One such environmental worker is Hajanirina Rakotondrainibe, whose specific responsibilities include caring for endangered plants and wildlife at Ambatovy’s Moramanga mine. Ambatovy, which mines nickel and cobalt, is believed to be the country’s largest foreign investment to date.
Haja, as he is affectionately known by his work colleagues, is proud and beaming when he speaks of being part of the national and global effort to protect Madagascar’s endangered species, lemurs, and other wildlife, whose habitats are being destroyed by mining activities are threatened.
“I’m a wildlife doctor mainly responsible for wildlife management. As the mine cuts down forests to conduct mining activities; At the same time, we are developing species protection programs to restore the destroyed vegetation.
“Those forests are home to species like lemurs, an endemic primate found only in Madagascar. We have around 120 species of lemurs ranging from 40 grams to around 7 kg and each species is specific to a region and forest habitat type.
“Lemurs are attracting worldwide interest and many researchers come to Moramanga to obtain information about 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.”
In addition to protecting lemurs and plants, Haja is a staunch trade unionist and a member of the IndustriALL Global Union subsidiary SVS:
“I’ve worked at Ambatovy for ten years and I’m active in my union, which I represented on the works committees.”
Haja is one of the participants who discussed the inclusion of workers’ rights, women’s rights, health and safety and environmental protection in the revised Mining Code at a meeting in Antananarivo on August 25-26.
Glen Mpufane, IndustriALL director of mining says:
“When we talk about sustainable mining, we also talk about environmental protection, sustainable ecosystems that include communities and biodiversity, and calls on mining companies to adhere to environmental protection practices. The work Haja is doing at Ambatovy confirms that workers play a crucial role in protecting endangered species in Madagascar.”
Experts say lemurs are important because they are the world’s oldest living primates and are found only in Madagascar. Lemurs also disperse seeds and help with pollination, which is essential for forests.
Scientists argue that lemurs, whose DNA is over 90 percent identical to that of humans, may have descended from the same ancestor as the human family.
Scientists consider Madagascar a biodiversity hotspot, with some species of wildlife unique to the island. In order to save them from extinction, the habitats of these species must be preserved, so sustainable mining is required. So environmental protection needs to be included in Madagascar’s mining code, unions say.