A mining dam in the Free State Province of South Africa collapsed on 11 September 2022 flooding areas of Jagersfontein and Charlesville.
A wall of a mining dam, also known as a tailings dam, broke in the early hours causing floods, mud and debris to flow into nearby settlements. Homes were damaged or destroyed and residents force to flee. Authorities said the disaster has left hundreds of people destitute. At least 3 people have lost their lives and 4 are missing, while around 40 people were taken to hospital including 23 with hypothermia and 4 with broken limbs.
Rescue and recovery efforts are underway, involving teams from emergency services and police from surrounding towns.
Provincial authorities evacuated people in the affected areas to nearby farms. Humanitarian Organisations such as Meals on Wheels, South African Red Cross and many more are on the ground providing food and conducting assessments.
The Premier of the Free State Sisi Ntombela visited the affected areas of the diamond mining town of Jagersfontein in the Kopanong Local Municipality on 11 September. “A detailed report on the circumstances surrounding the incident will be released upon compilation,” the Premier said.
South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, will visit the affected area on 12 September 2022.
Mining and Tailings Dam Disasters
The in Free State province experienced a similar disaster in 1994 when the Merriespruit tailings dam collapsed causing considerable damage and the deaths of at least 17 people
More recently tailings dam disasters have caused catastrophic damage in the state of Minas Gerais in 2015 after the Samarco dam failed, and again in January 2019.
Following the Samarco tailings dams collapse in November 2015, over fifty million cubic metres of toxic sludge swept down the valley and into the Rio Doce, through the Brazilian state of Espírito Santo and out to sea at the Rio Doce estuary at Regência in Linhares district. At the time this was described as Brazil’s worst-ever environmental disaster.