The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Rio Tinto Poisons Land and Water

Aug 7, 2023

This article is translated from the July 17 issue #497 of Power to the Workers (Le Pouvoir aux Travailleurs), magazine of the revolutionary workers’ group Internationalist Communist African Workers’ Union active in Africa and France.

Mining giant Rio Tinto extracts titanium-iron oxide ore from sand on seashores and beaches in southern Madagascar. The company dumps toxic waste into the rivers.

Spokespeople for the Fight for the South association (LUSUD) say destruction of the environment and impoverishment of the population are accelerating because of non-compliance.

Drinking water sources are contaminated by heavy metals such as uranium, aluminum, and cadmium. Radioactivity is rising and sickening villagers. The number of women giving birth to stillborn or deformed children increases exponentially.

The people in the area have been fighting for a decade against this criminal contempt by Rio Tinto and by the government, which owns a one-fifth share in mining subsidiary QMM operating in Fort Dauphin-Taolagnaro. Several freshwater lakes and rivers rich with fish in the past have become sterile cesspools poisoned by the mine. People who live from fishing have lost their livelihoods. Farmers suffer considerable damage.

The mine sows desolation and death in plain view of officials. Each time the crisis broke out, token amounts of money were disbursed to a few traditional chiefs and notable members of civil society. This was accompanied by demagogic gestures like distributing a few bags of rice, cows, and basic foods. All this was presented with folk ceremonies with drums, trumpets, and appearances by government ministers.

Madagascar’s president Andry Rajoelina is a businessman. Neither he nor his predecessors have ever refused anything to the kings of the mine, since the country’s bourgeoisie have enriched themselves in the process.

During the commemoration of the country’s independence in June, the president launched calls for national unity, patriotism, the spirit of sacrifice by citizens, and all sorts of nonsense intended to fool working people.

But workers and other people in the impoverished Anosy region are not fooled. That same day, they took up their struggle again despite savage repression unleashed on them. They barricaded the access road to the mine courageously and resolutely for the umpteenth time. Their outrage has broken out again and again. The government doesn’t shrink from repressing any source of protest by poor people. Several LUSUD leaders have been arrested and imprisoned. Others have fled.

The region’s population is not asking for charity. They do demand their due: substantial financial compensation for all of them, without discrimination against people who don’t own a lot of land.

Many villagers say their long-term aspirations are to have safe drinking water and electrical supply infrastructures like what executives and technicians housed near the mine enjoy. Rio Tinto does not lack resources. With some ups and downs, the fight by and for those left behind continues. Long live their fight!