At Least 3 Killed After Tailings Dam Collapses at S. Africa Diamond Mine

SourcingSep 14, 2022

At Least 3 Killed After Tailings Dam Collapses at S. Africa Diamond Mine

The accident occurred at Jagersfontein, an inactive mine where a Dubai-based company currently reprocesses tailings.

This photo from the South African government’s Twitter account shows the damage the Sept. 11 collapse of a tailings dam at the Jagersfontein Mine caused to nearby homes and businesses. (Photo courtesy of @GovernmentZA)
Jagersfontein-Charlesville, South Africa—At least three people were killed earlier this week after a dam burst at an inactive open-pit diamond mine in South Africa currently owned by Dubai-based Stargems Group.

According to the South African government, a dam holding back tailings at the Jagersfontein Mine collapsed around 6 a.m. local time on Sept. 11.

The accident flooded local homes and infrastructure with sludge, knocking out power, displacing residents and killing at least three people, according to a statement issued Sunday by the office of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. 
Additionally, four people are missing and 27 have been treated for hypothermia or injuries.   

Originally a De Beers Group mine, Jagersfontein has been the site of diamond digging since the late 1800s and has produced some of the world’s largest rough diamonds, including the 972-carat “Excelsior.”

De Beers confirmed that it stopped mining on the site in 1971. In 2010, it sold Jagersfontein to the Superkolong Consortium, a Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) holding company for a number of mining operations.

In April of this year, Stargems Group bought Jagersfontein as well as the rights to an alluvial diamond project near Kimberley, South Africa, from Reinet Investments for an undisclosed amount. South African billionaire and Richemont Chairman Johann Rupert runs Reinet. 

Via Jagersfontein Developments Ltd., Stargems Group reprocesses old tailings at the former mine site, meaning the company sifts through waste in the hopes of finding diamonds that were missed the first time around.

“Rooipoort (the alluvial project) and Jagersfontein … are a source of high-value and exceptional single stones and a very healthy run-of-mine production,” Stargems Group Chairman Shailesh Javeri told Rapaport at the time of the acquisition. “We hope to increase the production in the coming years and add value to the mine and the communities it represents.”

Stargems Group did not respond to National Jeweler’s request comment on the dam failure Tuesday, but Bloomberg reported the company is investigating the cause of the collapse and pledging 20 million South African rand ($1.2 million) to help the community recover. 

 Related stories will be right here … 

News of the deaths in South Africa come less than two weeks after another diamond mine-related fatality.

An employee of a contractor partner at De Beers Canada and Mountain Province Diamonds’ Gahcho Kué mine died Sept. 1 following an incident at the mine in Canada’s Northwest Territories.

De Beers and Mountain Province said authorities are investigating the incident. A De Beers spokesperson said Wednesday there is no update on the incident at this time and no details will be shared while the investigation is active.

At the request of the contractor partner, De Beers and Mountain Province are not sharing any personal details about the individual who was killed.

The Jagersfontein dam collapse also comes less than a year after reports of another diamond mine tailings dam incident, this one in Angola.

In September 2021, researchers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Kinshasa University said a leak of heavy metals from a tailings dam at the Catoca mine in neighboring Angola polluted two Congo River tributaries, killing people and fish and affecting nearly a million lives. 

The following month, however, Catoca, a joint venture of Alrosa and Angola’s state-run diamond company, Endiama, refuted the claim that the “toxic” spill had killed people, stating that it had tested the water and found it to contain a mixture of sand and clay, but no hard metals, Reuters reported.
Michelle Graffis the editor-in-chief at National Jeweler, directing the publication’s coverage both online and in print.

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