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UPL Cornubia Warehouse Fire Incident

News Updates

UPL disappointed by Minister Creecy’s release of preliminary report into the Cornubia warehouse attack

Note to editors: UPL will be not available for media interviews at this stage, but will in the coming days provide the opportunity for extensive media briefings.



UPL disappointed by Minister Creecy’s release of preliminary report into the Cornubia warehouse attack

UPL has always been fully committed to cooperation with all three spheres of government to help manage the after effects of the violent attack on its Cornubia Warehouse in July of this year. It has had extensive correspondence with government in this regard, and has always acted in good faith in its interactions.

UPL is thus deeply disappointed that Minister of Forestry and Fisheries and Environmental Affairs Barbara Creecy has decided to release her department’s preliminary findings of an investigation into a fire incident at its Cornubia Warehouse without any prior discussion with the company. The preliminary report was only sent to UPL late last night, a matter of mere hours before its release.

As a result, UPL has simply had insufficient time to properly consider the preliminary report. What is nevertheless clear is that it fails to address what is at the heart of the issue – namely, that the fires, which led to the pollution, were caused by rioters involved in the civil unrest in Kwazulu-Natal at the time and which the emergency services were unable to contain. UPL along with many other businesses were left to fend for themselves in the face of unprecedented and unforeseeable levels of violence and criminality. This central fact seems to be conveniently ignored by Minister Creecy’s department.

At first glance, the circulation of this preliminary report at extremely late notice to UPL, appears to have been a deliberate strategy to deny UPL sufficient time within which to enforce its rights and ultimately to prejudice its rights. UPL does not admit any non-compliance with the law, as alleged in the preliminary report.

From the limited time that UPL has had to consider the preliminary report, it is also evident that very little has been said about UPL’s extraordinary efforts at the containment and clean-up of its lost products, its compliance with its NEMA obligations and the NEMA Directives issued – all at considerable cost to UPL and in the most adverse circumstances possible.

UPL has desisted from highlighting the many inadequacies of government’s response to this matter. If it had, it would have detailed the many disorganised, uncoordinated and contradictory responses from the authorities. It decided that the best course of action would be to remain focused on urgent containment efforts and dealing with the damage caused by the looters and the failure of the state to provide adequate protection at the time of the violence.

UPL will in due course respond to allegations of non-compliance in the appropriate forums. For now, it intends to get on with the clean-up and rehabilitation. It has had extensive interactions with the authorities in the past, and trust that the Minister’s current visit and actions have not prejudiced that.

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PRESS STATEMENT: UPL welcomes engagement with Minister Creecy and others tomorrow

Note to Editors: UPL will not be available for interviews as they are preparing for the Minister’s visit


1 October 2021

UPL welcomes engagement with Minister Creecy and others tomorrow

UPL is looking forward to welcoming Minister of Environmental Affairs, Barbara Creecy along with MEC Ravi Pillay and Mayor Mxolisi Thomas Kaunda to Cornubia tomorrow. This forms part of our ongoing engagement with all three spheres of government.

Despite the spillage resulting from factors beyond UPL’s control as a result in the fundamental break down in law and order, it has spared no effort or expense in containing the situation. To date UPL has spent in excess of R177 million in clean-up operations and on monitoring the impact on public health. UPL is grateful that there has been no reported instances of serious illness or death as a result of the spill.

An independent assessment has found that the affected beaches can be reopened, (with exclusion zones for recreation and harvesting). The final decision now rests with the eThekwini Municipality as to when they will decide to formally reopen the affected beaches. UPL hopes that this decision will be taken as soon as possible

UPL remains committed to working with all three spheres of government as well as all affected parties to address the situation and to ensure that a company which is of vital importance to South Africa’s food security can continue to provide much needed products to the agricultural sector.

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23 September 2021

UPL warehouse arson attack: Experts give all clear for beaches to open

UPL has provided a report written by independent specialists to the eThekwini Municipality on the results of a chemical analysis of the beaches and sea water conducted over the past few weeks, with the last samples taken on the 8th of September. The report recommends that all beaches are safe to be reopened following the arson attack against the UPL Cornubia warehouse on 12th of July 2021 during the widespread violence and looting that broke out across Kwa-Zulu Natal.

Samples, including control samples, were taken at various sites along the coastline (from Salt Rock in the north to Umgeni estuary in the south) with the results undergoing expert scrutiny and interpretation by a range of independent specialists. They have concluded that the beaches and ocean outside a 1km exclusion zone, north, south and east of the mouth pose an extremely low chemical risk to the public regardless of whether the estuary mouth is open or closed.

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UPL response to Democratic Alliance Statement of 2nd September 2021

UPL has noted the statement by Mr Heinz de Boer of the DA that charges have been laid against it in the Verulam Magistrates Court for “environmental pollution”. It has not seen any charges, nor does it understand the basis for such charges, if there are any, or who has laid them.

UPL has also noted the statement that it has played “cat and mouse” and has engaged in a litany of actions including providing “unsatisfactory reports” and “unsatisfactory responses” and having failed to supply necessary documents and information to the authorities.

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Update on clean-up and remediation after arson attack on Cornubia warehouse

31 Aug 2021

An intensive containment and clean-up operation after the arson attack that destroyed UPL’s Cornubia warehouse has successfully contained all runoff from the site, pollution control and treatment dams have been constructed, and remediation efforts are well under way.

This follows events in the late evening of 12 July and early hours of 13 July, when the UPL Cornubia warehouse was vandalised and set on fire by looters connected with the general unrest that spread through the greater Durban area.

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26 Aug 2021

During the evening of 12 July 2021 / the morning of 13th July 2021, an arson attack occurred at UPL’s Cornubia Warehouse at Umganu Road, resulting in a fire which destroyed the warehouse and caused agri-chemical products to disperse into the surrounding environment. Any business or person wishing to lodge a complaint because of the incident must complete the UPL Cornubia Warehouse Fire Complaint Form and deliver the Complaint Form to UPL.

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MEDIA STATEMENT: Update on Cornubia warehouse fire

31 Jul 2021

Since UPL’s media statement of 19 July, additional issues of public concern have been raised which the company would like to address.

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Update on Cornubia warehouse fire

19 Jul 2021

Communities in the vicinity of the Cornubia warehouse fire have been understandably anxious to receive more information on the ongoing remediation efforts and the containment of the crop solution products that may have been released into the environment following the arson attack on the building.

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17 Jul 2021

The looting in the Cornubia area led to multiple fires being set, including a warehouse storing plant protection products that was set on fire on Monday, 12th July 2021. The repeated attacks, as well as the unrest which prevented a rapid response, resulted in the brand new facility’s security and state-of-the-art safety features being overwhelmed.

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Submission of Complaints

Please download the below guidelines for an explanation on how to submit your complaint and the handling of your complaint by UPL.

Download– Guidelines

Once you have read the Guidelines, please download the below complaint form and send a scanned copy on email to: or delivery a hard copy to UPL’s office at:
7 Sunbury Office Park, Douglas Saunders Drive, La Lucia Ridge,
Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.

Download – Complaint Form


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