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Toliara sand mining for metals, Ranobe, Madagascar


The Ranobe protected area, which has among the highest endemism of plants and animals anywhere in Madagascar was being targeted by the Australian company World Titanium Resources (hereafter WTR) that aims to exploit several hundreds square kilometers of primary spiny forest. The sand mining project (for minerals) is expected to last up to 100 years, consuming approximately 30,000 liters of water per minute during the course of its operations. The project was about to be approved by local authorities and was first expected to start exploitation in 2014. There was a lot of pressure on the conservation community to reduce the size of the protected area to make way for more mining concessions. Aside from the impacts on biodiversity and to the intact state of the forest-marine ecosystem the mine would displace entire villages as it would consume the local populations’ only water source. In addition, vast areas of tombs would need to be relocated to make way for a new road set to cut through the heart of the protected forest. The relocation of tombs is taboo in southern Madagascar but local leaders had been seduced into breaking custom and trying to convince the majority of the rural population to go along with the mining companies plan without knowing or considering the long-term impacts. The exploitation permit was finally granted in 2016. Yet the contestation of the project by the locals have been constantly growing. The populations, mainly consisting of farming and fishing families have been showing and affirming their opposition to the project, together with the help of national NGOs [1]. Overall the population and civil society organizations do not believe in the mining company’s promises: not in the job promises for locals nor in the possible restauration of the natural resources after the project ends because they are aware that the tropical climate and the rainfall would not make it possible [2]. The villagers refuse to sell their lands, they are aware that without their lands they won’t be able to feed and support their families in the long-run, no matter how high the compensation is [3]. In July 2018 several NGOs signed and published a common statement contesting the decisions taken by the national executive power; declaring of public utility the lands in the mining perimeter, enabling the acquisition of the parcels by the mining company though amicable settlement or expropriation, and considering of national interest the port and road infrastructures for the project [4]. The NGOs also condemned the repressive measures taken against the MA.ZO.TO. Association, that brings support to the directly affected communities. At the same time, on July 27th, 2018, the local populations organized local demonstrations to express their fierce opposition to the project. The fishermen community of Vezo was particularly visible and loud at this march. Demonstrations happened again in August 2018. A petition was signed by 13 organizations against the Tolaria sands Project. The civil society recalls that the permit was granted during a political transition in the country, and so the power in place at the time was not supposed to be taking long-term decisions and for this very reason the permit should be cancelled. Through the case of Tolaria sands project, the civil society is rending more visible its claims for a revision of the Mining code of Madagascar, if not its total rewriting [1]. By February 2019, the exploitation of the mine was expected to start by the end of that same year but still the populations continue to demonstrate and oppose the project [3]. In April 2019 was organized another march, demanding the project to be cancelled. On May 2nd, 30 villagers from the communities of Benetse, Ampototse and Tsiafanokawere arrested under the accusations of sabotaging the company’s properties during the demonstration in April [5]. The national NGOs CRAAD-OI and TANY denounced in a press release that by May 5thnine villagers were still imprisoned in an unknown location [6].

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Toliara sand mining for metals, Ranobe, Madagascar
State or province:Toliara
Location of conflict:Communes of Ankilimalinike, Tsianisiha, Ranobe
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Tailings from mines
Establishment of reserves/national parks
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Ilmenite, zircon and rutile
Sand, gravel
Titanium ores

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The Ranobe sands deposit is in the north of the Port of Toliara in south-west Madagascar, where a large mineral sands resource containing the valuable minerals, specifically ilmenite (for titanium), rutile, zircon and leucoxene, was identified in 1991. The mineralized zone in the Ranobe permit area is around 16 km long and between 1 and 2 km wide. It comprises three mineralized sand units, which together contain approximately 1 200 to 1 400 million tonnes of sand at an average grade of 4 to 5% total heavy minerals (THM). The Ranobe Mine is projected to produce 407.000 tonnes per annum (hereafter tpa) of ilmenite and 44,000 tpa of zircon rich concentrate over an initial 21 year mine life. This first phase of development would utilise around 17% of the 959 million tonnes of mineral resource defined at Ranobe. The mining area will be cleared of all vegetation. The project envisages the establishment of a dry mining operation and would include the following infrastructure: primary processing plant located at the mine site; mineral separation plant located at the mine site (2alternative locations were considered); dedicated haul road (3 alternative routes have been considered); jetty at the Toliara Lagoon; and a storage facility at the jetty. According to the company, 250 direct jobs would be created during the construction phase, initially expected around 2014. During the operational phase, this number could rise from 1000 to 2000 direct and indirect jobs, including subcontractors and suppliers. This project was first initiated by a joint venture between the Australian company World Titanium Resources (hereafter WTR) and Exxaro Resources Ltd (hearafter Exxaro). Yet Exxaro terminated the joint venture with WTR in July 2009 [7]. In January 2018, the Australian and mining company Base Resources Limited bought back 85% of the interests in the project to WTR [3, 8]. The companies leading the project have declared that they spent at least $ 30 million dollars in exploration and evaluation expenditure since the discovery of the ore [7]. The new pre-feasibility study by Base Resources Limited expects the initial mine life to last up to 33 years [9].

Project area:2,500
Level of Investment for the conflictive project300,000,000.00
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:2000-4400 (3 Communes in Ranobe)
Start of the conflict:01/2013
Company names or state enterprises:World Titanium Resources Ltd (WTR) from Australia - WTR has strong support from two shareholders: Boulle Titanium Limited (20.7%) and Mineral Deposits Limited (14.9%)
Base Resources Limited from Australia
Base Tolaria from Madagascar
Exxaro Resources Limited from South Africa
Relevant government actors:Office of National Mines and Strategic Industries (OMNIS) , The National Environment Office (ONE) , Economic Development Board of Madagascar , Malagasy Environment Ministry, Regional Directorate of Water and Forests
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:MA.ZO.TO (Miaro Aina-Zon’olombelona- TOntolo iainana), TANY the Collective for Land Defence in Madagascar, Environmental association MITOIMAFI, Madagascar National Parks (MNP), CRAAD-OI Madagascar

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
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Local authorities in Ranobe(The President of the Ranobe fokontany, the Mayors of the Communes of Ankilimalinike, Tsianisiha, and Maromiandra). The Mikea indigenous community.
Malagasy Singers Activists (lead by a famous singer called MIKEA)
International scientists (anthropologist and sociologists)
Malagasy bloggers
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson
Refusal of compensation
Some Malagasy journalists and academics published articles criticizing the lack of information available for the local communities
The activist and singer, Theo Rakotovao, called journalists to a press conference in Antananarivo (the capital of Madagascar) to inform the public opinion about the situation in Ranobe Toliara


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills
Potential: Desertification/Drought, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Oil spills, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
Other Environmental impactsThe mining project will last up to 100 years, during the course of its operations consuming approximately 30,000 liters of water per minute. The mining company says theres enough water but local authorities are very concerned about it.
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Other Health impactsLocal villagers are very concerned about the radioactivity issues
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, 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
Other socio-economic impactsIn addition vast areas of tombs would need to be relocated to make way for a new road set to cut through the heart of the protected forest. The relocation of tombs is fady (taboo) in southern Madagascar but local leaders are seduced into breaking custom and convincing the majority of the rural population to go along with the mining companies plan without knowing or considering the long-term impacts.


Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
The Australian company organised a meeting with the local leaders and stakeholders in Toliara, in April 2013.
They also organised an open days in Antananarivo to inform the Malagasy people and civil society of the robustess and safety of the Ranobe mining project.
Proposal and development of alternatives:Local authorities and the Mikea, indigenous people who are mostly hunters and gatherers, have asked for the Protection of the Ranobe spiny forest and their traditional culture. They are mostly opposed to the Ranobe mining project.
But the situation is more and more complicated, the Environmental Office (ONE) has delivered the environmental permit to the WTR company (March 2015). The populations together with the NGOs support are firmly opposing the project and asking it is cancelled. The concession should have not been granted during a political transition period. They also ask for reviewing the mining code that strongly disadvantages the local populations and does not protect the environment.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:There is not much informed decision making, negotiating or any objective oversight happening to reduce the impacts the mine would make if the project goes forward. Given the placement of the mine, the road it wishes to construct through the virgin forest, the amount of water it will consume and lack of social accountability in the planning phase, this mining project is a big gamble that threatens the fragile ecosystem underpinning the natural resource base for humans and biodiversity in Toliara region.

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.

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

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

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

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI)

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

Chantal Blanc-Pamard, The Mikea Forest Under Threat (southwest Madagascar) : How public policy leads to conflicting territories, 2009

Barich Antony, 2013, World Titanium Resources Madagascar: Grabbing the tiger by the tail, Resource stocks January/February 2013

Coastal & Environmental Services (CES), 2013, Ranobe mine project Southwest region, Madagascar: draft Environmental and Social Assessment, Draft prepared by CES for World Titanium resource (WTR), April 2013, 478 p.

[1] Madagascar : manifestation à Tuléar contre le projet « Toliara Sands » sur TV5 Monde, Aout 2018

[2] No Tulear Sand Movement to Preserve Madagascar Natural Resources, 08/2018

[3] Des exploitants malgaches se dressent contre un projet minier australien, Février 2019

[4] Sign on for Solidarity with Malagasy allies fighting against a destructive mining project,


[7] Toliara Sands Project

[8] Base Resources to gain 85% interest in Toliara Sands, Madagascar, December 2017

[9] Toliara Project PFS confirms status as a globally renowned mineral sands development, March 2019

Mining VS tourism : Exxaro et l'ilménite de Ranobe à Madagascar, Mai 2009

Tolaria Project

Toliara Sands Project Madagascar

Manifestation à Tuléar contre le projet « Toliara Sands »

Madagascar: bras de fer entre des villageois et une société d’extraction minière, Mai 2019

CRAAD-OI Madagascar, Facebook

Madagascar : manifestation à Tuléar contre le projet "Toliara Sands"

BASE RESOURCES LIMITED - Updated Ranobe Deposit Mineral Resources Share, January 2019

Base Resources - Transformational Acquisition of the Toliara Sands Project and A$100 million share offer

Toliara's world class status confirmed by study says Base Resources, March 2019

Le CRAAD-OI et le Collectif Tany demande l’annulation du vote sur la ZES, Mai 2018

Base to raise A$100m for Madagascar’s Toliara heavy minerals project, December 2017

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[6] Projet minier Base Toliara : Nous réclamons la libération immédiate des habitants de Benetse, Ampototse et Tsiafanoka détenus depuis le 02 mai 2019, 5 mai 2019

The Masikoro local organisation has denounced the complaisance of WWF and the ONE towards the WTR company

Interview du Collectif Tany sur le projet Toliara Sands, Youtube

Madagascar : manifestation à Tuléar contre le projet "Toliara Sands", Youtube

Anthony Arnold's Ranobe Garden, Facebook

The signer Theo Rakotovao (Mikea) fights for the Mikea rights in the South-West of Madagascar, 2007

Toliara Sands Project by World Titanium Resources

Meta information

Contributor:Vahinala RAHARINIRINA (updated by Camila Rolando)
Last update12/06/2019
Conflict ID:1173



Mikea National Park

The WTR mining project is in the territory of the Mikea

WTR Ranobe location


Drilling in Ranobe


WTR Drilling in Ranobe


Magrove au sud de Tuléar

Source: Sarah Tétaud, RFI Afrique