Researchers say the island’s biggest mine is on track to achieve no net loss of forest but that ‘there remain important caveats’
Ambatovy mine on the east coast of Madagascar is an environmental conundrum fit for the 21st century. Beginning operations in 2012, the multibillion-dollar open-pit nickel and cobalt mine is the largest investment in the history of the country, one of the poorest on Earth. About 9,000 Malagasies are employed by the project, owned by the Japanese company Sumitomo Corporation and Korean firm Komir, which mines minerals destined for the world’s electric car batteries. To construct the mine and the 140-mile (220km) slurry pipeline to port on the Indian ocean, 2,000 hectares (5,000 acres) of pristine rainforest was cleared, destroying vital habitat of the endangered indri, the largest living lemur, and thousands of other species.
Alongside the land clearing in a country that has lost nearly a quarter of its tree cover since 2000, the mine has been blamed for air and water pollution, as well as health problems in the local population. The smell of ammonia in residential areas and the pollution of drinking water were revealed in a 2017 investigation.