Jagersfontein – On Sunday morning a dam wall in Jagersfontein in the Free State burst its walls unleashing water and mine waste. The disaster has displaced at least 250 residents and claimed three lives in the small mining town.
About nine houses were swept away while 20 others were damaged when the wall gave away on Sunday. Four people have been reported missing while 23 others were treated for hypothermia and four for broken legs. The mine was formerly owned by De Beers Plc but was shut down in the 1970’s. The tailings dump is owned by Stargems’s unit Jagersfontein Developments.
The Jagersfontein mine owners knew about the instability of the wall
It is being reported that the Free State government and the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) allegedly knew about the dangers and instability of the dam wall. The owners also reportedly knew about the dam wall but also did nothing about it. Abu Baker Thapelo Amad, Al Jama-ah Councillor, believes that not only the owners of the mine but also the government need to be held accountable for what happened.
“I think to a certain degree not only the mining, as a private sector, but also the minister responsible for the DMR need to be held liable. It is of no consequence to only communicate through a document but there has to be penalties that will ensure or make it a point that these people will comply with the regulations. Other than that all penalties, it must either come in a fine or failure to comply must come with the termination of the operations. The termination of the operation of certificate.”
The impact of the mine dam bursting
The water released from the dam contains harmful chemicals that is dangerous for humans and animals. Many farms in the area have been washed away. Animals in the area have also been drinking the dam water which means they will need to be given antibiotics to save them. Lives have been washed away. The rehousing and medical care will have to be taken care off by the government, said Adam.
“Somebody somewhere has to be liable for this event. All these costs the government has to pay, parliament has to pay. The shelter has to be given to these people. If there are any medical issue, the government will have to cover it.”
For now, the government is focused on trying to provide shelter to those impacted. Currently the cause of the dam wall breaking is unknown. Eskom has managed to restore power to the mine and are now focusing on restoring power to the town.