Similar to Kwale in Kenya, to Pondoland in South Africa, to coastal Tamil Nadu in India, also in Madagascar the mining of sands containing minerals destroys the environment and impoverishes the peoples. There are several such conflicts in Madagascar in Toliara (Ranobe), and in Mainland Mine Analanjirofo. In Toliara the project was initiated by the Australian company World Titanium resources and bought back by Base Resources, to mine ilmenite, zircon and rutile. Mining would start in 2019 displacing population, burying tombs, consuming water, causing pollution in Ranobe, one of the most valuable protected areas in the country.
Since 2010, the Chineese company MAINLAND MINING Ltd, is exploring ilmenite and zircon. Actually, the area explored by MAINLAND Mining Ltd is a property of QMM (joint venture between Rio Tinto and Malagasy government).
In the extreme south-east corner of Madagascar, QIT Madagascar Minerals (QMM), which is 80% owned by Rio Tinto and 20% owned by the Government of Madagascar, built a mineral sands mining operation near Taolagnaro supported by the World Bank. QMM intends to extract ilmenite and zircon from heavy mineral sands over an area of about 6,000 hectares along the coast over the next 40-50 years. Ilmenite is a raw material for titanium. This is one of the most ecologically diverse regions of Madagascar, but also one of the poorest and most isolated. Eighty-two per cent of Anosy inhabitants live below the poverty line (US1$/day) and the regional population is expected to double by 2020. The Rio Tinto QMM project got the 'go-ahead' from Rio Tinto in August 2005 and construction started in January 2006. It displaced local people from their land and requires the removal of rare fragments of coastal forest and heathland found only in Madagascar.
Many local people have little or no knowledge of the dramatic changes taking place and the reasons for them. Differences of understanding about the project have already led to conflict and mistrust, which have been further compounded by the lack of communication. The social, environmental and economic upheaval caused by the project affects different stakeholders in different ways. The most important direct negative biodiversity impact resulting from Rio Tinto/QMMs activities is the loss of coastal forest habitat at Mandena, Petriky and Sainte Luce. Approximately 1,665 ha was expected to be lost to dredging, which entails not only clearance of vegetation but also removal of soil and its constituent seed bank. In January 2012, local communities from Taolagnaro made demonstrations in the street, carrying banners and asking for the resignation of the Chief of Anosy region.
In addition, many social conflicts were identified and observed on the ground. Property prices and rents have increased dramatically along with the cost of food, medical treatment and energy. Inflation has severely affected the livelihoods of most Taolagnaro inhabitants and some long-term residents were leaving town. Just 10% of the Malagasy population hold official title to their land, with most holding customary land rights that are afforded a lower legal status despite having been held for generations. Changes to local property ownership as a result of the project were extended significantly by the measures of the Integrated Growth Poles project and revision of the land laws. This has affected local peoples ownership of their homes, and their ability to own land in future.
On the environmental effects, by 2019 it was reported that Rio Tinto / QMM had trespassed into a “sensitive zone,” violating national law and raising the possibility that radionuclide-enriched tailings could enter a lake that local people use for drinking water. Rio Tinto, the London-based multinational that owns the mine, acknowledged the breach for the first time in a March 23, 2019. The breach raises health and safety concerns in one of Madagascar’s most impoverished regions. The lake, part of a forested estuary system a few miles from the city of Taolagnaro, commonly known as Fort Dauphin, serves as a fishing and foraging ground for people in nearby villages (Mongabay).