The Andrew Lees Trust logo Map of Africa highlighting Madagascar

Social and Environmental Projects
in Madagascar

Andrew Lees
ANDREW LEES (1949-1994)

Andrew Lees (1949 - 1994) was a scientist, conservationist and one of the world's top environmentalists who became Director of Campaigns at Friends of the Earth. He successfully led a number of high profile international campaigns and went to Madagascar in December 1994 to research a proposed Rio Tinto ilmenite mine that threatened to eradicate 6000 hectares of unique littoral forests in the south east of the island.

Andrew died in Madagascar whilst filming in the imperilled forest of Petriky.

See the film "My Madagascar" about Andrew's field mission in 1994

The Trust was set up in his name in 1995.

Andrew believed passionately in empowering people to find their own solutions - whether for environmental, social or personal development. The main remit of the Andrew Lees Trust reflects that larger purpose and the example of Andrew"s inspirational work with local communities.

Read the Andrew Lees Biography (PDF 243 Kb)



As part of its ethical and social responsibilities, and in honouring Andrew's legacy, The Trust has endeavoured to maintain a focus on, and draw attention to social and environmental challenges brought about by Rio Tinto's QMM mine, which became operational in 2005. In particular, it has sought to amplify the voices of local communities faced with losses to their lands, food security and traditional ways of life.

In this work, the Trust has collaborated with community representatives, international NGOs and researchers to collect testimonies, help publish and disseminate reports, provide accompaniment, assist legal representation of mine affected communities, participate in shareholder action, present information at public meetings and talks, and lobby the company directly for improved communications and compensation practices.

The Trust adopts an ethical stance to the Rio Tinto mining project in Madagascar;

read our statement here (PDF 186 Kb)



ALT UK's Engagement with Rio Tinto 2017-2019: Buffer Zone Breach and Radioactivity Review

The Trust is committed to serving civil society in Madagascar, in particular to support marginalised, poverty challenged and isolated communities in the rural south. It is especially concerned about local peoples' rights and entitlements to a safe environment, sustainable food security, and access to information that strengthens capabilities to manage natural resources, livelihoods and wellbeing in the long term.

Our engagement with Rio Tinto HQ for the last two years has focused on promoting transparency and accountability with regard to QMM mine operations in Anosy; specifically to 1) address the violation of an environmental buffer zone that is meant to protect local waterways and lakes where people fish and gather water for domestic use; and 2) to establish the status of radioactivity levels in the environment around the QMM mine.

To which purpose, Andrew Lees Trust commissioned international specialists to undertake and deliver independent studies - Dr Steven Emerman for the buffer zone evaluation and Dr Stella Swanson for the radioactivity review - and has actively engaged the company with requests for information, data release, answers to technical questions, and discussion on the findings of the reports.


Local people are entirely dependent on access to forest, land and water sources for survival and livelihoods. Our actions over two years have therefore been focused on the overarching goal of improving how Rio Tinto/QMM respects the local environment and the human rights of communities in southern Madagascar, whilst meeting its own and wider international standards and commitments.


After two years of the Trust's persistent enquiry, Rio Tinto has admitted QMM's breach of the buffer zone, by as much as 90_m in places. Rio Tinto's response on the buffer zone breach evaluation is available here.

The company has consequently made a series of commitments regarding future management of the buffer zone. It has also reversed its plan to advance a reduced 50m buffer along the estuary side of the Mandena site, and instead will respect the legally required 80_m legal buffer zone.

Rio Tinto's response to the radioactivity review is included in full as an addendum in the main technical report. It includes a series of commitments, e.g. for additional monitoring mechanisms. Additional recommendations included in the radioactivity review are still in discussion.

Our Thanks

The Trust is enormously grateful to Dr Steven Emerman and to Dr Stella Swanson for their tireless commitment to delivering the reports and for all the accompanying dialogue, process and technical exchange over the last two years. Also, to all the individuals and organisations who have participated in this process by providing advice, financial assistance, legal and technical inputs, and moral support throughout the two years of this advocacy campaign. All are testimony to the prevailing solidarity for the people of southern Madagascar.



Summary Radioactivity Report English Version

Summary Radioactivity Report Version Francais


REQUEST the full technical report of the radioactivity review by emailing:



Read the main Investigation Findings and September 2018 Article in The Ecologist here

REPORTS (English and French Versions)

Main Report English version:
Evaluation of a Buffer Zone at an Ilmenite Mine operated by Rio Tinto on the Shores of Lakes Besaroy and Ambavarano, Madagascar. Emerman, S., 2018

Rapport principal version Francais:
Évaluation d'une zone tampon dans une mine d'ilménite exploitée par Rio Tinto sur les rives des lacs Besaroy et Ambavarano, Madagascar. Emerman, S., 2018.

Additional study English version:
Risk Assessment for Loss of Radionuclides from Mining Basins operated by Rio Tinto on the Shores of Lakes Besaroy and Ambavarano, Madagascar.Emerman, S., 2018.

Étude supplémentaire version Francais:
Évaluation des risques de perte de radionucléides des bassins miniers exploités par Rio Tinto sur les rives des lacs Besaroy et Ambavarano, à Madagascar.Emerman, S., 2018.

The Trust continues to pursue transparency about the buffer zone violation and is in dialogue with Rio Tinto, awaiting a full response to questions raised by ALT UK since May 2017.



April 2019

March 2019

November 2018:

September 2018

April 2017 l

March 2017 

VERSIONS FRANCAIS (traductions de base) des articles: -

April 2019

March 2019 Le groupe minier Rio Tinto sest retiré de la zone environnementale

November 2018 Rio Tinto: Le long chemin de la transparence

Sept 2018 Craintes de pollution de l'eau enrichie en radionucléides du fait que le secteur minier malgache viole les limites légales    


The Trust has also worked alongside Friends of the Earth to highlight the challenges and issues of Biodiversity Offsetting around mining in New Tricks: Biodiversity Offsetting and Mining

Download the PDF of the report here

See our support for community accompaniment in Antsotso, one of the biodiversity offset sites of the QMM mine:


Voices of change
In 2007 ALT UK worked with Panos London to help amplify the voice of local people in Anosy and enable them to express their experiences of struggling to make life work on the edge of rapid change, largely brought about by the mine: