Tunatazama - Community Monitors

Un-rehabilitated mine tailings

Makhotla Sefuli

Dick Velile Soga

Matjhabeng local municipality


Free State Province

27th May 2022



The Merriespruit slime dam disaster is still fresh in the memories of those who were around the Free State Goldfields in 1994. On the night of 22nd February 1994 the Merriespruit no4 tailings dam failed after a torrential downpour and 600,000 cubic meter of water poured over a 4km distance, engulfing over eighty houses and killed 17 people.


The residents of Themba section in Thabong cannot bear the thought of such a calamity befalling them in the future because their close proximity to the mine tailings of the now defunct Free State Geduld mine that lay parallel to the R73 highway leading to Kroonstad.


Many mining houses shut their operations and left Welkom en masse in the mid 1990s, the devastating effects of that exodus are only realistic now after more than twenty years.


The ever rising cases of tuberculosis and silicosis bear a starking testimony of the suffering of the residents living in close proximity to the mine tailings that were left unrehabilitated by the departing metropolis after the economic migration that followed.

The section of Themba is as old as the mining operation itself. This is the part of the township that was proclaimed specifically to keep residents closer to the mine shafts and ensure that cheap labour is always in abundance.


Most of the middle aged and seniour citizens of this this section of the township suffer from chronic diseases like bronchitis, tuberculosis and silicosis in the case of those who were employed by the mining industry.

The mine tailings that lies not far from the township is the cause of this problem. On the outside the structure decorated with tall trees and grass that turns green and creates a beautiful scenery. Some residents even chop the eucalyptus trees that adorn the tailings to make fire wood.


The story is different during the winter months because of the strong winds that blow the dust from the top of the tailings in the direction of the township while creating a white cloud of dust. Later in the evening the same people go into the the asbestos roofed houses and the battering of their respiratory organs continues to escalate. The dilemma is that no is taking the blame in this regard because the mining company that is responsible for the tailing dam is nowhere to be found, the only thing that is left is the ruins of what was once Free State Geduld mine


What is worrisome to the residents is the possibility of a repeat of what happened at Merriespruit twenty eight years ago.


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