DWS’s Comprehensive Response to Jagersfontein Tailings Dam Collapse

    The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has completed its investigation of the Jagersfontein tailings storage facility (TSF) failure that unfolded on 11 September 2022. 

    After a year of thorough efforts, the department has completed the required processes for evidence collection and gathering of scientific and engineering data related to the incident.

    According to a report published in Engineering News, The DWS has recently declared that it has started legal proceedings against the accountable authority, Jagersfontein Developments Pty (Ltd). The organisation will be charging them with criminal liability for the disaster. 

    On 13 September, marking the first anniversary of the incident, DWS detailed its plan to issue a warning statement against the accused party before submitting the case file to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for further action. 

    The department also mandated the mining company to designate an Approved Professional Person (APP) to safely empty compartment 2 of the TSF. The report says it’s urgent to quickly empty the mentioned compartment of the TSF because it still has a large amount of tailings.

    The APP has evaluated the risk of the occurrence of a secondary disaster and submitted a report to the department. The process of emptying the compartment started this August, and the department has announced the tailings dam as “unsafe” until the process is concluded. The APP is also expected to play a critical role in decommissioning the entire tailings dam, ensuring the site is safe and secure.

    The dam crumpled at a diamond mine in Jagersfontein, South Africa. It resulted in a massive amount of sludge released, which flowed across the landscape, destroying homes, and leaving 160 inhabitants homeless. This deluge claimed the lives of at least three people and hundreds of animals, and inundated over 10 square miles of grazing land and river. 

    In response to the havoc the TSF caused, the department mandated the accused company to restore and rehabilitate the watercourses affected by the dam breach. These are the Riet River, Wolwas Dam, Kalkfontein Dam, Proses spruit, and Kromellenboog River. The ongoing restoration projects include applying bioremediation and clearing sludge banks, slopes, and nearby landscapes. 

    The Jagersfontein tailings dam collapse is a clear example of the importance of implementing strong safety measures and continuous microseismic monitoring in the mining industry.

    Continuous microseismic monitoring in a tailings dam could help detect geochemical issues or stress early. That, in turn, leads to an improved knowledge of the situation, allowing action to be taken when necessary. 

    However, mining companies should deploy high-end monitoring solutions such as Silixa. That’s because the responsiveness of the system affects the accuracy of the extracted geochemical data.

    Ultimately, preventing the collapse of tailings dams requires vigilant oversight, proactive measures, and adherence to safety standards.

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