The Sapphire Mines of Madagascar

Thursday, 2nd October 2008 by

In 1998, the tiny truck-stop village of Ilakaka in Madagascar was transformed into a bustling mining town, and one of the most dangerous places in the country. The reason for this dramatic change was the discovery of massive sapphire deposits in the valley.

Browsing the area from above you can see thousands of small mine holes randomly peppered across the landscape. With no official control on the mining the holes are often dug by just one or two people hoping to make a quick fortune from the sapphires in the sand deep below.

As word of the town's riches spread, larger organisations moved in and you can spot the larger pits by the stepped sand walls. It is now estimated that 50% of the world's sapphires come from this one town.

Thanks to The Big Picture which have their usual fantastic collection of photos.