As we wrote in our September 12, 2017 news release, we have received a series of worrying allegations regarding DNI Metals Inc.’s Vohitsara graphite project in Madagascar, which are backed up by solid documentation. We had previously written to the company and got messages denying all the allegations, but as yet, we have received no specific response. Although DNI has begun to address these issues, serious reports about unfair compensation, harassment, and entering and destroying lands without landowners’ consent still stand to be resolved.
DNI claims “there are no disputes between DNI and resident/affected landowners in respect of its operations in Madagascar.” However, sources indicate that there have been a series of meetings between DNI and Vohitsara farmers to settle grievances that DNI claims do not exist. We invite DNI to publicly confirm or deny the existence of these meetings and subsequent agreements that were reached. The following is a summary of the meetings that have been held between Vohitsara farmers and DNI in relation to the farmers’ complaints:
On July 7, a meeting was held in Vohitsara between the local community and DNI representatives, including DNI Mada (Madagascar) country director, Steven Goertz. Local farmers presented their grievances and Mr. Goertz apologized and stated that the issues would be addressed.
On July 12, a follow-up meeting was held in Antananarivo, where Mr. Goertz and community members drafted and signed an agreement (attached), which included commitments to conduct a damage assessment of affected landowners’ land, to compensate landowners appropriately, and to cease mining-related operations until proper compensation was undertaken.
On July 14, two DNI representatives delivered the results from the previous meeting to the community. They reiterated their apologies for entering and damaging the farmers’ land without having received individual written consent.
A series of subsequent meetings on July 16-18, were held between individual landowners and DNI to complete the agreed upon damage assessment. However, damage assessment was halted after two days, reportedly under orders from DNI administration.
Most recently, a meeting was held on September 13, 2017 with DNI administrator and account manager Njara Raoily, local authority officials, the Inspector of Atsinanana Region, the District Chief of Brickaville, a journalist, and local community members. Key results of this meeting included DNI’s agreement to settle its conflict with the local community, to compensate all affected landowners, and to renegotiate compensation with those that have already been paid unfairly. Another meeting to finalize the monetary value of the compensation is scheduled for September 26, 2017 with the presence of everyone who attended the September 13 meeting.
The promise of compensation has been a long, drawn-out process and only began in July, although negotiations should have been discussed and carried through prior to commencing mining operations in April. DNI has stated that a protocol is in place where “appropriate compensation” is negotiated with affected landowners. According to an article released by DNI, drilling operations began in April 2017, but to date, some landowners remain uncompensated. Landowners only began to receive compensation at the end of July after making demands for it, which ensued in the meetings summarized above.
Additionally, DNI’s latest press release also indicates that it “proudly works with communities… and in conjunction with local landowners,” conducted an inventory of crops prior to exploration activities in Vohitsara. Farmers have reported that these inventories were conducted without their knowledge or participation. Local community reports also indicate that DNI’s exploration activities severely damaged the community’s soccer field. DNI’s claims of upgrading the soccer field in the community seem to be an effort to rehabilitate something that their activities destroyed in the first place.
It seems reasonable to call on DNI to follow its professed commitment to build a strong partnership with the community and to ensure transparency in the various complaints and grievances that have been expressed by the Vohitsara people.