A parcel of sapphire and chrysoberyl from the Ilakaka-Sakaraha deposit in southern Madagascar.
|The Ilakaka-Sakaraha deposit in Madagascar is probably the world’s largest sapphire producer over the past 13 years.|
The first discovery was in 1998, near Ilakaka Be. Locals quickly established a thriving market with Thai and Malagasy merchants. Within months, miners from around the island settled near the bridge on the Ilakaka River, and a boomtown was born.
Tourists regularly stop there, while Sri Lankan, Thai, and Malagasy gem traders still conduct business.
|Ilakaka is a much quieter place today. The gem deposit extends about 120 km east from Anena to Anakondro, and nearly 100 km north from Anena to Antaralava.|
In the Taheza basin the sapphire-rich gravels are usually about 30 meters deep, but some artisanal miners use a 50-meter vertical shaft to reach the gravels, which are mined by digging narrow horizontal tunnels. For the digger to breathe, air has to be sent underground using large plastic bags and tubes. The gravels are extracted and taken to the river for washing.