Catastrophic tailings dam failure at the Jagersfontein diamond mine, South Africa
A catastrophic tailings dam failure occurred at the Jagersfontein diamond mine in South Africa early Sunday morning, September 11, 2022, causing loss of life and severe environmental damage.
A toxic mine waste flooded the town of Jagersfontein, sweeping away at least 9 homes and numerous cars. In some parts of the town, the depth of the ‘mud’ was around 2 m (6.5 feet).
At least 4 people have been killed and 40 others injured. Reports mention at least four people are in critical condition while hundreds have been left homeless.
35 patients have been transported to Diamant Hospital in Jagersfontein, amongst them 1 pregnant lady, 4 with fractured limbs the rest for bruises and hypothermia. 5 more patients were transported to Albert Nzula Hospital in Trompsburg, government officials said.
Images courtesy: Free State Government
“The provincial government has activated the disaster management team and the Joint Operation Centre to determine the extent of the disaster and also carry out evacuation processes where necessary,” the spokesperson of the Free State Premier said.
“More details on what may have caused the incident will be shared at the later stage once government has received a detailed report on the incident.”
Satellite imagery acquired by Sentinel-2 satellite on September 11 shows the aftermath of the event. Unfortunately, toxic waste has also entered the nearby dam and Prosesspruit stream.
“It appears that the pond, which is about 1 km [0.6 miles] long and 500 m [0.3 miles] wide has largely emptied,” landslides expert Dr. Dave Petley said after examining Planet Labs satellite imagery.
“The plume of tailings extends about 8.5 km [5.3 miles] towards the southeast and is up to about 1.5 km [1 miles] wide.
“Worryingly, the satellite images also indicate that the tailings have entered the main channel. The main channel flows out towards the north, with a small dam creating a lake.”
Images acquired also show that the dam has been overcome, although it is possible that it has retained a substantial volume of waste, Petley said. “We will need to wait for better imagery to understand the impact better.”
1 Free State Government statement released September 11, 2022
2 The 11 September 2022 Jagersfontein tailings dam failure – The Landslide Blog – September 12, 2022
Featured image credit: Free State Government
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