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Macalester College

Publication Date

Spring 2023

Program Name

Madagascar: Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management


In Madagascar, sustainable development has been established and maintained by dominant foreign actors to reconcile neoliberalism with globalized conceptions of environmental protection. The Ambatovy mining and refining project has emerged as a prominent example of this developmental mode; Ambatovy is the largest economic enterprise in the history of the country and one of the largest and most productive mining operations in the world, generating billions of dollars in revenue for a country that remains among the poorest in the world while offsetting its impact on endemic biodiversity and forest habitat through conservation initiatives. At the same time, the evaluative framework of environmental justice reveals that the project has largely failed to generate just and comprehensive development in mine-adjacent communities, and that Ambatvoy’s claims to sustainability marginalize collective wellbeing. Through qualitative interviews with local residents, we learn that economic benefits associated with mine’s presence are difficult to access due to unaddressed structural poverty. Ambatovy has improved the quality of life of community members who have privileged access to employment, training, revenue, and direct aid, but the most immediate and wide reaching impact of the project on local residents is a cascade of environmental degradation; participants reported that the project has marginalized traditional livelihoods and created mass employment, driving crime and theft that threatens to destabilize community security. Residents continue to seek solutions from Ambatovy in the form of jobs and direct aid but these efforts are mediated by the significant power disparities that pervade local peoples’ relationship with the project. Just futures for mine-adjacent communities may not be secured unless wholesale changes are to the larger paradigm of sustainable development.


African Studies | Development Studies | Environmental Indicators and Impact Assessment | Natural Resource Economics | Place and Environment | Sustainability


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