Lifeless fish had been beforehand discovered within the lake by locals after a QMM overflow incident in Dec 2018, which was investigated many weeks later, in 2019, by the Nationwide Environmental Analysis Centre (CNRE) in Madagascar.
In a slide presentation to members of the general public in Anosy, the CNRE urged that the loss of life of the fish could possibly be attributable to the presence of “brownish water” that overflowed from the mine’s “synthetic swamps” throughout a excessive rainfall occasion. Its researchers mentioned acidification within the swamps was more than likely guilty for the fish deaths.
The necessity to monitor and clarify modifications in acidification – measured as Ph ranges – was raised by consultants earlier than mining started and ever since, however has but to be totally explored and reported. The Ph ranges of the water can have an effect on how heavy metals behave within the water and influence the setting.
In 2019, the CNRE concluded that “the phenomena of acidification and accumulation of metals in QMM basins requires deeper research” and referred to as for “rigorous monitoring of heavy metallic focus ranges in mining basins which will influence the pure setting.”
However QMM claims that the 2018 useless fish occasion was not linked to the mine, and is making comparable claims immediately. however Lifeless fish have been confirmed following each QMM mine water overflow incidents. Maybe it is a coincidence.
The CNRE report has by no means been printed brazenly or made accessible domestically, regardless of repeated and ongoing requests from native communities and in addition worldwide civil society.
Native villagers have change into more and more involved about water high quality domestically because the QMM operations started and these anxieties have been supported by a sequence of independent studies which have demonstrated that the mine is having a detrimental influence on water high quality within the area.
These research have discovered elevated ranges of uranium and lead within the waters downstream of the mine – typically 50 and 40 occasions larger respectively than the WHO secure ingesting water tips.
Dr Stella Swanson, an internationally recognised radioactivity skilled, has demonstrated that the QMM mine basin water that’s moved into the QMM settling ponds comprises elevated ranges of radionuclides. This processed water is launched by way of settling ponds and wetland swamps into the setting. Sadly, Madagascar presently has no authorized limits set for the discharge of uranium into the setting.
The water round Mandena is used for ingesting and in houses. It additionally offers a feed into Lake Lanirano, which in flip provides ingesting water to residents within the city of Ft Dauphin. Civil society actors have due to this fact argued that World Well being Group (WHO) secure ingesting water tips should apply.
Certainly, QMM did made a dedication to make use of WHO and Canadian requirements for water high quality in its 2001 Environmental Administration Plan.
Communications across the mine tailings dam failure incidents has additionally been insufficient. Native communities have complained that QMM solely introduced they had been releasing the million cubic metres of mine waste water after they’d began.
QMM has insisted there is no such thing as a environmental influence or threat. The corporate additionally claims that interim research by their exterior supplier, JBS&G, point out there is no such thing as a trigger for concern.
Nevertheless, the state investigations are nonetheless underway and no public conclusions of outcomes are but accessible. And the JBS&G interim stories are themselves removed from conclusive.
One states: “All outcomes, conclusions and proposals needs to be reviewed by a reliable particular person with expertise in environmental investigations, earlier than getting used for another goal (JBS&G 2021).”
Dr Swanson has studied three JBS&G interim stories, and issued a Memo with recommendations which raises questions as as to if the JBS&G research can ship what is required to find out the impacts of the QMM mine and produce credible outcomes.
Civil society organisations Publish What You Pay (Madagascar & UK) and Andrew Lees Belief have been collectively advocating that Rio Tinto instantly present secure ingesting water to the impacted communities, handle the QMM mine course of water safely and enhance transparency concerning the mine operations.
The continued failure to reply adequately to the issues raised by the native communities and civil society has meant that after a decade of operations QMM continues to be failing to satisfy the wants and deal with the issues of those that are being impacted by the mine operations.
Proper of Reply
An announcement from the QMM supplied to The Ecologist mentioned: “QMM has made good progress on water administration and has developed a water administration plan geared toward minimising water launch and impacts of the receiving setting.
“Given the particular geographical challenges of Madagascar and the rising publicity of the nation to climatic extremes, QMM has taken a brand new step within the implementation of this technique. A course of water remedy unit is presently below building to enhance water administration and handle comparable distinctive conditions which will come up sooner or later.
“In 2019, we commissioned JBS&G to conduct an unbiased research on radiation and water high quality round our mine. The research shall be accomplished by the second quarter of 2022 after which will probably be cross-examined by the Malagasy regulator.”
The assertion added: “From the evaluation acquired so far – there have been two rounds of investigation – there is no such thing as a consequence that triggers quick motion [needed] to stop any human hurt to the neighborhood. As soon as accomplished and cross-examined by the regulator, the complete outcomes shall be disclosed, shared, and mentioned with the communities and key stakeholders.”
The assertion additionally spoke to among the particular issues raised by The Ecologist. “Water overflow: In February 2022, Fort-Dauphin skilled very excessive ranges of rainfall, which can have impacted the pure setting.
“We’ve investigated the potential hyperlink between the water high quality issues reported twice by the neighborhood and QMM’s one-off overflow incident that occurred on 17 February. The outcomes of the investigation present that the incident precipitated no influence on the receiving setting. Full outcomes and conclusions shall be shared and mentioned after an additional ongoing investigation performed by the regulator are accomplished.”
The corporate additionally addressed the priority about useless fish. “The February 2022 heavy rains put QMM’s water system below stress. In a proactive strategy designed to keep away from any uncontrolled overflow into the pure setting and with the authorization of the regulator, QMM began a managed water launch on 8 March. This was introduced publicly earlier than the discharge started.
“Day by day water high quality monitoring reveals no anomalies that may influence the receiving setting. QMM is endeavor an investigation to set up any causal hyperlinks between the water launch course of and the useless fish incident, noting nonetheless that no useless fish had been discovered on the location the place QMM was releasing water, nor within the river into which the water flows.”
The assertion concluded: “QMM is contributing to a programme to supply entry to potable water for the three communities neighbouring QMM’s mine and has made a big donation to a post-cyclone emergency support.”
Yvonne Orengo is the director of the Andrew Lees Trust (ALT UK) a British charity arrange following the loss of life of Andrew Lees in 1994. She lived and labored in southern Madagascar to develop social and environmental programmes and has adopted the evolution of the Rio Tinto/QMM mine for greater than twenty six years.