Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Montashe visited Jagersfontein in the Free State on Tuesday, where collapse of tailings shelter wall at the Jagersfontein diamond mine displaced more than 200 people and at least one.

Mantashi said a 2009 High Court ruling that left the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) and the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act 2002 (MPRDA) without jurisdiction over all tailings, including the Jagersfontein dams, was a dangerous mistake.

The collapsed Free State tailings dam near the towns of Jagersfontein and Charlesville, with the mudflow indicated by the red arrows. (Map and image: Rudy Luw)

“It took away this company and this mine [of the] the possibility of regular visits by mining inspectors,” he said during a visit to Jagersfontein.

“To me, this confirms that this cannot be an operation that has been given another definition – it is a mining operation and therefore DMRE must take full responsibility for the work. This decision, in my opinion, was a mistake and it should be corrected.”

Montashe was referring to a 2009 Free State High Court decision in the case De Beers v. Ataqua Mining and DMRE.

The case concerned whether the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act 2002 deprived De Beers of mineral rights in its tailings and whether the DMRE had the power to grant exploration or production rights in tailings created before 2002. .

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After the tragedy, the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwedd Montashe, visited Charlesville in Jagersfontein. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

The demolished tailings dam (where mining by-products are stored) is adjacent to what used to be the Jagersfontein diamond mine, which was closed in the 1970s by its then owners, De Beers. The tailings facility is now classified as a processing plant and is owned by Jagersfontein Developments (JD), a division of Dubai’s Stargems Group.

Tailings or shafts often contain large quantities of minerals that can be mined, extending the economic life of the mining operation.

De Beers won a lawsuit in 2009 and the court ruled that the tailings were movable property and therefore title belonged to whoever removed the minerals as they naturally occurred in or on the land, and the MPRDA did not can control tails created before the act was created in 2002.

“You can’t fragment mining”

Montashe said the ruling meant all tailings sites in South Africa were outside the jurisdiction of the DMRE and the MPRDA, and by being there on Tuesday, the DMRE “risked being held in contempt of court”.

“My own interpretation is that this opinion reflects a lack of understanding of mining as a value chain because you cannot fragment mining,” Mantashi told the media. He said the classification of tailings as a non-mine was a mistake and the decision reflected judicial overreach.

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Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Montashe assesses the damage to a house during his visit to Charlesville, Jagersfontein on September 13, 2022. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

He said DMRE had raised the matter with the Minerals Council of South Africa, which he hoped would deal with his department to reverse the judiciary’s decision “because it is dangerous”.

Mantashi said the Free State was an old gold mining area with many tailings and handing over the jurisdiction of these dams to the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), which followed the court decision, was a “mining risk”. activity”.

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Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Montashe talks about the mud puddle during his visit to Charlesville in Jagersfontein on September 13, 2022. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Mantashi added that this will not stop his department from participating now.

“Someone acting arbitrarily can sue us for contempt of court. But we are here – and we will be part of the teams working on this disaster.»

Who is responsible?

Montashe said that according to the court order: “The helmet dam belongs to the mine, not the department, and so De Beers was told at the time. So whoever owns it now is the successor to De Beers, so they will take responsibility.’

Jagersfontein told Daily Maverick that the Sonop Superkolong consortium was the successful bidder for the Jagersfontein diamond mine when De Beers put it out to tender in 2010. Superkolong pulled out of the deal soon after, and billionaire Johan Rupert’s Reinet Investments took control. Stargems acquired a stake in Reinet in Jagersfontein in April 2022.

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Montashe said that in all cases, mining companies take responsibility for disasters in their mines, but the state is coming to lend a hand and find a solution.

“We don’t wash our hands and say it’s not our responsibility. We are here. We will work with the company, we must find a solution to this disaster.”

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Marius de Villiers, compliance officer at Jagersfontein Developments, speaks to the media on September 13 following the collapse of the tailings dam. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Marius de Villiers, compliance officer at Jagersfontein Developments, told the media on Tuesday: “The refinery obviously has to accept the responsibility that comes with the operation and the breach of the dam wall.

“The fact that a person died is tragic. We should not try to blame people for what happened. Let the process continue and be done.


“YuYou have to rely on your experts and your engineering, I can show you pictures of this wall three or four days before the accident and you won’t be able to tell me there was a risk.”

However, community members said they have raised concerns about the dam wall for years Daily Maverick informed that the director general of the country’s prime minister’s office, Kapung Ralikantsane, said that Jagersfontein received instructions from the government to cease operations two years ago.

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Residents walk through what’s left of their homes in Charlesville, Jagersfontein, after the tailings dam burst. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Ratov confirmed this to Sputnik, the press secretary of the Water Supply Department Daily Maverick that after the department issued a directive to Jagersfontein Developments in 2020, it ceased all operations in January 2021 while addressing the issues raised.

Ratov said the department conducted on-site inspections and evaluated all reports and available information to ensure compliance with the directive. Some of the identified risks have been addressed, such as the installation of new digital flow meters to accurately measure the volumes of waste discharged into the tailings facility and the provision of quarterly reports on coarse tailings deposits.

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Residents of Charlesville in Jagersfontein clean up the dam after the tailings impoundment collapsed. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

The department lifted restrictions on the facility in May 2021. “However, JD was also advised that they should liaise with DWS Dam Safety Engineers to address the dam safety requirements in the November 2020 SRK Dam Breach Analysis Report and Emergency Preparedness Plan. from January 2021″.

“JD has provided regular reports to DWS, including a dam sustainability report that was submitted to DWS in August, and this report confirmed that the dam is stable.”

Working together

Mantashi said the high court ruling had stopped his department from carrying out mining inspections, but he still wanted government departments to work together.

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A military helicopter flies over a search and rescue team in Charlesville, Jagersfontein, after a tailings dam collapsed. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

When we’re dealing with a disaster of this nature, it’s not what a particular department does—we pool all the government’s resources, work together as departments, break down silos to overcome the disaster. We agree with that and that’s what we’re going to do.”

De Villiers said Jagersfontein Developments had set aside R20 million as an interim sum for disaster relief and that this was not the limit. Funds are directed to displaced residents, providing food parcels and essential materials, as well as paying medical and hospital bills.

De Villiers said about 600,000 rand had been spent so far on housing in Bloemfontein for people displaced by the disaster. They accommodated more than 360 displaced persons in hotels in Bloemfontein and hostels in neighboring towns.

Charlesville Search and Rescue
A search and rescue team in Charlesville, Jagersfontein, on September 13, 2022. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

“We arranged for electricity; hopefully it will be linked today [Tuesday]. The water was connected yesterday [Monday]. At the moment, the engineers are working on their reports, there are people in the river monitoring the pollution,” De Villiers said.

Meropa Communications, which works for Jagersfontein Developments, said the tailings dam at Jagersfontein remained stable overnight and operations had begun to pump out the remaining waste from the treatment plant.

It’s too early to speculate

An investigation will be conducted into what caused the dam wall to collapse, but Mantashi said at this stage “it would be putting the cart before the horse” to suggest the dam breach was due to incompetence or negligence.

Jagersfontein Developments has appointed an independent investigation team to try to establish the facts.

De Villiers echoed the minister, saying: “We cannot speculate at this stage. This is the worst we can do. So let’s all wait for it [investigation] to complete”. DM


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