Waste from a diamond mine in South Africa grew ever higher as the ownership changed from De Beers to a billionaire to a Dubai-based retailer. The mining town paid the price.
JAGERSFONTEIN, South Africa — The dirt wall holding in mucky waste from diamond mining grew over the years to resemble a wide, towering plateau. Suspended like a frozen tsunami over neat tracts of Monopoly-like homes in the rural South African mining town of Jagersfontein, the dam alarmed residents who feared it may collapse.
“We saw it long time, that one day this thing will burst,” said Memane Paulus, a machine operator at the dam for the past decade. The worst fears of residents came true this month when a section of the dam crumbled, sending a thunderous rush of gray sludge through the community that killed at least one person, destroyed 164 houses, and turned a six-mile stretch of neighborhoods and grassy fields into an ashen wasteland.