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HomeNewsParliament committee completes fact-finding visit to Jagersfontein after dam wall collapse

Parliament committee completes fact-finding visit to Jagersfontein after dam wall collapse

Parliament committee completes fact-finding visit to Jagersfontein after dam wall collapse

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Johannesburg – The Committee on Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy set out on a three-day fact-finding oversight visit to Jagersfontein where the collapse of a mine dam wall caused severe devastation for the community.

The disaster at the Jagersfontein diamond mine and its tailings dam killed at least one person and displaced many others when its wall collapsed, creating a destructive mudslide that swept away homes and left the community covered in mine waste.

Upon arrival at Jagersfontein, committee chairperson Tebogo Modise said: “We are here to get answers, we are here because of the tragedy. Lives were lost and people are traumatised. We are here to get information.”

On day one of the oversight, the committee held a joint meeting with the Free State Legislature and met with various stakeholders, including the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) and the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE).

During the meeting, DMRE told the committee that, according to its records, De Beers was the last mining company to have had control over the area.

The DMRE also revealed that it did not have jurisdiction in the area, because minerals were no longer being extracted.

A court judgment ruled that tailings/surface dumps were not subject to control by the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, 2002 (MPRDA).

Furthermore the DMRE informed the committee that, as a result of the judgment, the department would only be able to regulate mine dumps if the current legislation was amended.

Currently, mine dumps are the private property of the mining company that created them.

The rest of the oversight visit was spent seeking answers through meeting and engaging with the community and the municipality and visiting different sites.

House chairperson of committees, oversight and intergovernmental relations and the National Council of Provinces, Jomo Nyambi, said: “I can confirm that the oversight process was fruitful and we are more than satisfied by the role being played by the district and the local municipality and, of course, the involvement of both national and provincial government.”

Nyambi added: “The situation on the ground is dire because of the magnitude of the situation, and one life lost is too many.

“I can also confirm that, though I cannot delve into too much of the findings right now, there will be a full report once we have engaged with the relevant stakeholders, including the owners of the mine.

“The committee is getting a sense of who is in charge of the mine, after it has exchanged hands for some time, but that will be revealed once we have fully engaged with them, because the meeting is still being set up with them.”

The select committee and portfolio committee was expected to invite stakeholders in order to get answers to all questions and to be able to compile a report.

“It is difficult to confirm what the next step will be because we know very well there is the 2007 judgment that was not appealed and is still binding, to some extent, where mining is concerned. However, once we have the relevant people meet, then that will contribute to the process to help find effective solutions,” said Nyambi.

Regional manager of mineral regulation, Kalipa Kewuti, said there was currently a company on-site working on the surface of the area, processing waste material from mining operations.

Kewuti said another meeting involving the committee, DMRE, DFFE and SAPS was required to find out why the 2007 court judgment was not appealed, among other issues that had been raised during the oversight visit.

Modise noted that another meeting was required with the DMRE, DFFE and SAPS to address issues arising from this engagement.

The committee said it wanted to know why the DMRE did not appeal the court’s judgment at the time.

“The work on the ground is still ongoing and we have seen this for ourselves. There are trucks on the roads that are attending to the ground work and that will continue.”

“We expect all the departments involved in this matter to work with the local municipality to report to the committee constantly about the progress on the ground, including the costs of everything,” said Nyambi.

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