By Nelson Banya and Helen Reid
(Reuters) – A South African firm is dumping the sludgy byproduct of mining right into a historic diamond pit after the tailings dam that had saved the waste partially collapsed, killing one and leaving scores injured.
The federal government company overseeing cultural preservation mentioned on Thursday it authorized plans to fill the historic Jagersfontein diamond mining pit with waste from a second compartment of the tailings dam with a view to stop a secondary breach after one compartment of the dam failed.
Public paperwork present Jagersfontein Developments, the corporate reprocessing previous tailings across the disused pit to recuperate diamonds, has lodged 5 purposes over the previous decade with the South African Heritage Sources Company (SAHRA) looking for permission to retailer liquid mine waste that could be a byproduct of that reprocessing within the pit moderately than the dam.
The newest request was made on Aug. 17, simply 4 weeks earlier than the tailings dam catastrophe.
An earlier resolution to maneuver the waste into the pit may have relieved strain on the tailings dam which burst on Sunday morning, unleashing a flood of grey sludge that swept away homes and automobiles in Jagersfontein, a small city in South Africa’s Free State province.
However the pit, the oldest and largest hand-dug diamond mine on this planet, is classed as a historic website and filling it up requires approval by SAHRA.
The Division of Water and Sanitation authorised the “quick” pumping of slime from the second compartment of the tailings dam into the pit on Monday, the day after the dam burst, prompting SAHRA to approve the backfilling on Thursday.
“Because the city of Jagersfontein is in a state of catastrophe due to the collapsed tailings dam (…) no additional evaluation of the affect to heritage assets are required,” SAHRA mentioned, including it had no objections to the plan submitted on Aug. 17.
Jagersfontein Developments first utilized to backfill the historic pit in September 2012, and SAHRA granted it permission in June 2013, however the Jagersfontein Group Belief appealed the choice and the corporate withdrew its utility in January 2014.
SAHRA mentioned the following purposes made by Jagersfontein Developments in 2018, 2019 and 2020 had been incomplete.
Fortune seekers drawn by South Africa’s diamond rush began digging at Jagersfontein in 1870. By 1907 the pit was greater even than the extra well-known “Large Gap” in Kimberley, and reached a depth of 250 metres (820 ft).
Since then it has modified palms a number of instances.
De Beers, the diamond mining unit of Anglo American (LON:) Plc, was the final firm to mine Jagersfontein till 1971, promoting the mine and surrounding dry tailings dumps in 2010 to Superkolong Consortium.
Dubai-based Stargems Group bought the belongings from the Luxembourg-based funding fund Reinet in April 2022. Reuters couldn’t instantly set up when Reinet purchased Jagersfontein from Superkolong, and Reinet didn’t reply to requests for remark.
Neither Stargems nor Jagersfontein Improvement, a Stargems subsidiary, replied to questions on their plans to backfill the pit.
Sunday’s catastrophe has raised questions on oversight of a whole lot of tailings dams littered throughout South Africa.
In 2007 South Africa’s Excessive Courtroom dominated that the Jagersfontein tailings dumps don’t fall below the purview of the mines ministry, that means firms processing the dumps don’t require a mining licence.
Visiting Jagersfontein on Tuesday, minerals and power minister Gwede Mantashe criticised that ruling, saying it must be “revisited” in order that the ministry can examine tailings dams.
“A (tailings) dam, you’ll be able to’t belief it, it might break anytime,” he mentioned in a video posted on his Twitter (NYSE:) account.