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The mining tailings dam collapse in Jagersfontein in September last year left a trail of destruction, despair, divisions within the community and a climate of fear in the small mining town 120 kilometres south-west of Bloemfontein. The nearby poor communities of Charlesville and Itumeleng have been left to fend for themselves while provincial and local government are still registering the names of those who lost their livelihoods.

Our team visited Jagersfontein and spoke to David van Wyk, a researcher from Benchmarks Foundation who is based in the Free State. In the video below, van Wyk explains what led to the collapse.

David van Wyk from Benchmarks Foundation explains what led to the collapse of the dam.

Elitsha spoke to a resident whose house was swept away by the sludge. She refused to speak on-camera because of tensions and divisions in the community. Those who were affected by the disaster are represented by three lawyers while some people are dealing directly with the mining company, Jagersfontein Developments.

Resident who lost house explains what happened on 11 September 2022.

The resident claims that the mining company has signed agreements with affected residents who are not suing the company committing it to build them houses, and that the mining company lawyers are refusing to meet with the lawyers that represent the other affected families who have chosen not to deal with the company directly.

Resident claims that the company is dividing the community

Some community members who spoke to Elitsha said that it would take time for them to bounce back and recover from the disaster.

The residents could not move their cars out of the path of the avalanche of sludge.

After the disaster, the mining company was issued with six directives by the department of water affairs and sanitation and the provincial department of economic, small business, tourism and environmental affairs. The directives contain some 40 different instructions on compulsory actions and conduct demanded of the company.

A truck making its way to the mine.

The provincial government also promised to build 160 homes for those who were affected.

According to residents, no houses have been rebuilt so far in Jagersfontein.