Environmental activists have launched a lawsuit to force the government to reduce air pollution in the coal-rich Highveld area, a landmark case that threatens to add R300bn to debt-saddled Eskom’s spending plans and also turns the spotlight on energy giant Sasol.

Sasol, whose primary business is to turn coal into petrol, and state-owned electricity utility Eskom have already been granted permission to delay compliance with the emission standards set by the government until 2025 due to the cost of altering their plants on time.

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