are unable to attend in person.
Please note that Engen’s‘ in-person’ representation will comprise our Refinery Senior Leadership. I will however join the meeting virtually, having been asked to go into self Isolation due to being in close contact with a COVID positive person.
Bill of Rights
Your memorandum states a number of concerns about the impact of Engen’s operations on the rights of workers, community members, and children. As an organization, we take allegations of this nature extremely seriously and can assure you that these allegations are both unfounded and untrue. Nonetheless, we are doing everything in our power to address your concerns.
With regards to the flat fire, preliminary findings indicate that there is no present linkage between the flat fire and the refinery incident. That being said, as a responsible corporate citizen that prioritizes and respects the rights of all people in our neighboring communities, we have taken it upon ourselves to provide the 27 members of the affected families with accommodation, meals, clothing, Wi-fi, and transport.
We continue to engage with the government on all climate change-related legislative requirements and continue to meet our obligations in terms of these requirements. We can also confirm that the refinery complies with all relevant environmental regulations as stipulated by local authorities as well as maintaining best-in-class HESQ standards. 2019 saw the promulgation of the Carbon Tax Act with the tax coming into effect on 1 June 2019. All liable entities, including Engen, will be required to pay this Carbon Tax. As things currently stand, Engen’s emissions levels are well below tolerable limits and even below accepted industry norms. We will continue to work and strive for continuous improvement.
Health and safety remain core to our operating principles and we apply a robust Health, Safety, and Environment Management System (HSE-MS) to monitor, mitigate, and audit all related initiatives or risks. As an organization, our objective is to achieve zero incidents.
Permit and By-law violations
The Engen refinery adheres to stringent health, safety, and environmental protocols and operates in strict accordance with its operating license requirements. Engen obtains all permits required by both local and national authorities in terms of its operations. This is a non-negotiable operating and business imperative and no exception is tolerated.
Engen employs all workers, whether on a short term contract, long term contract, or permanent basis strictly in adherence with the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995 and its subsequent amendments. We prioritize employee well-being and the fair, equitable treatment of all who work within our business.
(1) Accountability from Engen senior management
We look forward to engaging with community leaders on 18 December 2020 to collectively prioritize concerns and work together to find an amicable solution for the community and the company.
(2) Compensation for damages
The company has commissioned a thorough investigation into the events leading up to the incident and is working with local authorities to address related concerns and issues. We are committed to addressing all independently assessed, credible, and validated impacts as relevant and appropriate as possible.
(3) Full, transparent and independent investigation of the incident and (5) Full transparent audit of Engen operations
In addition to an internal investigation team appointed by Engen, Crawford Independent Associate has been appointed to undertake an independent investigation of the incident. Furthermore, the site has been handed over to the Department of Labour for their independent investigation and we currently await these findings. We are committed to identifying, as much as is possible, what occurred in order for us to put additional processes in place to mitigate against any potential re-occurrence. The outcomes of the investigation will be shared with the relevant authorities and stakeholders once the investigations have been finalized.
Engen is confident in its operations and conducts regular internal and independent audits, in adherence to international best practice.
(4) More meaningful employment opportunities and (9) preferential procurement policies for businesses in the area
Engen prioritizes local hires from the communities that host its operations, as well as the preferential inclusion – as much as is possible and commercially sound – of local businesses in its supply chain. We commit to engaging the community to share employment prospects and supply chain opportunities. We believe that if we partner more effectively, together we can achieve better identification of economic opportunities that promote commercially viable inclusion of the community in our value chain.
(6) A public apology to the communities affected by Engen and (7) Ongoing meaningful engagement with the Community
Engen deeply regrets the unfortunate fire incident of 04 December 2020. We apologize to the surrounding communities and assure them that we are working diligently to identify what occurred.
(8) Full disclosure of future plans for the refinery
Engen is evaluating a transformation strategy for the refinery which includes, but is not limited to, the potential conversion of our active refinery to a storage terminal. That said, no decision has been made, as we are currently in an evaluation phase. As we move towards achieving clarity on this strategy, we will endeavor to engage the community.
(10) Commitment to a decarbonisation strategy
We continue to engage with the government on all climate change-related legislative requirements and continue to meet our obligations in terms of these requirements. Engen currently complies with all the National GHG Reporting Regulations requirements. We will continue to assess and unpack the risks to our operations from the effects of climate change. We recognize that it is important for these risks to be understood and incorporated into our risk management system. A move towards carbon neutrality remains part of Engen’s long-term strategic planning.
We thank you for submitting your memorandum of concerns and we appreciate your willingness to engage constructively to drive collaborative solutions. We recognized that many of the concerns raised are complex in nature and of long-standing duration. Solutions to these issues will require commitment from all parties in finding a reasonable and sustainable way forward while ensuring that as a responsible corporate citizen Engen can continue to contribute positively to the South Africa economy.
We hope that you will find favor with our proposal to meet with community leaders on Friday, 18 December 2020. We believe this is an important step in our commitment to optimize our stakeholder engagement approach towards the communities of the South Durban Basin.
We would appreciate your favorable consideration of our request and ask that you respond to our proposal by Thursday, 17 December 2020.