London, England — MININGREVIEW.COM — 02 April 2009 – Rio Tinto Group – the world’s third- largest mining company – says that its US$1 billion (R9.5 billion) titanium project in Madagascar is still operating and that the company has not heard from the government following a report that it had frozen mining contracts.
Reporting this development earlier this week, news agency Agence France-Presse said that transitional leader Andry Rajoelina was seeking higher royalties from foreign companies. But London-based Rio spokesman Nick Cobban told Bloomberg News in a telephone interview from here that output at the company’s QIT Madagascar Minerals unit had been unaffected.
“We’ve received no formal communication from the new government,” Cobban said, “and we understand they are yet to appoint a minister for mines.”
Rajoelina was sworn in as president on March 21 after his predecessor Marc Ravalomanana had stepped down following pressure from the military. and two months of protests in which more than 100 people died.
“Rio’s mining accord was signed with Ravalomanana’s predecessor, Didier Ratsiraka,” Cobban revealed. “A new port built by Rio is complete, and will draw more foreign investment to the island,” he added.
The company commenced production in January at QIT, which is located in the island’s southern Fort-Dauphin region. Rio extracts titanium dioxide, a material is used as a pigment in paint, from ilmenite ore.