Just transition and our history:
If government is serious about a just transition, De Beers and their subsidiaries must be held accountable and pay for the clean up and full rehabilitation, maintenance and closure of the mine, and develop a just transition plan for the community of Jagersfontein, starting with immediate compensation for damages from the spill and the lives lost.
Jagersfontein mine was one of the largest De Beers mines during the colonial and apartheid times. De Beers’ operations extracted huge profits and wealth for their global shareholders from the community, and then left them with the waste of capitalism. In 2010, De Beers offloaded the legacy of their wealth creation – the toxic waste of past mining – onto the local community through the Superkolong Consortium. De Beers claimed that the deal “… met the criteria set by De Beers including technical, economic, community, technical competence, available funding to develop the new processing operation”. Did De Beers clean up their mess after their extracted profits? No, they offloaded it onto the community. We need to understand what due diligence was done by De Beers and the government to allow this deal to go through?
Learning from our history:
We need to learn from the UPL Cornubia catastrophe when a highly toxic cocktail of chemicals contaminated the Ohlanga River in 2021, and the Merriespruit tailings dam disaster in 1994, which left 17 people dead.
The question has to be asked: did the mine have a valid water use licence, and were the licence conditions monitored by the Department of Water and Sanitation? Was the tailings dam in contravention of the licence conditions, and if so what action was taken, considering the recent history of the UPL and Merriespruit disasters? When was the last risk assessment for the tailings dam, and what were the findings?
Emergency preparedness – learning from the past and the 2021 floods:
What is the emergency preparedness plan in the case of an event such as this? Does the mine and local government have such a plan? And if they do, are the local residents living downstream and in immediate danger, in the event of a disaster, aware of this emergency plan?
If it is found that the company operating the mine has contravened its water use licence, groundWork calls for the present directors and owners to be held responsible for the disaster and, more importantly, for De Beers, which originally owned the operations and made huge profits from the operations, to take responsibility for their historical operations.
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