Mining Madagascar

Development recast? a new report for Friends of the Earth reveals that Rio Tinto's Madagascar mining project is already impacting peoples lives and the environment.

Rio Tinto, one of the worlds biggest mining companies, started work on a new ilmenite mine in the Fort Dauphin area of Madagascar in 2006.

Billed as a blueprint for the company's future mining projects in Africa, the report - shows that the project is already:

  • Undermining local living standards
  • Causing social upheaval
  • Contributing to environmental destruction.

Port construction in Fort Dauphin, Madagascar


Ilmenite is used in the manufacturing of titanium dioxide, a whitener used globally in a range of products from toothpaste to paint.

Madagascar's ilmenite deposits are found in mineral sands, which will be dredged from an artificially created pond along the coastline.

This mine is located in the small coastal community of Fort Dauphin in the South East of Madagascar.

Brown lemur, one of many species endemic to Madagascar that could be affected by Rio Tinto's operations

Brown lemur, found only on Madagascar, image © Jonathan Kaplan

Unique biodiversity

Madagascar is the world’s 4th biggest island, and is situated off the East Coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean.

Due to its isolation from the African mainland around 75% of the plant and animal species found on the island exist nowhere else in the world.

Environmental impact

Dredge mining is an environmentally damaging process. In Madagascar it will result in the loss of rare coastal forest and the habitats for the unique species that live there.

Petricky coastal (littoral) forest
Coastal forest in Southern Madagascar, image © Paul Hellyer

Rio Tinto claim that they will restore the area to it's former glory once dredging is complete. But they plan to use non-native plants in this.

The conservation areas set up are too small and may not even be able to sustain their current species diversity in the future.

The project will threaten the delicate mix of species that have evolved on the island making it so unique.

Social impact

Around 6,000 people live in the rural villages in and around the area which is to be cleared to make room for the mine.

These rural communities are subsistence farmers, growing vegetables, fishing and raising livestock to survive, and hold no formal land rights.

Communities will be removed from their land and are already being priced out of local markets.

Rio Tinto’s best effort?

Rio Tinto’s project in Madagascar is far from being a model of best practice.

Rio Tinto's operations are going to go ahead, but before mining starts next year the company needs to act to ensure that:

  • Local communities are properly compensated.
  • The island's unique biodiversity is better protected against the operations.
  • Information about the project is made more readily available.

Press for change

Mining Madagascar
Email Rio Tinto and tell them that they must take action to minimise the impact of their Madagascar project on people and the environment.

Further reading

Mining Madagascar - forests, communities and Rio Tinto's white wash
(PDF 63KB) Oct 2007
This briefing highlights how, contrary to the claims of Rio Tinto and the World Bank, Rio Tinto's mining 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.

Development recast?
(PDF 1.67MB) Oct 2007
A report reviewing the impact of the Rio Tinto ilmenite mine in Southern Madagascar.

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