Rio Tinto

About QMM

QIT Madagascar Minerals (QMM)

QIT Madagascar Minerals (QMM), which is 80% owned by Rio Tinto and 20% owned by the Government of Madagascar, has built a mineral sands mining operation near Fort-Dauphin at the south-east tip of Madagascar. QMM intends to extract ilmenite and zircon from heavy mineral sands over an area of about 6,000 hectares along the coast over the next 40 years.

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QMM began exploring the Anosy region in the late 1980s and at the same time starting preliminary social and environmental studies. In the mid-1990s QMM set up a full time social and environmental programme.

A legal and fiscal framework agreement between QMM and the Government of Madagascar was concluded in 1998. This was ratified by the Malagasy National Assembly and promulgated into law by the President of Madagascar.

QMM conducted a formal Social and Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA) between 1998 and 2001. The government issued an environmental permit in 2001.

The mine project got the go-ahead from Rio Tinto in August 2005. Construction started in January 2006 and the first shipment of ilmenite was sent via the newly completed Port of Ehoala southwest of Fort Dauphin in May 2009.

The total cost of the investment in Madagascar and Canada to get the project to completion is US$1.1 billion, with about US$940 million invested in Madagascar.

Current mining activity is at the 2000 ha Mandena site, to the north of Fort-Dauphin. Production on this site will eventually ramp up to 750,000 tonnes a year. Later phases will be at Ste-Luce and Petriky and there is potential to expand production to 2.2 million tonnes a year.

The main activities associated with QMM’s mineral sands mining project are:

  • Remove the vegetation cover and store the top soil layer where applicable;
  • Extract the sand, up to 20 metres deep, with a floating dredge;
  • Mechanical separation of the heavy minerals (5%) using spirals, and return the silica (95%) into the dredging pond for subsequent rehabilitation;
  • Separate ilmenite and zircon from the other heavy minerals using magnetic and electrostatic methods;
  • Rehabilitate mined areas; 
  • Transport ilmenite and zircon about 15 km along a newly constructed road to the port for export abroad.

The ilmenite mined in Madagascar contains 60% titanium dioxide making it higher quality than most other global sources.

The raw material will be upgraded to produce a new 90% titanium dioxide chloride slag suitable for global titanium feedstock markets for sale as a raw material to titanium pigment producers. The pigment is used as a white finish in paints, plastics, paper and dyes.

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