Free State dam disaster: Criminal case to be opened against Jagersfontein Developments

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In the wake of a devastating tailings dam wall collapse in the Free State, the Deputy Minister of the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), David Mahlobo, will open a criminal case against Jagersfontein Developments on Friday. 

The department said the criminal case pertains to contraventions of the National Water Act.

In September this year, the wall of Jagersfontein Developments' tailings facility collapsed, causing one death and injuring scores of people. The department said the incident also caused pollution to the environment and water resources, and has threatened people's livelihoods.

"As a result, DWS took a decision to implement administrative enforcement measures and issued a directive dated 12 September 2022 in terms of Section 20 of National Water Act," the department said.

"This directive pertains to the release of a substance (slime/mine process waste materials) that pollutes or has the potential to pollute or have a detrimental effect on a water resource and contains the required actions that the responsible person had to undertake in order to remedy the effects of the incident."

The administrative enforcement is a parallel enforcement action to the criminal case, the department said.

Jagersfontein Developments did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday morning. 

After the incident the company said it was devastated by the breach and that it made R20 million "available immediately for affected people on the ground and the restoration of the town".

Jagersfontein Developments, which was leading the clean-up operations, said at the time that the waste water was not hazardous.

The tailings of the old Jagersfontein diamond mine were sold in 2010 by De Beers for an undisclosed amount to a consortium comprising Superkolong, Sonop Diamond Mining, and Reinet Investments - a Luxembourg-based investment vehicle which was created following the restructuring of the Rupert family’s interests in Remgro, British American Tobacco and Richemont in 2008.

Earlier this year Reinet sold out its stake to Stargems, a Dubai-based diamond trading company.

In the days following the tailings failure, News24 reported how the DWS had raised red flags over the Jagersfontein mine's tailings storage for years, highlighting excessive volumes disposed of in the facilities as well as the need for an "emergency preparedness plan".  

Stargems said at the time that "a full due diligence was conducted prior to this acquisition showing that the assets, including the dam were safe and secure".


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