In the spring of this year, a new gem rush occurred in northeastern Madagascar, about 15 miles south of Didy village. Parcels of fine blue sapphires emerged in the local market in early April. The mining site, which is located in one of Madagascar’s newest national parks, Makira Natural Park, in the Ankeniheny-Zahamena corridor, was invaded by thousands of miners following the discovery of the large sapphires.
The news of the latest and large gem deposits created a mass migration to the site. An estimated 5,000-10,000 people inhabited the park. 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. Thus, the newfound deposits brought hope among many.
Transportation to the small town of Didy is difficult, as less than a third of the 200 miles from the capital of Antananarivo is on paved roads. The capital is the closest location to the site and only reachable by bush taxi. Upon arrival in Didy, miners still had at least two full days of hard walking through dense and endangered rainforest, where the last 10 hours are full of steep hills with wet and boggy paths. Once to the site, optimistic miners worked the gravel in shallow pits with hand tools and washed the earth and rocks in knee-deep filthy water. They were carried by the hope of discovering sapphires weighing 5+ carats, some even finding 100+ carat rough.
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.
Most of the production from the site was blue sapphire, without any milky or geuda-type material commonly found at other Malagasy deposits. It has been said that the new deposit is also producing orangy-pink sapphires and orangy-red rubies. More than 400 buyers have opened buying offices in the near-by Ambatondrazaka. Samples have been sent to GIA to have their gemological properties studied, and results will be published in the near future. GRS has also posted a short preview of a documentary they will be releasing on the mining in the area.
This recent rush is reflective of the difficulty and rarity associated with such valuable gemstones today. The struggles faced by the local miners are exemplary of the importance and worth of the fine corundum material being found in this region. As the authority in loose colored gemstones we keep a close eye on the world market and sourcing the finest quality stones for you and your customers. Please call us at 877.OMI.GEMS if you are in search of large sapphires or rubies.