Oil giant Total pauses Madagascar tar sands plans – for now

Oil giant Total pauses Madagascar tar sands plans – for now

Date: 7 July 2011

This Monday WDM campaigners came to the office with big smiles on their faces. Over the weekend, we’d heard that French Oil giant Total, subject to one of our latest online actions, had apparently cancelled its plans to mine tar sands in Madagascar.

High fives all around. Or?

As the story only seemed to have appeared on a mining industry website, we decided we needed to do some proper digging around. The first thing we did was get in touch with one of our allies in Madagascar. It can be just as hard for campaigners in Madagascar to get information as it is for us here, but their understanding is that Total isn’t going to pull out completely, but instead will extend its license to explore rather than moving on to full scale exploitation. 

This was also confirmed by Total’s business partner, ‘Madagascar Oil’ (based in Houston, not Madagascar), which announced last week that the two companies would not start full-scale mining, but will continue to test for the viability of both conventional oil and tar sands extraction.  

Basically, this means mining has been put on hold and the tar sands are safe in the ground – for now.

But Malagasy campaigners and the local communities in the tar sands mining area will need more international support to ensure that Total abandons its mining project permanently. As Holly Rakotondralambo said when she visited us from Madagascar in May:

We have seen the devastation that has occurred in the Canadian tar sands mining areas. There is great poverty in Madagascar. Many people in the tar sands areas in Madagascar are small scale subsistence farmers who have had their land passed down through their families. They are afraid that they will lose their land or that it will get poisoned.”

Tar sands mining could disrupt and poison the water supply of up to 120,000 people in the country’s Melaky area and threaten its unique biodiversity. 

Holly also said, “international support gives us strength”, and as a result we’re keeping the online action live for now. So if you haven’t already, please take a few minutes to write to Total’s CEO now.