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Malagasy Mine is Offsetting Forest Lost to the Project by Protecting Areas of Rainforest Elsewhere

Ambatovy mine on the east coast of Madagascar is an environmental conundrum fit for the 21st century. Beginning operations in 2012, the multibillion-dollar open-pit nickel and cobalt mine is the largest investment in the history of the country, one of the poorest on Earth. About 9,000 Malagasies are employed by the project, owned by the Japanese company Sumitomo Corporation and Korean firm Komir, which mines minerals destined for the world’s electric car batteries. Alongside the land clearing in a country that has lost nearly a quarter of its tree cover since 2000, the mine has been blamed for air and water pollution, as well as health problems in the local population. The smell of ammonia in residential areas and the pollution of drinking water were revealed in a 2017 investigation. But now the project is set to gain another controversial accolade: the first mine to successfully offset the destruction it caused to a forest, according to an independent scientific study. The theory behind offsetting is that good can cancel out bad. In carbon offsetting, polluters can pay to neutralise emissions from flying or driving by paying for equivalent emission reductions elsewhere. With biodiversity offsetting, the destruction of an ecosystem can be counteracted by protecting another threatened area.