Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto operates in Madagascar - Giles Crosse
Rio Tinto has an interesting reputation globally.

Here in Madagascar, the company operates a partnership firm with the government, named QMM. This firm is operating in the Saint Luce region of the island, and had been planning to mine minerals from the littoral coastal forest.

Presently, whether or not this mining is going to go ahead remains uncertain. Back in January, the low prices the firm paid for the land rights sparked fury amongst Malagasy locals who blockaded the QMM site.

It seems that QMM now seems uncertain of precisely how much mineral asset remains, and hence how much profit it will make from the portions of  Madagascar it bought to the outrage of communities living here.

This in turn has led to fears that Rio Tinto will simply sell off its land to the highest foreign bidders, to do with as they will, again denying Malagasy people access, rights and a voice in the future of the island's 80 per cent endemic flora and fauna.

Signage describing Rio Tinto's presence outside Saint Luce - Giles Crosse
Rio Tinto has built a local school in the Saint Luce area. Then again, local community leaders say neither staff nor educational assets were provided.

Equally, Rio Tinto built what NGO staff describe as the finest roads on the island. But they serve only as access points to the port, enabling easy transportation and movement, and offer little or no wider infrastructure benefit.

Rio Tinto operates a 'net benefit' policy. This, according to the firm, illustrates, 'An evaluation of the achievements and above all, impacts of the Biodiversity Program shows positive development towards a net benefit for the Fort-Dauphin environment.'

Such benefits are a little tricky to evaluate, when NGO insiders argue the Tinto plans were to mine some 80 per cent of the unique littoral forest it bought, leaving 20 per cent of the resource intact.

Rio Tinto's presence has sparked controversy - Giles Crosse
Plainly, the illegitimacy of Madagascar's government, which begs questions over precisely how much of a voice any Malagasy natives have in the QMM partnership, does not help the situation.

Locals, working with the Azafady NGO, monitor littoral forest gecko numbers - Giles Crosse
Perhaps the only certainty surrounds the diversity and importance of the species existing in Madagascar's forests. The future of these will largely depend upon the outcomes and decisions to be made by QMM.

Only this month, Azafady researchers suspect they have discovered unique new frog species dwelling in these regions. How many such forms of life will lose their habitat before they even been described or documented?

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