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Rio Tinto/QMM Ilmenite Mine, Madagascar


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).

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Rio Tinto/QMM Ilmenite Mine, Madagascar
State or province:Taolagnaro
Location of conflict:Mandena, Petriky, Sainte Luce
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral ore exploration
Tailings from mines
Specific commodities:Titanium ores

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Initial mining activity is at the 2000 ha Mandena site, to the north of Taolagnaro. Production on this site will eventually ramp up to 750,000 tonnes a year.

Later phases will be at Sainte-Luce and Petriky and there is potential to expand production to 2.2 million tonnes a year.

According to WWF, Rio Tinto/QMM projects an annual turnover of US$69 million. The 2003 SEIA estimates that the mine will contribute US$7 to US$9 million annually to the Madagascar economy during the first five years of operation, though no breakdown is offered about revenue disbursal. This figure will grow from US$15 to US$26 million per year from all sources (local expenditures, taxes, and dividends) over the life of the mine. The breakdown for year six and beyond is: Local expenditures US$ 4-5 million/year Government fiscal profits (i.e. taxes) US$ 7-15 million/year Dividends deposited at OMNIS (institute of mines) US$ 4-6 million/year Total expected: US$ 15-26 million/year

Project area:8000
Level of Investment for the conflictive project1000,000,000 (US$940 million invested in Mada)
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:60,000 - 70,000
Start of the conflict:2005
Company names or state enterprises:Rio Tinto (Rio Tinto ) from United Kingdom
QIT Madagascar Minerals S.A. from Madagascar
QMM from Canada
Relevant government actors:Office of National Mines and Strategic Industries , The National Environment Office , Economic Development Board of Madagascar , Malagasy Environment Ministry, Malagasy Mining Cadastre
International and Finance InstitutionsThe World Bank (WB) from United States of America
US Agency for International Development (USAID)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:IUCN, WWF, Panos London, Friends of the Earth, London Mining Network, Andrew Lees Trust

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
International ejos
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Street protest/marches


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Other Environmental impactsAccording to London Mining Network, the Rio Tinto/QMM project has attracted opposition from conservationists since its inception because the mine site is located within the last remaining fragments of coastal forest in Madagascar; since this forest type is unique to the country. For instance, QMM has reported 64 species of endemic flora found nowhere else.
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Violations of human rights
Other socio-economic impactsAccording to Rio Tinto/QMM, the project and its contractors employ 3,300 people: 1 800 Malagasy from the local area (Anosy region) which represent 55% ; 1 100 migrant Malagasy workers (from areas other than the Anosy region) which represent 33% ; and 400 expatriates which represents 12%. And the compensation paid out by Rio Tinto/ QMM to PAPs in 2007, is about US$ 4 million.
But 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, the transfer of the Head of District, the Commissioner of Police, the Head of the Department of Lands, and the local officials of the National Environment Agency (ONE)
Destruction of tombs and consequent loss of private, cultural and historical heritage.


Project StatusIn operation
Proposal and development of alternatives:-Explaining the mining project to local people in terms that they can relate to and which fall within their world view.
-For RIO TINTO : Improve transparency and communication with stakeholders ; Limit the negative impacts of the mine not only on the environment and biodiversity, but also on the livelihoods of local people ; Listen and learn from its peers in the development community to a greater extent, and support them in exercising their respective competencies.
-For the Government of Madagascar : Share with the public its case for the economic and social benefits of the mine as they perceive
them; Involve the local people in discussion about the revenues and the benefits; communicate its requirements for SEIAs for Sainte Luce, Petriky and the port; Use its influence and position to ensure that best practice is adopted as a legal requirement of all foreign investors, in order to protect the long term interests of the country, its people and environment.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The mining project is going on and there are huge gaps regarding information and coordination among local people and ejos.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Law no 99-022 (30 August 1999) and modified by Law no. 2005-021 (17 October 2005). Known as the Mining Code.

Social and Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA)

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

Inter-ministerial Order no 12032/2000 of 6 November 2000. This is about mining areas and environmental protection.

The Extractive Industrys Transparency Initiative (EITI);

Decree no 2000-170 dated 20 February 2000 implementing Mining Code and modified by Decree no. 2006-910 (19 December 2006).

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

Seagle, Caroline (2011). The mining-conservation nexus: Rio Tinto, development gifts and contested compensation in Madagascar. Available at: Accessed 5 January 2013.

'Forecasting the path towards a Net Positive Impact on biodiversity for Rio Tinto QMM', 90 p.

'Mining Madagascar Forests, Communities and Rio Tintos White Wash', 8 p.

information? Improving communication around the Rio Tinto ilmenite mine in Madagascar',

Webber Wentzel (2012). Mining Law Survey 2012. Available at: Accessed 5 January 2012.

London Mining Network, 2012,

IUCN and Rio Tinto, 2012,

London Mining Network, 2010,

Friends of the Earth (2007),

Panos London, 2007,

'A mine of

Sarrasin, 2006,

'Political economy of mining development in Madagascar: Analysis of the Rio Tinto QMM project in Tolagnaro (Fort-Dauphin)'.

World Bank, 2003,

'Mineral Resources Governance Project, Project Appraisal Document (PAD)', Report no 25777, 17th april.

The Andrew Lees Trust (2009). A Scoping of Impacts: Rio Tinto in Madagascar. Available at: Accessed 5 January 2013.

'Rio Tinto: a record fit for the Olympics?' 16 p.

'Rio Tinto: A Shameful History of Human and Labour Rights Abuses And Environmental Degradation Around the Globe'

Friends of the Earth (2007). Development Recast: a review of the impact of the Rio Tinto ilmenite mine in Southern Madagascar. Available at: Accessed 4 January 2013.

'Madagascar: to eat or to be eaten'

Rio Tinto

'Madagascar: Local protests against Rio Tinto'

Panos London


London Mining Network

The Cyber Observer blog (2010). QMMs employees cant enter their site. Available at: Accessed 5 January 2013.

UCN and Rio Tinto signed a 3-year collaboration agreement in 2010

Panos. Fanja: forest is forbidden, a part of the Pushed to the Edge oral history project. Available at: Accessed 5 January 2013.

Rio Tinto: compensation manipulation in southeast Madagascar

The Telegraph (2013). Rio Tinto threatens to exit Madagascar after CEO is trapped by protesters. Available at: Accessed 21 January 2013.


Xinhua 2012. Madagascar : 584.000 tonnes d'ilmenite exportes depuis le dbut delann. Available at: Accessed 5 January 2012.

Mongabay Series: Conservation in Madagascar. Madagascar: Rio Tinto mine breaches sensitive wetland. Edward Carver on 9 April 2019

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Youtube video (2010). Rio Tinto Tries Dodging Questions on Madagascar Mine. Available at: Accessed 5 January 2013.

Rio Tinto Picture Library

BBC News


Al Jazeera (2009). Madagascar mining damaging environment. Available at: Accessed 5 January 2013.

Kashi, Ed (2010) Madagascar: A Land Out of Balance. Available at Accessed 5 January 2013.

Rio Tinto Picture Library


Other comments:QMM began exploring the Anosy region in the late 1980s and at the same time starting preliminary social and environmental studies. In the mid-1990s QMM set up a full time social and environmental programme. A legal and fiscal framework agreement between QMM and the Government of Madagascar was concluded in 1998. This was ratified by the Malagasy National Assembly and promulgated into law by the President of Madagascar. QMM conducted a formal Social and Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA) between 1998 and 2001. The government issued an environmental permit in 2001. The mine project got the 'go-ahead' from Rio Tinto in August 2005. Construction started in January 2006.
According to PANOS LONDON, the Rio Tinto ilmenite mine in the Taolagnaro area of southern Madagascar is the first of a number of mining projects planned for Madagascar with the support of
-The World Bank contributed $35 million to the port and QMM $110 million.
-The Rio Tinto/QMM is the only mining project in Madagascar which spent almost 20 years to develop a Social and Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA).
-Rio Tinto (United Kingdom) - a leading international mining group headquartered in the UK, combining Rio Tinto plc, a London and NYSE listed public company, and Rio Tinto Limited, is a public company listed on the Australian Securities Exchange.
-QIT Madagascar Minerals S.A. (QMM - Canada and Madagaskar) is a joint venture between Rio Tintos wholly owned Canadian subsidiary QIT Fer et Titane (80%) and the government of Madagascar (20%).
According to the General Confederation of Trade Unions of Madagascar (FISEMA), there is a total unbalance between jobs for Malagasy people and jobs for foreigners, and between the level of salary as well. FISEMA argues that Malagasy workers of all sectors are directly affected by the inflation caused by the strong presence of expatriates in the region.

Meta information

Contributor:Vahinala Rahrinirina
Last update01/09/2019
Conflict ID:1058



Rio Tinto QMM floating dredge and plant


Rio Tinto floating dredge and plant


The dark side of Rio Tinto

Entertainment of a documentary on the environmental injustices in Taolagnaro impacted by Rio Tinto QMM