Madagascar: Giant $4 billion mine project is causing Lemur extinction

The $3.8 billion mining project, operated by Canada’s Sherritt, will
tear up 1,300 to 1,700 hectares of primary rainforest that houses
nearly 1,400 species of flowering plants, 14 species of lemurs, and
more than 100 types of frogs. Many of the species are endemic to the
forest. While Sherritt says on its web site that is working to
minimize its environmental impact, including moving endangered
wildlife, replanting trees, and establishing buffer zones near
protected areas, conservationists say that efforts are falling short.

“Ambatovy forest is among the most biodiverse forests in Madagascar,”
Rainer Dolch, head of the local environmental NGO Mitsinjo, told
mongabay.com. “Sherritt claimed to avoid areas of rainforest or
already projected for rainforest restoration during pipeline
construction. They also claimed not to build the pipeline during the
rainy season to avoid erosion. Regrettably, these claims are not
reflected by what is currently happening”. Still, the pristine forest
on the mine site has already largely been cleared. The pipeline is
currently being built and the trajectory for it bulldozed. The mining
company has subcontracted several other companies who in turn have
subcontractors. This structuring obscures responsibilities and bears
the risk of environmental commitments agreed upon not being respected
by subcontractors.

Sherritt’s activities – which include the clearing
of a 25-meter-wide path for 220 kilometers to support a pipeline that
will carry mining sluice to the port of Tamatave – lie close to
Mantadia National park, a 15,000-hectare reserve that is adjacent to
Analamazaotra Special Reserve (better known as Perinet), Madagascar’s
most popular ecotourist destination. The protected area is famous for
supporting the endangered indri, a species that sings like a whale and
is the largest lemur on the island. “This is the heart of the primary
forest, very close to the future protected area decreed by the
government,” Leon Rajaobelina, vice-chairman of Conservation
International – Madagascar, told Lucie Peytermann for an AFP story
published in October.

The forest – and neighboring wetlands – is home
to a wide array of flora and fauna, including the world’s rarest
lemur, the Greater Bamboo Lemur (Prolemur simus), which is down to
around 110 individuals in the wild and has a highly specialized diet
of giant bamboo, limiting its range. To reduce losses of charismatic
species, Sherritt hired wildlife experts from Henry Doorly Zoo in
Omaha to translocate about 40 lemurs from the mining forest to
Perinet. But sources claim the measures are at best a public relations
stunt, given that many other lemurs will be adversely affected by the
project. http://news.mongabay.com/2009/0122-madagascar_mine.html

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From: Sitter, Mark [mailto:msitter@sherritt.com]

Dear Deane,

Wither regards the Mongabay.com posting “Madagascar: Giant $4 billion mine project is causing Lemur extinction” on your website http://forestpolicyresearch.com/2009/01/21/madagascar-giant-4-billion-mine-project-is-causing-lemur-extinction/ My name is Mark Sitter; I work for Sherritt International Corporation. To ensure that our views accompany any such postings, we would appreciate if you could post the following response immediately below the article on your site. Looking ahead, if you are interested in any information about the Ambatovy Project, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thanks for your consideration.

Sherritt’s response Following the posting of this article, Sherritt sent the following response. The Ambatovy Project has recently published two articles with additional information about its environmental practices and social-development initiatives. These articles were written by Ambatovy representatives to explain their efforts and provide their perspective on these two matters. Here are the appropriate links: Ambatovy article on environmental practices Ambatovy article on social-development initiatives The Ambatovy Project also invites interested readers to learn more at www.ambatovy.com.

Best regards, Mark Sitter

Sherritt International Corporation

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