Mining Opportunities

The island of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean is a unique “biodiversity hotspot”, home to some 200,000 species of plant and animal, many of which, like the lemur, are only found on the island or the tiny neighbouring islands next door. Mining company Rio Tinto started work on a new ilmenite mine in the Fort Dauphin region of Madagascar in 2006. Extraction is expected to start in 2008.

Ilmenite is used in the manufacturing of titanium dioxide, a whitener used globally in a range of products from toothpaste to paint. It is extracted by dredging mineral sands. Rio Tinto claims the development of their new mine, which has received World Bank funding and Malagasy Government support, is “a model for further projects which are likely to follow in Africa and the developing world” [1], emphasising the care taken by the company in managing the mine’s social and environmental impacts.

This briefing highlights how, contrary to the claims of Rio Tinto and the World Bank, the project is in fact creating economic insecurity, social upheaval, and environmental destruction in Madagascar, depriving local people of their land and livelihoods while yet to demonstrate any real benefits in return. It asks who really gains from this type of “development”, draws attention to major shortcomings in Rio Tinto’s management of the social and environmental impacts of the project, and urges the company and the World Bank to do more to limit the environmental damage caused and ensure that local poor people are not further disadvantaged by the major project looming in their midst.