Saturday, 12 January 2013

Rio Tinto may pull out of Madagascar

Here is the article from the Daily Telegraph

And below is an excerpt from

QMM Mine, Fort-Dauphin, Madagascar

The island of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean provides yet another example of Rio Tinto’s apparent disregard for the communities and environment in which it operates.

Rio Tinto operates an ilmenite mine on the east coast of the island. The entity on the ground

QIT Madagascar Minerals S.A. (QMM), is a joint venture between Rio Tinto’s wholly owned
Canadian subsidiary QIT Fer et Titane (80%) and the government of Madagascar (20%). The
project, which began construction in 2006, has received funding from the World Bank and
infrastructure support from the government, including a new port. (The World Bank contributed $35
million to the port and QMM $110 million).

The mine reportedly contains at least 75 million tons of ilmenite deposits, which are found in mineral sands, and could be operational for up to 40 years.
Thousands of people have already been affected by the mining operation through displacement,
loss of lands, disruption to fishing, flooding to agricultural areas and dust pollution over food
growing and pasture areas, affecting livelihoods and food production. Those who have already
been displaced have received inadequate compensation, in most cases just one tenth of the World
Bank recommended levels. Local people have also lost free access to their forest resources, -
such as medicines and honey, which act as a survival mechanism when crops fail. Many more
communities and hundreds of villagers are destined to be affected as the mine expands its
operations into sites along the southern coastline over the coming years, with the threat to local
customs, culture and livelihoods. These are some of the poorest people on the island, being
subsistence farmers dependent on the land, and earning less than a dollar a day. The influx of
workers from elsewhere has increased demand for food and housing, driving prices up beyond
what local residents can afford.

The mine 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 example, QMM has reported 64 species of endemic flora found
nowhere else – its fate is considered of global importance.

Rio Tinto reportedly plans to restore the natural environment once the dredging of the sand is
complete and has established conservation areas to protect forest biodiversity; however, experts
have said these areas are too small to sustain the numbers of species currently found in the forest, which will result in a reduction of species diversity.

Most of the mined areas will be replanted with a fast growing monoculture of hardwood species.

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