Thursday, 6 October 2016

Sapphires of Didy, Madagascar

In late 2011 a new deposit of gem quality sapphire was found in Madagascar. The deposit is located on Madagascar's east coast, 25 kilometers south-east of the village of Didy. After falling a tree, locals found transparent blue gemstones. By June 2012 sapphires began sporadically arriving at the capital Antananarivo, brought there by gold miners.

The stones are of exceptional quality. Vivid in color, beautiful clarity and size, the Didy discovery could be the most important recent ruby and sapphire discovery in the world. The rubies and sapphires found there do not need to be heat treated.
Within days, hundreds of tents and huts rose in the forest. An unbridled rush happened over the next 3 months before the Malagasy authorities sent a force to expel the miners as the discovery happened to be in one of Madagascar’s newest national parks, Makira Natural Park, an area dedicated to conservation.

Sapphires present an irresistible lure of quick riches for impoverished locals, who say they don't have to dig more than three metres (10 feet) to find large stones. Madagascar is rich with mineral deposits, but its people are some of the poorest on earth. More than half of the population lives well below the World Bank’s poverty line of US $1.25 per day.
As many as 10,000 miners and precious stone traders from around the world are reported to have raced to the eastern region to extract the stones and ship them overseas. As well as digging up the forest floor, they cut down trees for firewood and shelter in the hitherto untouched wilderness and hunted resident animals, particularly lemurs, for bushmeat.

Despite the mining being illegal on protected land, the Malagasy government was unable to control the masses. Along with the Ministry of Environment, they are looking to restore the damage once the mining is finished.
The Malagasy government has banned foreigners from the area but cannot control it. Armed gangs are the rule of law and unreported crime is common.