Petra Diamonds reports tailings dam burst at Williamson mine in Tanzania

Truck transporting ore at Petra's Williamson mine. Source: Petra Diamonds

PETRA Diamonds has suspended production from the Williamson mine in Tanzania after a tailings facility wall burst, the company said.

The eastern wall of the Tailings Storage facility was “breached” resulting in flooding away from the mine pit which has extended into “certain areas outside of the mine lease area”, the company said.

There have been no confirmed fatalities or injuries as a result of the tailings facility breach. The company’s representatives along with government and mine emergency services were on site in an effort to keep community members away from the affected area.

Tailings facility failures attract especially negative headlines following the collapse of the Fundao dam, owned by BHP and Brazilian iron ore mining giant Vale, in 2015 which killed 19 as more than 40 million cubic metres of mud and mining waste were released. Then in 2019, Vale’s Brumadinho dam failed killing 270 people.

Petra said “a CEO-led team” had been sent to the mine to assist the local team. “Williamson’s management is working closely with local and regional authorities and Petra will provide further updates as information becomes available,” the company said. Mine production has been suspended pending an investigation into the incident, it added.

Petra currently has a 75% shareholding in Williamson Diamonds Limited, with the Government of Tanzania owns the remaining 25%.

In September, the closed diamond mine near Jagersfontein in South Africa’s Free State province suffered a tailings dam burst killing one person and resulting in the loss of homes of people in the nearby Charlesville residential area.