The chemicals company’s spokesman Alex Anderson said there had been only one incident, last December, when water containing ash leaked through a crack into a dam where cattle were drinking.

He said a subsequent assessment of the soil and water indicated that “ash water had not caused significant contamination that would require rehabilitation”.

Anderson said after the leak an alternative water supply was provided.

Sasol sent the owners of the land a letter in November, calling for the cattle to be removed due to water quality concerns.

“Apparently the property is fine to be developed, but Sasol told us to please not to drink the water,” said Derick Erasmus, a director at Templemore Trading, which owns the land located near the company’s facility.

Farmer Christopher Skosana, who has leased the land for 25 years, has been told to leave.

He disputed the claim that there had only been one incident of pollution by Sasol, saying over the last six years half his herd had died after drinking water from a dam near Sasol’s industrial complex.

Sasol said it had never been notified of any cattle deaths.