In July-August 2010 and August 2012, this contributor visited southern Madagascar to collect reference samples from the Ilakaka-Sakaraha deposit, probably the world’s largest sapphire producer over the past 13 years. This update presents a map of the mining areas. Note that all the sapphire-producing localities are associated with sandstone areas.
The first discovery happened in 1998, near Ilakaka Be. Because the village was near Route Nationale 7 (RN7), the main road linking the capital city Antananarivo to the port of Toliara, the locals quickly found 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. Ilakaka is a much quieter place today. Tourists regularly stop there, while Sri Lankan, Thai, and Malagasy gem traders still conduct business.