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).