What will we learn from another mine waste tragedy?
The Jagersfontein failure was preventable.
How will we better protect human life?
On September 11 in South Africa about 500km southwest of Johannesburg, the tailings dam failed at the Jagersfontein mine waste impoundment. Three people were killed, four more are still missing, and 40 were hospitalized.
This is a tragedy, and all the more so because it was predictable.
IRMA Board member Meshack Mbangula of Mining Affected Communities United in Action and other MACUA leaders are currently in the region, gathering the perspectives of communities. Meshack shares that some are still without water, electricity, sewage management, and with road blockages limiting children's access to school.
From the world’s repeated recent experience with mine waste disasters, we know that poor tailings facility designs, aging facilities, and increasing frequency of extreme weather associated with climate change will combine to cause more mine waste tragedies around the world for communities living near mining operations.
We can act to minimize that threat. We join with others asking three questions:
- How can we prevent the construction of new mining waste facilities with this type of risk to fail?
- How can we provide sufficient funds for communities and governments to protect public safety from these mine waste risks even when mine ownership changes?
- The unbelievably difficult question of how to put protection of human life first at the thousands of places around the world where these dams already exist?