JOHANNESBURG, May 24 (Reuters) - Rio Tinto's
QIT Madagascar Minerals (QMM) mineral sands mine
restarted production on Monday following a five-day halt, after
reaching an agreement with demonstrators who had set up
roadblocks at the site, Rio told Reuters on Tuesday.
Communities surrounding QMM's mine in southeastern
Madagascar have been protesting over a release of water from the
mine site into the surrounding environment, after which dead
fish were found.
Rio says water sampling data shows no link between the water
release and the dead fish. But local government authorities
banned fishing in the area after the dead fish were found,
QMM decided to curtail operations on May 18 due to the
community unrest, Rio said.
"Following an agreement signed on 22 May between QMM, the
authorities and demonstrators, all roadblocks were dismantled
enabling QMM to resume operations yesterday (23 May)," Rio said.
At the signing, QMM gave the communities zebus and rice "as
a symbol of reconciliation", and agreed to continue providing
food supplies to the affected fishing community for a further
QMM started giving food supplies in mid-March to that
community of between 5,000 and 7,000 people, Rio said, despite
the data showing no direct link between QMM activities and the
Rio came under fire earlier this month at both its London
and Melbourne annual general meetings over the water release.
"QMM is in danger of losing its social license to operate,"
investor advisory firm Australasian Centre for Corporate
Responsibility said on May 5.
Former chairman Simon Thompson told the London AGM the
company would build a water treatment plant and develop clean
water projects for surrounding communities. He said he accepted
Rio has work to do to "enhance" its licence to operate in
Rio on Tuesday said it expected the new process water
treatment unit to be in place by the middle of this year.
QMM produces ilmenite, which is shipped to a Rio Tinto plant
in Quebec to be processed into titanium dioxide.
(Reporting by Helen Reid; Editing by Jan Harvey and Chizu