We will take responsibility and accept liability, says Jagersfontein mining company

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The legal compliance officer for Jagersfontein Developments (Pty) Ltd said on Tuesday afternoon the company would take full responsibility and accept liability following the collapse of a mining wall dam in the town on Sunday.

"I am not going to refer to this as a mine, but it is a processing facility.

"The processing facility must accept liability that comes with the operations and with the break of the mining wall dam collapse in the town," Marius de Villiers said following a meeting with Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe on Tuesday.

De Villiers added the company had made R20 million available for disaster relief, including food parcels and temporary housing for displaced residents.

He said thus far it had spent close to R600 000, adding the company had also arranged for electricity to be reconnected on Tuesday.

Water was restored on Monday, De Villiers added.

READ | Jagersfontein tragedy: 70-year-old man dead, elderly woman missing, 51 houses destroyed

"Teams are also looking at rivers for pollution."

He said it was not yet clear how the dam wall collapsed in the early hours on Sunday, adding the company would investigate the cause.

"If I can tell you that, I will be a happy man. At this stage, we don't know.

"We need to have that investigation done, and we can't speculate at this stage. That is the worst thing we could do. Let's all wait for that to be finalised, and it may take time, but we have to wait for that."

De Villiers disputed residents' claims they had warned the company about the dam's wall.

"The community and us had difficult times previously, and I think that was more or less sorted, and I think there is currently a good relationship with us and the mayor."

According to him, the latest engineering report was submitted in June 2022.

"We have to do that quarterly, and we have complied with that. You got to rely on your experts and 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 that there was a risk," De Villiers said.

"Our main thing was to do emergency procedures, safeguard everything, and safeguard lives of people, and that was done. We are now getting to a phase where we can start with clean-up operations, and an investigation must be finalised.

"The fact that a person died is tragic, [but] we mustn't now try put the blame on people for what had happened. Let the process continue and get done where after [a] decision will be made, not only by us but by authorities as well."

READ | 'We lost everything': Barefoot Jagersfontein resident gratetul to be alive after dam disaster

Should gross negligence be found, heads would roll, De Villiers said.

"If the investigation finds gross negligence, then those people must be treated accordingly whether it is management or engineers."

Mantashe said a commission of inquiry would be launched to look into the disaster.

"We don't come here to negotiate agreements in a disaster visit. You visit a disaster site; you don't negotiate on an agreement, and you point out issues you are not comfortable with. You express your view about the extent but close it.

"There is going to be an inquiry which is a formal process where evidence is going to be led, and witnesses are going to be called," he added.

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