Farmer not ‘qualified’ to speak on destruction of his livelihood, says government

7 April 2017 - 11:00am
Press release

The Home Office has denied a visa to a Madagascan farmer due to speak in London about the environmental and social impact of Rio Tinto’s QMM mineral sands mine and its ‘biodiversity offset’ scheme on his community.  

Athanase Monja applied for a visa to attend the annual general meeting of Rio Tinto to be held in London on 12 April 2017.

Athanase, supported by London Mining Network, Re:Common, Andrew Lees Trust, Friends of the Earth and War on Want, intended to present a list of demands from his community to the Rio Tinto board, stating the human costs of the company’s ‘conservation’ efforts.

In response, Sebastian Muñoz, Senior International Programmes Officer (Latin America) at War on Want, said:

"This is outrageous. Athanase has been a farmer all his life, he is witnessing first-hand the destruction of his community’s land and livelihoods at the hands of so-called conservation initiatives by Rio Tinto, and yet the UK government claims he is not qualified to speak on human rights and the environment.

"Athanase has had to deal with the loss of his community’s land on two occasions – because of the mine’s operations and now due to the biodiversity offsetting scheme – and as if that wasn’t enough, he is now told that his ordeal and testimony is not worthy on UK shores.  The UK government ought to be ashamed."

Biodiversity offsetting – a scheme increasingly used by the extractive industries as part of their corporate social responsibility portfolios – argues that while a mine can be destructive to local biodiversity, that these impacts can be ‘offset’ by preserving another similar natural area.  

The schemes do nothing to address the environmental destruction of the initial project, they falsely legitimize their destruction, and in the case of QMM, near Fort Dauphin in the Southeast of Madagascar, serve to undermine land sovereignty amongst local communities.


Notes to editors

For more information and interviews contact Ross Hemingway on +44 (0)7983 550728

The Times: Setback for farmer in fight against mining firm

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