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21 January 2017

Newsletter n°67 [EN]

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The year 2016 which is coming to an end, was marked by the emergence of a large number of land grabs caused by mining operations as well as by a rise in intensity of community protests actions against these mining projects. The case of Soamahamanina stands out in particular due to the determination of its people and by the repression that was unleashed against the movement. 

The struggle of the people of Soamahamanina to defend their land marked 2016

Some of the residents of Soamahamanina demonstrated along the national highway N°1 since February because they were opposed to a gold mining project which was threatening to destroy their villages, their environment and their sources of income. But in May, the National Environment Office approved the project’ environmental permit, the last step before the granting of permission to start extraction activities and the company Jiuxing Mines S.A.R.L. came and set itself up with its big machinery and employees. The resident’s protest mushroomed, and in June, the Vona Fitiavan-tanindrazana association was set up with the support of many citizens, structures and civil society organizations. Demonstrations were repressed and resulted in the imprisonment of five citizens for several weeks in September. The trial took place in November, thanks particularly to the intervention of the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and Environment, John Knox, who performed a mission to Madagascar. The verdict was one-year suspended jail sentence for “demonstrating without permit”, while the five people were acquitted for all other charges.

This repression and these sanctions are appalling for many reasons :

  • peasants who rise up to defend their lands and their livelihood are considered as delinquents ;
  • in some places, such as Mananjary, Chinese mining companies, don’t have all legal permits, but their mining operations are not stopped and none of the officials are either pursued or punished ;
  • and numerous perpetrators of different types of serious offences of various sorts which actually hurt the international reputation of the country, are neither repressed nor sanctioned, despite people’s complaints about them.

Officials say that the proliferation of mining permits granted to Chinese companies was to serve the needs of meeting of the International Organization of La Francophonie.

The sudden installation of numerous Chinese mining companies (1) contested in many regions of Madagascar was explained by some high officials as the result of a deal where the Chinese would make donations and put up infrastructures needed for the meeting of La Francophonie in Antananarivo in November,.

The total lack of transparency on these very special transactions keeps suspicions of large-scale corruption alive. On the other hand, well informed circles state that these newly arrived Chinese companies belong to a group for whom the value of people doesn’t count very much.(2)

Furthermore, up to now there has been no responses to accusations of graft around the building of infrastructures for the Francophonie meeting.

Is justice not the same for all ?

Land grabbing linked to mining projects is likely to continue beyond 2016

During Paris conference of Paris, funders and investors made commitments that also involve several mining projects (h). The “Mining and Hydrocarbon sector” chapter of the document presented by the Malagasy government at this conference announces in its vision the necessity of “reforms […]. The option taken by the Malagasy government is to promote the concentration of activities […] in geographical areas called “Oil and Mining Corridors”. In an effort to achieve coordination and synergy, this clustering will reduce initial costs, particularly those concerning infrastructures.”

It’s interesting to notice that the quoted document mentions that “since 2014, 141 operating permits have been granted. At the end of 2015, the number of operating licenses is 254”. The number of direct and indirect expected created jobs is often the only social impact stated. The number for some priority projects is 600 or 800. For the five corridors the number is 15 000, which is relatively low compared to the formal and informal agricultural jobs lost by the communities who are expelled from the thousands of hectares they were living on and cultivating. The infrastructures mentioned are not likely intended for the local people but for the mining companies themselves, as well as their employees and other newcomers.

The threat that communities leaving nearby or along the future mining corridors will lose access to their land is huge and likely to continue for a long time ! The same is true for the risks that their living standards will go down and that their rights will not be respected against those of the mining operations, giving the conditions under which they are expanding.

Until the Mining Code is improved, the TANY Collective recommends that technicians, decision makers and political, economic, judicial and social leaders be careful not to sacrifice the interests of the majority of the vulnerable population to those of the already well-off in order not to exacerbate poverty and inequality and so that the country never again uses measures to hide the real conditions of the people as it did during the Francophonie meeting in Madagascar in November 2016.

The TANY Collective reiterates that the granting of new mining permits must be suspended until a new Mining Code is published.
The elaboration and the finalization of this Mining Code should be more participatory and inclusive and allow a debate where citizens are able to introduce measures that support local communities such as the concept of public consultations which currently occurs in the final stage of the grant of an environmental permit.

Different communities in different regions are growing more aware of the threats to their land and the necessity to raise their voices against unilateral and arbitrary decisions by authorities. They will therefore be able to express themselves through constructive proposals to improve legislation.

Paris, 26 Decembre 2016

Collectif pour la défense des terres malgaches – TANY,

Références :

(1) Mananjary, Anjeva, Marosada, Fandriana, Ambatondrazaka, etc….