Richard Spoor, whose public interest law firm, Richard Spoor Inc Attorneys, is representing families affected by last year’s Jagersfontein disaster, said he hoped to file its application for a class action suit against Jagersfontein Developments, which owns the diamond tailings reprocessing facility, within the next few weeks.

‘The idea is a class action. Step one is certification – it’s a slam dunk. I mean the common issues are: is Jagersfontein Developments responsible for this collapse, and the injuries and the harm that followed?’

He said there are two grounds on which the company could be held liable. 

‘One is strict liability in terms of the National Water Act, or the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, or the National Environmental Management Act.’

The Mail & Guardian reports that Spoor said the company had concluded about 36 agreements with people whose homes were destroyed and damaged ‘in terms of which they agreed to replace the homes but in return for a way of ending any claims against the mine’.

He labelled this as ‘oppressive and unlawful’.

‘Residents don’t really have a choice but to conclude these agreements because they’re homeless. The state hasn’t done anything to ensure they are compensated, that they don’t need to rely on the mercy of the mine,’ he said.

The M&G notes that Wisane Mavasa, spokesperson for the Department of Water & Sanitation, said it had issued a directive to Jagersfontein Developments to rehabilitate and restore the watercourses that were affected by the slimes because of the dam failure.

In November, it opened a criminal case against the company under the National Water Act and would now issue a warning statement to the alleged transgressor before the file is handed to the NPA.

Full Mail & Guardian report