Dar es Salaam. Shinyanga regional commissioner Sophia Mjema has launched an investigation into the dam breach at Petra Diamonds’ Williamson mine which reports indicate that has affected an estimated number of 19 households and 59 individuals in Tanzania’s northern region.
On November 8, 2022, Petra Diamonds, a Jersey-based diamond mining group, announced that it was halting operations at its Williamson mine after a tailings storage facility burst, causing mud flooding in nearby areas.
The company, which also operates three mines in South Africa, said the eastern wall of Williamson’s tailing dam was “breached,” but said in an email that the pit was not affected.
Petra noted that there were no injuries or fatalities confirmed so far, adding that the government and mine emergency response teams had been mobilized to the site.
“While no injuries have been reported, any impact on the local communities would be viewed as a material negative from an ESG standpoint,” the company said in a statement.
Ms Mjema told journalists on November 8, 2022, that the breach caused mud to spread to residential areas, affecting a total of 19 households and 59 individuals.
“There were three children who experienced vomiting because of the mud flow but they were rushed to hospital and they are doing fine now,” Ms Mjema is reported to have said.
She named Ng’wangh’oholo and Nyenze as the two villages most affected by the breach, with their houses and farms covered by mud from the mine.
Ms Mjema said that already food has been supplied to the villagers to help them cope with the effects.
“We have formed a committee already that will investigate the breach and assess its full impacts on the people’s livelihoods,” Ms Mjema told journalists. “The committee will come up with the answers to all of our questions and inform our interventions.”
The investigation is being carried out with representatives from the Williamson mine, the regional commissioner said.
But opposition party CHADEMA has criticised the ongoing investigation into the accident, with the party’s regional chairperson for Shinyanga Emmanuel Ntobi saying the exercise should have been carried out by higher authorities.
In a statement dated November 10, 2022, Mr Ntobi questioned why isn’t the investigation being carried out by authorities such as the Office of Vice President which deals with the environment of the National Environment Management Council (NEMC).
“CHADEMA is also saddened by the lack of immediate interventions aimed at helping the victims of the accident who have lost their shelters and livestock and are without even clean drinking water,” Mr Ntobi cried in a statement.
“We want the government and the Williamson mine to find a safe place where people who have lost their shelters could go and stay as well as provide all affected people with all necessary social services,” he demanded.
Petra Diamonds has worked hard to clean up its image in Tanzania, according to a report by the website Mining.com.
In 2021, the diamond miner achieved a $4.9m settlement with claimants alleging widespread human rights abuses, including beatings and detentions, at Williamson —the country’s biggest diamond mine.
Petra, which has repeatedly denied the involvement of its own employees in the incidents, admitted that “regrettable” incidents took place at the mine in the past.
The clashes between locals and police resulted in “the loss of life, injury and the mistreatment of illegal diggers” within the mining license, it said last year.