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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 November 2005, 14:42 GMT
Malagasy mine: Have your say
A Madagascan town
Many Madagascans are excited by the prospect of more jobs

What happens when a mining company starts digging in one of the world's most precious yet vulnerable natural environments?

Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot renowned for its unique plants and animals and it is also one of the poorest nations on earth.

Will the mining project benefit Madagascar's people? Will it harm the environment?

If you would like to have your say on any of the issues that this programme has raised you can do so using the online form below.

I've just come back from working in Fort Dauphin, and although my views on the project are still a little mixed, I'm afraid I'm swinging more against it. The amount of trees and animals which may be gone forever as a result of the initiative, the introduction of 2,000 employees from a country with a much more pressing AIDS problem into a country with a relatively low one, and the effect it will have on local people worries me a great deal. The people around the town seem to have a mixed opinion on the issue too.
Rachel, England

In 60 years time it will all be over. The Illminite will be out of the ground and into our paint and toothpaste and QMM will have moved on.

What will be left? A thriving, self-sustaining infrastructure? Possibly. But very possibly not.

We only have to look at our own communities which developed around a mine or a single industry to see the precarious nature of this kind of development.

"Sustainability", an overused but crucially important term, is where the attention of NGOs and aid agencies should be focussed.

Imaginative and optimistic thinking could avert an ecological and social disaster.
Aidan Hawkes, UK

How many locals will benefit? They are already talking of bringing in more foreign workers, and many experienced Malagasy will travel across the entire country from other mining towns to get work here.

Other mining towns in Madagascar are some of the most intimidating places on earth - no place for tourists - and prostitution will boom in Fort Dauphin bringing more AIDS/HIV to a country that only has a 2% infection rate. Steve Shayler

It's perfectly possible to mine an area while taking care of the environment there. It has been done in many places around the world, including Britain.

As long as regulations are in place to ensure that the mine operators are doing their part, the mines should bring increased prosperity and development to the area, without damaging natural resources.
Owain Shave, England

After living in Madagascar for two years I have to say any development will be good for the Southern part of Madagascar.

The South has always been poor and possibly any development in that region would be of help to the people there.

However, any economist will tell you that economic development and growth must have many interests, not one single entity.

The mine needs to be held accountable both abroad and especially by the local people
Christopher Cole, United States
There does need to be extensive education to reduce the risk of the spread of HIV from outside workers.

Madagascar has so far been blessed at keeping its HIV rate low. However, the Malagasy medical system cannot whatsoever handle a surge of HIV positive people.

Lastly, the environment really does need to be protected. Already isolated from the rest of the world, the natural attractions are what draw people there.

Without those fabulous lemurs, chameleons, and medicinal plants, Madagascar will end up being just another colonised wasteland country with no heritage for future generations.

The mine needs to be held accountable both abroad and especially by the local people. If you haven't gone to Madagascar yet, you should.
Christopher Cole, United States

Aid should be given conditionally. Where there are exploitable assets, for example mining benefits, do not give aid.

Instead the extractors must be required to establish and maintain at their own expense desirable infrastructures for the local population, and free of charge.
John Gibson, England

I too share the fears that the mine will exploit and ruin the greater Fort Dauphin area, one of my favourite parts of Madagascar.

But what is paradise for a tourist can be a tough place to live
Joan McKniff, USA
But what is "paradise" for a tourist can be a tough place to live with limited employment opportunities, a lack of schools, clinics and so on.

I lived in Madagascar for three years. I wish the Malagasy people well and encourage the rest of the world to get to know the people and the country, respect and support them without exploiting or being patronizing.

It is not easy, but it is so very important.
Joan McKniff, USA

Please worry more about the problems you have created in "sorry" parts of the world, and leave our paradise alone, there are still very few parts of this world undisturbed by your "globalisation", thank you, we will do wonderfully without your "aid".

Please verify your information about Aids, and quit being so eager to paint bad images of Africans, and the parts of the world that seem so different from you.
Ralay, Madagascar

How can anyone be naive enough to believe the mining company's promises?

The Malagasy are delightful, trusting people who are also desperate to raise their incredibly low standard of living
Caroline Jackson, UK
Unless we have a team of people brave and committed enough to go out there on a regular basis, watch what's being done and report on it to the international community, it will do exactly what it likes.

The Malagasy themselves are delightful, trusting people who are also desperate to raise their incredibly low standard of living.

Who will really benefit from the mining? The officials who authorised it or the people who need help?
Caroline Jackson, UK

Mining worldwide needs to change and its product prices must treble to the benefit of social security in these countries.

The decision over whether to have the mine is for the Malagasy people, others should only be consulted about biodiversity, preservation of natural flora and how to minimise the devastation.
Myungbin Kim, South Korea

I lived and worked in Fort Dauphin for two years recently.

The area is at a turning point. Currently it has the environment of an undeveloped paradise, which with better communications and services, could become an eco-tourist's dream.

This would bringing hundreds of jobs for locals and with training and education the population would be able to diversify as they choose.

My real fear is that the people of the area will be left with even less that they currently have. Becoming a small town completely reliant on one industry, which may discourage any alternative investment or development.

There are few who are willing to stand up to it or blow the whistle if it does not carry out its promises
Alison Judge, UK
It is important that this is not allowed to occur. QMM can afford to give more concessions: it can afford to employ more locals, fund long-term schools and hospitals, properly manage long-term the conservation areas, and pay for more of the required infrastructure.

Only if it are willing to do all these things will the region and its population actually benefit from this mining project.

The biggest problem is that Rio Tinto/QMM have become so powerful in the region that there are few who are willing to stand up to it or blow the whistle if it does not carry out its promises.

As the programme illustrated people who do not agree are already fearful of speaking out publicly.

So how can we believe that it will carry out all its promises and not just do as it wishes once the reporters and conservationist have left?
Alison Judge, UK

I don't think QMM will do any worthwhile conservation of forests or biodiversity.

QMM should be screening workers it wants to bring in
Garrie Dergerson, UK
However, if the mine brings real development, then let the forests go. The local people deserve a real livelihood.

But QMM should be screening workers it wants to bring in. We don't encourage bird flu into the UK, so why should Madagascar be put at risk from HIV/AIDS?

Human rights? What about the human rights of those Malagasy men, women and children?
Garrie Dergerson, UK

As a trained biologist my concern would be that is too easy either for the novice or the financially motivated to pay lip service to the issues of species and habitat conservation and the setting up of "conservation zones".

I'd be interested to hear more from the mining company that demonstrates it has indeed paid sufficient attention to management of these areas, ensuring that they are adequately protected to support viable populations of species such as the brown collared lemur which I know to be endemic to the region.

I am also concerned that the vast majority of the poverty-stricken communities that will be affected will not reap the benefits, will lose their basic potential for long-term sustainable livelihoods (the forest & mangrove areas), and will be left with almost no means or mechanism for compensation.
Jon Singer, UK

As someone who has worked and lived in Madagascar, I was very excited to discover that BBC Radio 4 was broadcasting a programme about the country.

Whilst the content was in general balanced, fascinating and revealing, I was appalled to hear the presenter greeting local people in French and not in Malagasy.

A good programme presented by someone who appeared unsympathetic to and unconcerned about local identity and culture
Richard Nimmo, UK
Is it so hard to learn a few words of a language to communicate respectfully with people?

Radio journalism relies upon both good background research and a rapport with interviewees.

The content proved that there had been detailed research, however the interviews with local people were conducted via a translator without the interviewer even making the effort to learn to say hello in Malagasy.

The result was a good programme presented by someone who appeared unsympathetic to and unconcerned about local identity and culture.
Richard Nimmo, UK

It was pretty agonising listening to this radio programme.

I was in Madagascar this year and saw the south east. QMM talks of "strict rules" for its staff, "forbidding sexual contact". But this is just the tip of the iceberg of what seems incredible naivety.

Even if it did screen the workers, there's so much more that would need to be done in terms of education about HIV/AIDS, for starters.

Why is it that the only alternative to slash and burn is seen as Western-type industrial development?
E Rochester, UK
Similarly on the ecosystem-side of things. QMM's conservation advisers seemed very confident with the small areas saved for conservation, but are these really enough?

In any case, why is it that the only alternative to slash and burn is seen as Western-type industrial development?

Is its unsustainability so much less obvious than that of slash and burn?

Finally, why was all the "opposition" to the mine so frightened to speak out to express their fears?
E Rochester, UK

I am delighted to hear that the mine has agreed to save at least part of the lemur habitat.

The local population does need employment!

I hope the rescued habitat is large enough to maintain a healthy gene pool.
Brigitte Geddes, Scotland

I find it hilarious that comfortable Westerners - who will make the profit from the mine anyway - are so against mining, but are the World's largest consumers!

Take a look at your World and the things in it. If it hasn't been grown, it's been mined. Will you give all that up?
Miner, South Africa

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