Last update:

TOTAL & MOIL Bemolonga Tar sands, Madagascar


Bemolanga is a large oil sands deposit in the onshore Morondava Basin in the west part of Madagascar. The deposit was discovered in the early 1900s but was known to locals for centuries. The field is located north of the Tsimiroro heavy oil field and east of the town of Morafenobe.

See more
Basic Data
Name of conflict:TOTAL & MOIL Bemolonga Tar sands, Madagascar
State or province:Melaky Region
Location of conflict:Bemolanga District
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Specific commodities:Crude oil
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The Bemolanga Field in Block 3102 has been studied extensively, by several companies over the years, and work has accelerated since MOIL took over the block in 2005 and TOTAL joined as Joint Venture partner in 2008. Results indicate that bitumen volumes are at least as large as initial estimates and bitumen quality is in line with prior work at approximately 5.5% by weight in the ore, but this is half the concentration found in similar Canadian deposits.

See more
Project area:717500
Level of Investment:$100 million (TOTAL), $500- $1500 million (MOIL)
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:100,000 – 120,000
Start of the conflict:2009
Company names or state enterprises:Total SA from France
Madagascar Oil SA (MOIL) from Madagascar - Subsidiary of Madagascar Oil Limited, Bermuda
Relevant government actors:Economic Development Board of Madagascar
International and Finance InstitutionsRoyal Bank of Scotland (RBS) from United Kingdom
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:The Malagasy environmental civil society ALLIANCE VOAHARY GASY (AVG), WWF Madagascar, Petition 'Say no to Totals mining plans in Madagascar',, Petition 'Stop tar sands in Madagascar - write to Total CEO now'. Also, NGO Voaharisoa
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
NGO Voaharisoa
Local activists
Friends of the Earth Europe (FoE)
Collective for Land Defence in Madagascar (TANY)
World Development Movement (WDM)
Oil Sands Truth
Madagascar Environmental Justice Network (MEJN)
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Official complaint letters and petitions
Campaign on social media and in the international level. Collaboration with conservationist groups.

Organisation of a public meeting in Bemolanga to inform the local population about the impacts of tar sands mining and help them to negotiate with the french company TOTAL.

In may 2011, environmental campaigner from the Malagasy environmental civil society 'Alliance Voahary Gasy' (AVG) went in UK and spoke at public meetings in Edinburgh, Glasgow and London, and to many journalists calling on Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) not to finance Total's involvement in tar sands extraction, and for the UK Government to set environmental and ethical investment criteria for RBS.

The Malagasy representative also went in Europe with the Canadian First Nations delegation to speak to EU parliamentary members, French government and French investors to address tar sands impacts on First Nation communities.
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Fires, Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Air pollution, Desertification/Drought, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Noise pollution, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Oil spills, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights
Other socio-economic impactsThe development of a commercial large scale tar sands industry in Madagascar would have significant social and economic impacts on local communities.
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Fostering a culture of peace
Project temporarily suspended
Development of alternatives:STOP TAR SANDS MINING IN MADAGASCAR
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Tar sands (also referred to as oil sands) are a combination of clay, sand, water, and bitumen, a heavy black viscous oil. Tar sands can be mined and processed to extract the oil-rich bitumen, which is then refined into oil. Tar sand deposits are mined, usually using strip mining or open pit techniques, or the oil is extracted by underground heating with additional upgrading.
Oil sands recovery processes include extraction and separation systems to separate the bitumen from the clay, sand, and water that make up the tar sands. Bitumen also requires additional upgrading before it can be refined. Because it is so viscous (thick), it also requires dilution with lighter hydrocarbons to make it transportable by pipelines.
Both mining and processing of tar sands involve a variety of environmental impacts, such as global warming and greenhouse gas emissions, disturbance of mined land; impacts on wildlife and air and water quality. The development of a commercial tar sands industry in Madagascar would also have significant social and economic impacts on local communities. Of special concern in the relatively arid western Region of Madagascar is the large amount of water required for tar sands processing; currently, tar sands extraction and processing require several barrels of water for each barrel of oil produced, though some of the water can be recycled.
In 2012, the French company TOTAL suspended its activity in Bemolanga. Up to now, MOILs intended activities in Bemolanga have not yet produced anything concrete. But the environmental civil society in Madagascar is still warning the public opinion.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

The LGIM (Law Regarding Large Scale Mining Investments)

Loi n° 2004-031 du 29 juin 2004 relative à la sanction et aux constations des infractions aux lois sur les activités du secteur pétrolier aval

The Extractive Industrys Transparency Initiative (EITI)

Social and Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA)

Loi n° 96-018 du 4 septembre 1996 portant Code Pétrolier

Decree no 99-954 (15 December 1999), amended by Decree no 2004-167 (3 February 2004). This is about compatibility of investments with the environment

Loi n° 99-010 du 17 avril 1999 régissant les activités du secteur pétrolier aval, telle que modifiée par la loi n° 2004-003 du 3 juin 2004 portant libéralisation du secteur pétrolier aval et modifiant certaines dispositions de la loi n° 99-010 du 17 avril 1999 régissant les activités du secteur pétrolier aval

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Wyckes, Sarah, 2011, Locking up the Future: Unconventional Oil in Africa (Congo, Madagascar, Nigeria), 16 pp.

RABE Norbert, 2008, A review of exploration for non conventional hydrocarbon resources in Madagascar, Petroleum Gas Mag, Review n°005.

Bettina Kampman, Jan van den Berg, Gerd-Jan Otten, Pieter Kroon, Anouk van Grinsven, Ab de Buck, 2012, 'Oil reporting for the FQD. An assessment of effort needed and cost to oil companies', 46 pp.

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[click to view]

[click to view]

[click to view]

[click to view]

[click to view]

[click to view]

[click to view]

[click to view]

[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[click to view]

Other comments:According to some analysts, MOIL does not possess the financial standing to simultaneously undertake the development of Bemolanga and Tsimiroro. Thats why they probably suspended the tar sands mining in Bemolanga.
Meta information
Contributor:Vahinala RAHARINIRINA
Last update18/08/2019
Legal notice / Aviso legal
We use cookies for statistical purposes and to improve our services. By clicking "Accept cookies" you consent to place cookies when visiting the website. For more information, and to find out how to change the configuration of cookies, please read our cookie policy. Utilizamos cookies para realizar el análisis de la navegación de los usuarios y mejorar nuestros servicios. Al pulsar "Accept cookies" consiente dichas cookies. Puede obtener más información, o bien conocer cómo cambiar la configuración, pulsando en más información.