Local conflict resolution process in May 2022 to resolve disputes between villagers and QMM

Rio Tinto/QMM has released information about its recent grievance process and commitments agreed during a conflict resolution negotiation in May 2022 to address community losses and reduce tensions following months of protest.

See QMM PDF on the “doleances” process HERE

An analysis of the activity reported in the QMM PDF against international standards has given rise to questions and concerns. These have been sent to Rio Tinto by Publish what You Pay Madagascar (PWYP MG), Andrew Lees Trust (ALT UK) and an Anosy representative Tahiry Ratsiambahotra, who jointly attended a meeting with Rio Tinto in July.

See concerns about QMM’s process sent to Rio Tinto HERE

It has been more than four months since Malagasy government ministers negotiated the conflict resolution settlement between Antanosy protestors and Rio Tinto’s subsidiary in southern Madagascar.

The resolution process was designed to restore calm after months of protests by communities affected by an imposed fishing ban after dead fish were found downstream of QMM’s operations just days after a second mine tailings dam failure and the release of a million cubic metres of QMM mining basin process waters.

Read about tailings dam failures and dead fish HERE

Protestors gathered in Anosy in May 2022

At the time, QMM vehemently denied any link between mine process water quality released from its operations in March and the fish deaths, and claimed that government studies exonerated them. However, in response to a Memo by expert Dr Swanson on the probable cause of the fish kills, the company conceded “that it cannot rule out a potential link between the two events” (QMM response to Swanson Memo, June 2022).

Swanson determined that high levels of aluminium and low pH from the mine process water was the most probable cause of the fish deaths (anoxia), though other heavy metals were also of concern.

The fishing ban that followed the fish deaths left villagers without their usual source of food and loss of income from fisheries livelihoods for almost three months. During that time, community members occupied the Town Hall in Ft Dauphin, then later took to the streets. Finally, after failing to have their problems heard, they blocked the access road to the Rio Tinto/QMM mine and took hostages from regional security forces who were sent to evict them. 

The resolution process that followed required protestors to stop the road blockades. In contre partie the community made a series of demands which were agreed by QMM: firstly, to provide immediate cultural reparation to the communities by offering cows and rice for ceremonial cleansing after the shedding of blood – since some protestors had been hurt and arrested during the protests.

QMM also agreed to provide food aid that had initially been promised during the fishing ban but had not been delivered. QMM now report to have distributed emergency food aid to 7725 affected households in the Mandena area where the mine is situated.

Lastly, QMM were required to open a grievance process to address losses – not just for lost livelihoods during the time of the fishing ban but also for a decade of reported losses experienced by communities living around the mine .

See PWYP MG report on QMM impacts on communities HERE

Fisherfolk have been seriously affected by the fishing ban and by a decade of QMM’s impact on local water quality resulting in reduced fish stocks and loss of species

News came in July that 8778 villagers had submitted complaints and claims against QMM but these were being “filtered”, and that QMM was not planning to offer financial compensation but would offer instead work to those who had experienced losses.

Latest news from the ground suggests that not all claimants will receive compensation, and the process is lacking in transparency. More details are needed to better assess the process and the situation on the ground.

In July, 8778 local people submitted complaints against QMM and are claiming reparation.

It is in Rio Tinto’s interests to get the grievance process right. Critically, the parent company must not rely upon QMM’s self-reporting, and must resolutely ensure QMM avoids any further distress and conflict in Anosy.

Transparent reporting of the QMM complaints /grievance process in full, independent, impartial investigations and adjudications, and an independent evaluation and audit of the grievance process, in line with international standards, will be essential to restore trust in the company and longer term stability in the region.

Antanosy girls weaving Mahampy reeds, an important income generating activity for local families that has been affected by the QMM mine

Much depends on the effectiveness and fairness of the outcomes of this process for Rio Tinto/QMM to uphold and honour the resolution agreements made in May with the affected communities and Government representatives.

Importantly, the process is a real test of whether both Rio Tinto and QMM have actually “reset”, as claimed, and are now addressing QMM’s Community Social Performance (CSP) that suffers from a deficit of trust, since QMM has been failing rural communities in Anosy for almost two decades.

Read more about Rio Tinto/QMM issues in Madagascar HERE

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