SOUTH Africa’s energy and mines minister Gwede Mantashe criticised a High Court decision in 2009 that meant Government had no jurisdiction over tailings dams in the country, according to a report by the Daily Maverick.
“It deprived this company and this mine [of the] opportunity to have regular mining inspectors visiting it,” he said during his visit to Jagersfontein, the diamond mine in the Free State where a tailings facility burst on Sunday, killing at least one person and displacing an estimated 200 people.
“To me, it confirms that this cannot be an operation that is given a different definition — it is a mining operation, and therefore the DMRE [Department of Minerals and Energy] must take full responsibility for the operations. That judgment, to me, was a mistake and it should be corrected,” Mantashe said.
Daily Maverick said the court judgement was by the Free State High Court in the matter of De Beers vs Ataqua Mining and the DMRE.
The case dealt with the questions of whether the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act of 2002 deprived De Beers of the ownership of the minerals in its tailings dumps, and if the DMRE had the authority to grant prospecting or mining rights in tailings dumps created before 2002, said the publication.
De Beers won the 2009 court case, and the court held that tailings dumps are movables and thus ownership belongs to those who removed the minerals as they had occurred naturally in or on the earth, and the MPRDA could not control tailings dumps created before the act was created in 2002, said Daily Maverick.
“My own interpretation is that that judgement reflects the lack of understanding of mining as a value chain, because you can’t fragment mining,” Mantashe said, adding that it reflected judicial overreach.