Film buffs will remember the movie Alien. Where crew members were placed into “cryogenic sleep” in order to freeze and preserve their bodies over years-long travel through space.
That situation is reminiscent of one of today’s mineral exploration frontiers: Madagascar.
My first visit to this African island nation came in 2008. When pro-business president Marc Ravalomanana was helping the country turn the corner on economic development.
At that time, it looked like Madagascar was poised to become one one of the world’s premier destinations for minerals. Two major mines were being built in the country: Rio Tinto’s Port Dauphin titanium mine and the Ambatovy nickel mine run by Sherritt. And soon after these projects were commissioned, Canadian-listed Pan African Mining was bought by Thailand-based coal interests for its projects in the south of the country.
But soon after this hopeful foray came the “cryogenic sleep”. A military coup overthrew president Ravalomanana. In the five years since, Madagascar has wasted. Becoming a backwater for all forms of economic development, including mineral exploration.
But like the Alien characters, it looks like this high-potential locale is being awakened from its artificial slumber.
This week, new elections have signalled a sea change in the country. Not only are these the first free elections held since the coup. They’ve also seen the result that pro-business, and Ravalomanana-aligned, candidate Jean Louis Robinson has taken the lead in early polling. Suggesting that a significant number of Malagasy people want to see a return to a more open economic environment.
If these initial results do portend the outcome of the election, Madagascar may be once again on the ascent as an investment destination. This would be an excellent development for the minerals industry. Lying geologically halfway between South Africa and India, Madagascar has great potential for discovery. Gold, platinum, nickel, coal, oil–all of these commodities may be found here.
We’ll see what the final results of the election are over the next few weeks. But if Madagascar does turn back toward foreign investment, this would represent a major opportunity for mineral developers. Under-explored nations with good geology just don’t come along every day.