The mining executives responsible for the Jagersfontein mine dam wall burst, which has claimed lives and caused major destruction to the community, must be held accountable for the loss of lives, homes and people livelihoods, Amnesty International South Africa said today.
According to reports three people were killed and more than 40 people injured when the banks of the mining dam burst in the Free State town on Sunday.
“The lack of accountability within the mining sector is a major continuing problem in South Africa. It has worrying consequences on the lives of communities who live in these areas. The Jagersfontein mining executives must be held accountable for this disaster which could have been avoided,” Amnesty International South Africa Executive Director Shenilla Mohamed said.
“Mining companies have an enormous impact on people’s lives and the communities in which they operate. Sometimes the impact is positive, but there are countless instances when corporations exploit weak and poorly enforced domestic regulation with devastating effects on people and communities.”
Companies must respect human rights in their operations and provide remedy if they have caused or contributed to human rights harm. There needs to be effective regulation of business to prevent human rights abuses, better practices by companies, accountability, and access to justice.
“Governments are required to protect against human rights abuse, including that caused by companies,” Shenilla Mohamed said.
“By failing to hold mining companies accountable, the state is failing to protect people living in South Africa, which it has a constitutional duty to do. Both the state and mining companies need to be held responsible.”
Amnesty International South Africa is calling for a thorough, efficient, and timeous investigation into the reasons behind the dam wall burst, and to ensure that those who are responsible are held to account.
“We cannot continue to have the buck passed on devastating incidents like what we have seen in Jagersfontein, with companies and the state trying to absolve themselves while people are suffering,” Shenilla Mohamed said.
Stargems Group, a Dubai-based diamond merchant, which owns the mine in Jagersfontein in the Free State, has reportedly said it is probing the incident that saw parts of the town destroyed by water and mine waste.
The mine was formerly owned by De Beers and reportedly shut in the 1970s. Stargems’s unit, Jagersfontein Developments, acquired the shareholding of the tailing dump from billionaire Johann Rupert’s Reinet Investments SCA in April, which took over the mine from De Beers.
The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy said it had dispatched experts to investigate the cause of the dam burst.
South Africa’s mining industry is built on a history of inequality and exploitation. Mining-affected communities continue to bear the greatest burdens of mining – from losing farmland to facing environmental harm – often without seeing the benefits. In February 2022, Amnesty International South Africa, together with partners the Centre for Applied Legal Studies and Sekhukhune Combined Mining-Affected Communities, published research into three mining companies operating in the Sekhukhune area of Limpopo and the experiences of local mining-affected communities.
For more information or to request an interview, please contact:
Genevieve Quintal, Media and Communications Officer, Amnesty International South Africa: +27 (0)64 890 9224; firstname.lastname@example.org
Amnesty International South Africa office, 97 Oxford Road, Saxonwold, Johannesburg, 2196