19 September, 2022Environmental workers at mining sites are often on the fringes of mining activities, but with more focus now being given to environmental, social and governance issues, their important work is becoming visible and getting more recognition.
One such environmental worker is Hajanirina Rakotondrainibe whose special responsibilities include looking after endangered plants and wildlife at Ambatovy’s Moramanga mining site. Ambatovy, which mines nickel and cobalt, is said to be the country’s largest ever foreign investment.
Haja, as he is affectionately known by his workmates, takes pride and beams when he talks about being part of the national and global efforts to protect the endangered species, the lemur, and other wildlife in Madagascar whose habitats are threatened by mining activities.
“I am a wildlife veterinarian mainly responsible for fauna management. As the mine cuts down forests to carry out mining activities; we are at the same time developing wildlife conservation programmes to restore the vegetation that is destroyed.
“In these forests you have species like lemurs, an endemic primate found only in Madagascar. We have about 120 species of lemurs ranging from 40 grammes to about 7 kgs, and each species is specific to a region and type of forest habitat.
“Lemurs are attracting global interest and many researchers come to Moramanga for information on these primates. Sometimes I accompany the researchers to many forests across the island, and this gives me the opportunity to travel to other parts of the country and learn more about my work.”
Besides protecting the lemurs and the plants, Haja is a staunch trade unionist and a member of IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, SVS:
“I have worked at Ambatovy for ten years, and I am active in my union, which I have represented in the enterprise committees.”
Haja is one of the participants who discussed the inclusion of workers’ rights, women’s rights, health and safety as well as environmental protection in the revised mining code at a meeting in Antananarivo 25-26 August.
Glen Mpufane, IndustriALL director for mining says:
“When we talk about sustainable mining, it is also about environmental conservation, sustainable ecosystems that includes communities and biodiversity, and calls for mining companies to adhere to environmental protection practices. The work that Haja is doing at Ambatovy confirms that workers are playing a crucial role in protecting endangered species in Madagascar.”
According to experts, lemurs are important because they are the world’s oldest living primates and are only found in Madagascar. Lemurs also disperse seeds and help in pollination that is essential to forests.
Scientists argue that lemurs, whose DNA is over 90 per cent like that of humans, could have originated from the same ancestor as the human family.
Scientists consider Madagascar as a biodiversity hotspot, with some species of wildlife only found on the island. To protect them from extinction, these species habitats must be saved, hence calls for sustainable mining. Thus, environmental protection must be included in Madagascar’s mining code say unions.