The extractive industries sector has expanded worldwide in recent decades. Investment decisions are usually made by companies located in industrialized countries. But the main sites of mining activity have shifted to emerging economies and developing countries. This is the case in Madagascar, where 30 major extraction projects are ongoing – in areas that are traditionally used by subsistence farmers and pastoralists.
Economic growth – at what price?
Of course, the extensive mining investments bear potential for economic growth at the national level. But the negative impacts on ecosystems, people, and local economies are often ignored.
Of the world’s large mining operations for metals, for example, about one-third are located in or around 10 km from protected areas. While the consequences for water, soils, and air are far-reaching, most studies focus solely on biodiversity loss in the immediate vicinity of mines.
“Industrial” land use engenders social problems
Studies also show that the resettlement of village communities to make way for mining projects can have grave social consequences, ranging from loss of livelihoods to marginalization and health problems. In addition, the large-scale projects attract labour migration. The resulting “frontier urbanization” can destabilize local societal and political processes.
Social and environmental impact assessments with deficits
In response to these sustainability concerns, virtually all investor countries require implementation of environmental and social impact assessments. But despite various international standards, numerous problems remain unresolved. These include:
- Lack of clarity about the role of such assessments in permitting processes;
- Weaknesses in the procedure, including effective participation of affected local populations;
- Lack of appropriate mechanisms for monitoring, implementation, and enforcement of processes.