QMM, a joint venture between Rio Tinto (80%) and the government of Madagascar (20%), located near Fort-Dauphin, is committed to producing clean energy. This will pave the way for a sustainable mining industry. Explications with Ny Fanja Rakotomalala, President of QIT Madagascar Minerals (QMM).
Interview by Dounia Ben Mohamed
Rio Tinto has signed a power purchase agreement with CrossBoundary Energy for a new solar and wind power plant in Fort Dauphin, southern Madagascar. To what extent does this project represent a breakthrough in the mining industry in Madagascar, and more broadly on the continent?
This project is indeed innovative in many ways. First, it results in further integrating the mine into a plan designed to develop our host community, which ensures that we have a good synergy between the priorities of the region, the State and QMM – as it is very important in order to maximize the positive impact of our actions. If we take the renewable energies (RE), what does this mean in practical terms? It means contributing to the ambitions of the country to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 14%.
The second point, which is also very important, is that we are moving towards a sustainable mine, which is necessary if we want to make progress in the long term. Our goal is to leave a tangible, sustainable legacy, built independently of the mine. Step by step. A very important objective. How will this be achieved? By reducing our environmental footprint, by programs to cut our greenhouse gas emissions, by choosing renewable energy, by a strong water management, by carbon sequestration and storage through sustainable management of protected areas. In this carbon sequestration and storage program, for instance, there are three protected areas with about 4 million trees in coastal forest.
A sustainable mine must contribute to economic development. How will you achieve this?
Through a partnership between the state, private investors, the private sector, international organizations and NGOs. In the protected areas, we will work with local communities, civil society and NGOs which can help us find a good balance between conservation and production. It is everyone’s responsibility to define together the solutions that will allow us to address this social, economic, environmental and financial imperative. This requires finding cost-effective and economically sustainable solutions. Hence the importance of this partnership.
Our vision is to fight together effectively against global warming and its deleterious effects on local communities. The famine we are currently experiencing in Madagascar is, according to experts, a consequence of global warming. Therefore, our action is for the long term. It is a very good start. Now we will have to build, at a competitive cost. There will be technical challenges, because we talk about energy production through a hybrid source.
You mentioned technical challenges. Which technology will you use to meet them?
We trust CrossBoundary Energy (CBE), given their expertise in similar contexts in Africa. The development model in Africa is pretty specific, yet CBE has very good expertise in this area. Rio Tinto and QMM are also open to support from external experts. It is with this mindset that we will address these challenges. We want to reach our goal of carbon neutrality by 2023 with this program, as well as our commitment to reduce our emissions by 25 million kilograms of CO2 per year. These are ambitious goals and we intend to meet them with our partners.
As for the local communities, beyond the environmental aspect, what will be the impact on them, on the socio-economic level? Will they have access to good quality energy at a lower cost, as the Malagasy authorities want?
For the moment, we supply electricity for Fort Dauphin which we sell to the public operator (JIRAMA) who then sells it to the local population. With this initiative, nearly 80,000 people in the region will have access to clean energy at a competitive cost. Discussions are still underway, of course, but it is certain that the energy supplied will be cleaner and at a better cost than fuel oil. When we talk about local populations, the priority is, obviously, the people living near our facilities.
Do you have other projects that could have strong social and economic impact?
On the economic front, we are supporting the authorities in their efforts to attract national and international investors around a dedicated economic zone, the Ehoala Park. The unique opportunities in this special economic zone will benefit the local population in terms of direct and indirect job creation. We are working initially on a pilot zone of 15 ha; agreements in principle have already been signed with investors for agroforestry, fruits and vanilla exports, etc. We are committed to promoting the Ehoala Park, with a total area of 440 ha, through this first pilot zone.
How was the project developed with the local communities, civil society, the NGOs you mention? Were there any consultations?
First, there were impact studies, then an ongoing dialogue that we have with all the partners mentioned. This is not a first in this sense. We have been in the past, in the group of stakeholders that supported the alliance process for development. This is the type of alliance that we are going to put in place. With current partnerships that need to be strengthened, we will also seek partnerships on the development of these natural resources. How to store carbon? It is not just about planting trees. It is about not exploiting resources in a bad way. Partnerships are already in place, and others will be formed.
This is not new; we have adopted such approach from the very beginning of the project. Therefore, we are convinced that we will be able to move forward with the same logic.
To conclude, will this project be replicated elsewhere on the continent?
Rio Tinto as a whole is committed to the implementation of the Paris agreements. Not only with QMM. On issues of good governance in social and environmental matters, Madagascar is part of the group’s global strategy.
QIT Madagascar Minerals (QMM) is a joint venture between Rio Tinto (80%) and the government of Madagascar (20%). It is located near Fort Dauphin in the Anosy region of south-eastern Madagascar, and primarily produces ilmenite which is a major source of titanium dioxide, predominantly used as a white pigment in products such as paints and paper.
Sur le même sujet :Energy :Rio Tinto commits to clean mining industry