Tailings management regulations critical aspect of MPRDA review

A satellite image of the Jagersfontein tailings dam breach

A satellite image of the Jagersfontein tailings dam breach

14th July 2023

By: Darren Parker

Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online


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Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Minerals and Energy member Mathews Wolmarans has noted that one of the key areas of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) that needs to be reviewed involves tailings management.

Speaking at the MPRDA Review Summit, in Johannesburg, on July 13, he referred to the Jagersfontein tailings dam failure that occurred in September last year, causing mudslides and floods that resulted in widespread damage to farmlands, livestock, private residences and businesses in the area. The tailings dam was linked to an old De Beers-owned mine, which was decommissioned in 1972 and deproclaimed as a mine, which meant that the property was no longer considered a mining property by law.

Since then, the tailings dam changed hands several times. Wolmarans said that these transactions were outside of the control of the DMRE, as a result of a court ruling in 2009 that confirmed that the MPRDA did not regulate tailings. This means that the operation was carried out as an industrial operation with no obligation to comply with the regulations and requirements of the MPRDA and the Mine Health and Safety Act. This meant that, although the site was inspected by the Department of Employment and Labour for worker health and safety reasons, as well as by the Department of Water and Sanitation, it was not inspected by the DMRE’s mine inspectorate, who possess the necessary training and mandate to check the safety of tailings dams.

This could apply to any tailings dam that is not currently on a mining right owing to the original mine having been deproclaimed under pre-MPRDA minerals law.

Wolmarans said that this issue was one of the key factors in requesting the DMRE to initiate a review of the MPRDA, as the resulting uncertainty surrounding the regulation of tailings and mine dumps posed multiple potential risks to the industry and the public.

Delegates suggested during a breakaway session at the MPRDA Review Summit that the MPRDA be revised to apply to residue stockpiles, which would ensure that the owners of old dumps would have to operate them under the same health, safety, and environmental compliance standards as other operating mines, with the added benefit of regular mining inspector visitations.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online



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