PRESS STATEMENT | Jagersfontein Dam: The tragic consequences of corporate and state neglect in the mining industry.

Date: 14/09/2022

Lawyers for Human Rights (“LHR”) expresses its sadness and shock at the recent disastrous events that occurred at Jargersfontein. According to various news reports, the community has suffered major losses in lives, injury, loss of livestock, business, housing, and public infrastructure. These include one elderly man who passed away, an elderly women reported to be missing and over 103 people who were displaced from their homes due to the flooding. The impact of this tragedy on the local community will surely be longstanding, especially in light of the response government has had towards natural disasters such as the flooding that occurred in Kwa-Zulu Natal and Western Cape in the past few months and years.
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Mining industry bears the responsibility

The flooding of the area is without a doubt a result of a mine dam that is poorly managed by its owners.  The Jagersfontein dam that caused this disaster is currently owned by Jagersfontein Development, a subsidiary of a Dubai-based multinational corporation, Stargems, which previously belonged to De Beers.  The devastating flood and mudslides reflects years of neglect which the current and former owners need to be held responsible, as well as officials within the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (“DMRE”) who are tasked to monitor and enforce compliance with the National Environmental Management Act, National Water Act regulations, and the conditions of the license for operation of the dam.

Systemic non-compliance

The Department of Water Affairs and Sanitation has reportedly warned about the dam operating at twice the capacity it was authorized to have. This rampant disregard of the law is however not an exception. Many of our clients in the mining affected communities have long reported flagrant disregard for environmental laws by the mining corporations operating on their land and communities.

As Mining Affected Communities United in Action (“MACUA”) and Women Affected United in Action (“WAMUA”) correctly point out that the “Jaggersfontein disaster was constructed by the lack of accountability and care for the lives of those who live close to mining activities”. MACUA, WAMUA and many other mining affected communities that LHR represents have raised concerns related to lack of proper mine closure and rehabilitation for many years and form part of our research report on mine closures in South Africa.

Our research confirms community revelations of systematic non-compliance of mining corporations with the conditions of their mining licenses, especially the terms of the environmental authorization and approved environmental management programme. It also reveals how the regulatory authorities have abdicated their regulatory responsibilities, violating mining affected communities’ constitutional right to an environment that is not harmful to their health and well-being.

The report further shows how large-scale mining corporations such as  De Beers avoid their environmental obligations and pass mines entering their twilight years to smaller companies which have no capacity to manage and comply with the undertakings in the Environmental Management Plans, and furthermore, have no capacity to compensate victims of disasters such as what has occurred at Jagersfontein.

LHR demands that those responsible for this tragedy must be held accountable. Mametlwe Sebei, attorney in the Environmental Rights Programme at LHR said, “the systematic non-compliance of the mining industry must be addressed and the capacity for state inspection and monitoring be tackled. We trust that a more democratic space will be created for active involvement of the affected communities in monitoring and enforcing corporate mining compliance.”

Support for business and human rights work is generously provided to LHR by Fastenaktion and the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung.

For more information:

Mametlwe Sebei, Attorney, LHR Environmental Rights Programme | 081 368 0706

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