Jagersfontien, a small town in the middle of South Africa with over a century of mining history, awoke to a tragic failure of responsibility on 11 September 2022 when torrents of muddy water cascaded over the embankments that were meant to hold it back. The flood killed one person and devastated many homes.
The muddy water was the residue left over from the extraction of diamonds. The Jagersfontein mine traces its origins to a 50-carat diamond discovery in 1870. Mining began in earnest shortly after that and continued until 1971. Notable diamonds uncovered included the Excelsior and Reitz diamonds.
All mining operations produce residue or tailings. Consequently, there are over 200 active tailings facilities in South Africa. While initial extraction removes most of the sought minerals, tailings facilities can become resources once again as extractive technologies improve.
As mine grades decline, mining companies are increasingly looking to retreat operations. Retreat operations nevertheless result in tailings dams of their own. While retreat operations can be carried out under existing mining licenses, it can be unclear how historic dumps, such as at Jagersfontein, can be exploited.
For the rest of this article: https://theconversation.com/burst-mining-dam-in-south-africa-what-must-be-done-to-prevent-another-disaster-190559