Madagascar forces free hostage Rio Tinto boss, workers
Madagascan troops and police fired teargas Saturday to disperse hundreds of protesters and free nearly 200 employees of mining giant Rio Tinto, including its local chief executive, who were trapped inside a mine, authorities said. "Soldiers surprised the protesters early this morning, dispersed them and could then free the staff," said Guillaume Venance, traditional leader of the Anosy region on the south-eastern tip of the island.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013
A combined force of soldiers, police and paratroopers carried out the operation at Rio Tinto QIT Madagascar Minerals (QMM), he said. "The protesters were harmless because they had drunk and smoked too much, but others arrived to their rescue and we had to fire teargas to disperse them," Venance told AFP. Authorities stopped attempts to set fire to staff houses in the mine compound, Venance added.
Local residents armed with spears and slingshots launched the protest Wednesday against what they complained were the low prices the company paid to buy their land, and to call for more locals to be hired at the company's mineral sands operation near the town of Fort-Dauphin. The protest trapped nearly 200 employees inside the mine. Some were evacuated Thursday, but QMM chief executive Nyfanja Rakotomalala and 178 others had still been trapped in the compound.