QIT Madagascar Mineral community

Finding better ways to decarbonise our operations in Africa

Sinead Kaufman, Chief Executive Minerals

Last updated: 14 February 2023


Our new purpose, "finding better ways to provide the materials the world needs”, is a commitment to continuously improving what we contribute, as well as how we contribute.

Our work to decarbonise our operations in Africa is one way we’re putting our purpose into practice.

Just over a week ago, I returned from Madagascar where I saw the progress made on our soon-to-be completed 8MW solar power project. This project, which marks a step towards reducing our carbon emissions at our QMM mineral sands operation, will be complemented by a 12MW wind energy plant, which together, will provide 60% of QMM’s annual power needs on completion, this year.

Given QMM’s role as the primary power producer for the town of Fort Dauphin, beyond the decarbonisation benefits to our mine, this project means that nearly 80,000 of our host community members will be the end users of cleaner energy.

These renewable energy projects form part of a broader “sustainable mine” vision at QMM. This ambitious vision, which sets a path towards carbon neutrality, is well underway with the partnership of our government stakeholders, NGO partners and local communities.

As part of the sustainable mining vision, we are also establishing protected areas, ecological restoration, and afforestation for biodiversity conservation as well as carbon dioxide sequestration. So, not only are we reducing our carbon footprint throughout the life of mine, we also look forward, so that we can leave behind a sustainable legacy for the benefit of our host communities.

Sinead Kaufman

Sinead Kaufman

Chief Executive, Minerals

Sinead became Chief Executive of Minerals in March 2021.

Read Sinead's profile.

Recognising the uniqueness of Madagascar’s biodiversity, and in line with the aspirations of our purpose, we have been engaging with the Malagasy government and Asity Madagascar, in the development of a programme of nature-based solutions to halt and reverse the annual 1.6% loss of the Tsitongambarika (TGK) rainforest over the next 30 years. TGK is a lowland forest in the north of Fort Dauphin with such impressive flora and fauna that in 2001, using an internationally agreed set of criteria, the global NGO BirdLife International, designated the forest as an “Important Bird Area”. This recognition puts it in the company of world wonders such as the Snow Hill Island, off the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, or the Thane Creek flamingo sanctuary in India.

While it is a privilege to have access to such rich beauty and biodiversity, we recognise the fact that we are short term guests and with that comes a responsibility to honor and protect these unique ecosystems and the long-term future of our host nations.

Our work on nature-based solutions is new, but it forms an integral part of our decarbonisation journey. And having successfully piloted a small-scale nature-based solution in Madagascar, we have seen its potential as a mechanism to put our purpose in to practice in a way that benefits both our host communities and the environment.

QIT Madagascar Mineral employees
QIT Madagascar Minerals (QMM) employees

With the involvement of 2,300 community members, over 640,000 high carbon capture saplings were planted across 500 hectares of land. Of the spend required to achieve this, over 90% of it went directly to the community members. So, while on one hand we are securing high-quality carbon credits, on the other hand, we are helping to address community needs, while restoring precious forest land.

We are also exploring similar solutions elsewhere in Africa like Guinea, and in South Africa, where we are establishing partnerships to deliver nature-based solutions along the Kwa-Zulu Natal north coast near our Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) operation, which is also progressing its decarbonisation journey.

In October 2022, RBM announced a partnership with French energy company, Voltalia, to supply the operation with renewable energy from 2024. Under the agreement, a 148MW solar power plant (known as the Bolobedu Solar PV Project) will be built in Limpopo and the energy produced will be “wheeled” through the national grid to supply RBM's smelting and processing facilities in KwaZulu-Natal.

South Africa’s geographical and ecological diversity means that by placing the project in Limpopo, we can benefit from longer and more intense periods of sunshine than what we experience in KwaZulu-Natal, where we are located.

The Bolobedu Solar Project is an exciting partnership. Last month, construction of the solar plant commenced and over the coming months this will be ramped up to peak construction period estimated to create almost 700 jobs.

Once the plant becomes operational, it will have a permanent workforce of around 50 people and will cut RBM's greenhouse gas emissions by at least 10%. Put differently, in terms of emissions reduction, the impact of this solar plant will be the equivalent of removing 50,000 cars from South Africa’s roads.


Significant work is being done by my colleagues at RBM who, in addition to solar, are progressing work to source 200MW of wind energy, and developing the partnerships that we require to have RBM fully powered by renewables by 2040.

When speaking about RBM, many people think of it simply as a mine. But, in reality, RBM is a large mining and smelting complex with a hive of beneficiation activity, each with enormous energy demands. Significantly shifting our energy sources to renewables at RBM will drastically reduce our scope 2 emissions and free up power on the national grid for use in many South African homes.

As we work to decarbonise our business in Africa and globally, we will come up against challenges. While we may not always have all the answers, we will keep searching. And together with our partners in government, industry, civil society and in our host communities, we are committed to “finding better ways” to positively shape the sector’s future.

Related content

Electric car near a body of water

Creating a sustainable supply of minerals for a decarbonised future

The role of technological breakthroughs and the circular economy
Vertical green code

Mining exploration – what does the future hold?

Sinead Kaufman, Chief Executive Minerals
Electric car chargers

Europe’s race to decarbonise requires a secure and sustainable supply of critical minerals 

By Sinead Kaufman, Chief Executive, Minerals, Rio Tinto