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Madagascar
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Madagascar does not have a well-developed mineral industry, although there is vast potential to discover and develop new deposits. Excluding gold and gem production by artisanal miners, mining makes up less than 1% of GDP (3% when the informal sector is counted) and employs just 1% of the workforce.

Madagascar is noted for its production of good quality chemical and metallurgical grade chromites, high-grade crystalline flake graphite, mica and semi precious stones. The country has the world's largest reserves of sapphires and is also the world's tenth largest producer of chromites. However, the island has other deposits containing gold, nickel, cobalt, heavy mineral sands, bauxite, coal and petroleum products. Madagascar's coal potential has been estimated to contain as much as 100 Mt of good quality coal. Here resources are located in the southwestern parts of the country, but the location and poor infrastructure of the region has been a deterrent. In order to develop these numerous possibilities, the country's infrastructure will need to be seriously upgraded and developed. The geology of the island has only recently been studied in any great detail. Similarities exist with that of Mozambique and Sri Lanka.Madagascar has identified deposits of bauxite, uranium, quartz, copper, lead, labradorite, rock-crystal, hodolite and marble. There are also known deposits containing 400 Mt of iron ore, and resources of coal at Sakoa in the southeast of the island where the total resource is probably in excess of 500 Mt.

Madagascar has known bauxite deposits in Manantenina in the southeast of the country, which have been estimated at containing 100 Mt of bauxite. 400Mt of iron ore are also reported near Solala. However, there is a lack of infrastructure to service these mineral deposits for economical exploitation.

The country also produces and exports graphite, labradorite, marble, lead, mica, small quantities of beryllium, gold, rare earth minerals and industrial minerals such as, cement, feldspar, ornamental stone, gemstones, quartz and salt.

A small but growing part of the economy is based on mining of ilmenite, with investments emerging in recent years, particularly near Tulear and Fort Dauphin. Mining corporation Rio Tinto Group was expected to begin operations near Fort Dauphin in 2008, following several years of infrastructure preparation. The mining project is highly controversial, with Friends of the Earth and other environmental organizations filing reports to detail their concerns about effects on the local environment and communities.

Diamond

Recent changes in the mining act and the discovery of large gemstone quality diamonds in Madagascar have led to a rush by international mining companies to acquire claims in the most prospective areas.

Two hundred million years ago, Madagascar formed part of the super-continent Gondwana. The western margin of Madagascar was attached to Africa (adjacent to Tanzania) and the eastern margin to India). This is of significance to diamond exploration, because both Tanzania and India contain numerous kimberlites, the intrusive rocks that can host diamonds. Madagascar has had very little systematic exploration for kimberlites. To date, no discoveries have been announced. There is strong evidence to suggest that diamondiferous kimberlites or related rocks may be present on the island. Two very large, gemstone quality diamonds were recently purchased by Diamond Fields International from alluvial sapphire miners in the Sud-Est region of Madagascar. These diamonds weigh 23.82 and 8.39 carats respectively. This is a significant discovery since no kimberlites are known to have been found on the island and the primary source of these diamonds still awaits discovery. According to government data, a number of other diamonds have been recovered in Madagascar over the past century.

Canada's Pan African Mining through its operating subsidiary, PAM Madagascar Sarl, holds 10-year research permits covering in excess of 3000 square kilometers in areas deemed prospective for diamond exploration in various regions of the country. The company commenced exploration in 2004 and announced that kimberlite indicator minerals had been recovered from an initial reconnaissance sample taken.

In 2004 Majescor Resources reached an agreement with De Beers to form a joint venture to explore for diamonds in the cratonic areas Majescor holds rights to in northern and central Madagascar. In 2003 and 2004, De Beers has collected and processed a total of 102 samples totaling 77 m3 in volume from areas of Madagascar selected for their diamond potential. The company spent over C$1,000,000 on the exploration programme and on the evaluation of samples. The company's analysis led to the recovery of 4,378 visually positive kimberlitic indicators, some of which have been confirmed, through micro probing, as having a kimberlitic origin. In 2005 Majescor had found some kimberlite samples, but it turned out to be sterile, however, the company continues to carry out diamond exploration.

Gold

Gold production is highly varied, with an estimated 100 – 150,000 artisanal miners extracting between 3 and 4 t per year. Madagascar is estimated at producing as much as 70 t of gold from ten gold producing regions. Most of Madagascar's gold deposits are Precambrian in age and are typically mesothermal lode type deposits. Gold smuggling is a major problem. Several Canadian junior companies are actively exploring for gold in Madagascar, mainly in the northern parts, in particular the Betsiaka Goldfield. Although the potential to locate a low grade bulk tonnage gold deposit exists, no major announcement has been made to date.

In 2005, Canadian mining company Pan-African Mining Corporation has reported to have discovered high-grade gold deposits at its western Dabolava concession, a licensed area situated 180 km west-southwest of Anatananarivo. The company is hoping to begin a mining operation on the property which will require much investment.

Artisanal gold mining takes place mainly in the eastern part of the country, namely in Ampanihy and Maevatanana, and in the northeastern part of the country, namely in Andavakoera. Estimated resources are believed to be at least 33 t. Small miners, such as Madagascar Goldfields and Societe Bijou Internationale have been granted exploration licenses.

In line with the objective in developing the country's gold mining sector further, the Malagasy government has formed gold agencies, Comptoirs de l'or, in two locations, Brieville and Maevatanana, locations where artisanal miners are very active. The agencies will serve to help small-scale miners conduct official and legal trade in gold and precious metals.

Iron Ore

Madagascar has some potential for operative iron ore mining. The Soalala iron-ore deposit in the west of the country, near the vicinity of Mahajanga, is being developed by Madagascar Mining Development Sarl (MMD) and the Bekisopa iron-ore deposit, in the south of the country, is being developed by Canadian miner, Cline Mining Corporation.

Bauxite

Bauxite deposits have been identified in Madagascar, the most prominent one being the Manantenina deposit, located in the south eastern part of the country. The Canadian mining company, Alcan Inc. has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Access Madagascar Sarl, allowing the company to hold the mineral rights on the Manantenina deposit. Access Madagascar Sarl and Alcan are jointly planning to build a bauxite mine and alumina refinery in the area and feasibility studies are due to take place.

Chromites

Chromite production is the major mineral export of Madagascar. The state-owned Societe Kraomita Malagasy (Kraoma), which is Madagascar's main chromite producer, outputs around 40,000 t/y of concentrates plus 80,000 t/y of lumpy ore from the Andriamana complex, and a further 20,000 t/y from the Befandriana mine. The company exports around 110,000t of chromite per year - destined for China and Japan. Most production comes from the Andriamana complex, which has identified several additional reserves. Crude ore generally contains 0.007% phosphorous. The Bemanevika mine has been estimated to have reserves totalling 3 Mt of chromite. As most of Madagascar's chrome resources are located in the northern parts of the country, long term investment in upgrading rail infrastructure is critical to expanding production in Madagascar, which is the world's 10th largest chrome producer.Madagascar's chromite is hosted by several ultrabasic intrusives bodies that undoubtedly have PGM potential. However, it seems that no modern methods have been used to test this potential.

Coal

Coal can be found primarily in the southwestern part of the country, namely, the Sakoa coal deposit. Estimated resources at the deposit are believed to be about 65 Mt. The Malagasy government and UK company Vuna Energy Ltd through its subsidiary Madagascar Consolidated Mining has signed an agreement to explore and develop coal resources at the Sakoa deposit.

Mineral Law & Legislation

The 1990 Mining Code made provisions for three types of mining permits, which were further subdivided into exploration and exploitation permits. Exploration and exploitation type 1 permits were granted only to individuals or groups of Malagasy nationality and were valid for 2 years. Types 2 and 3 permits, valid for 3 and 5 years, respectively, are designed for small to large mining companies incorporated under Malagasy law. Under the mining code, the maximum size areas of types 2 and 3 exploration permits were 400 and 1,000 km², respectively.

Following a 75 % reduction in land holdings during the exploration phase, the next types 2 and 3 exploitation permits allowed for maximum holdings of 100 and 200 km², respectively. The Malagasy Parliament through the Madagascar Ministry of Energy and Mines, passed a new petroleum law in 1995.

Major Players in the industry

  • PAM Madagascar Sarl
  • De Beers
  • Majescor Resources
  • Madagascar Goldfields
  • Societe Bijou Internationale
  • Madagascar Mining Development Sarl (MMD)
  • Cline Mining Corporation
  • Rio Tinto Alcan Inc.
  • Societe Kraomita Malagasy (Kraoma)
  • Madagascar Consolidated Mining

Key Figures

  • Gold production: 5 kilograms (2006)
  • Chromite production: 132335 metric tons (2006)
  • Mica production: 70 metric tons (2006)
  • Hydraulic Cement: 180 thousand metric tons (2005)

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