|Didy is a town in Madagascar. It belongs to the district of Ambatondrazaka, which is a part of Alaotra-Mangoro Region. In late 2011 a new deposit of gem quality sapphire was found there.|
The island is one of the poorest countries in the world, with 81 percent of the population living on less than $1.25 a day.
|The deposit is 25km south-east of Didy. Reaching the mine takes two days of hard walking from Didy, the closest place reachable by bush taxi. Even getting to Didi is tough. It’s 300km from the capital, and less than a third of that distance is on paved roads.|
The last 10 hours of the trek is through rain forest, climbing precipitous hills on boggy paths.
The rubies and sapphires found there do not need to be heat treated.
|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 is the most important recent ruby and sapphire discovery in the world.
Madagascar is rich with mineral deposits, but its people remain some of the poorest on earth.
|Within days, hundreds of tents and huts rose in the forest. A massive rush ocured before the Malagasy authorities sent a force to expel the miners as the discovery was in Makira Natural Park, an area dedicated to conservation.||Sapphires present an irresistible lure of quick riches for locals.|
|As many as 10,000 miners and precious stone traders from around the world 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 is unable to control it. The government has banned foreigners from the area. Armed gangs are the rule of law and unreported crime is common.