Ilakaka is a small town in Ihorombe Region in the south western part of Madagascar. In the early 1990s there were only about 40 residents in the area. However, since the discovery of world class alluvial sapphire deposits in the valley in 1998 the population had boomed to near 60,000 by 2005. Since high profits are easily made, violence is common in the town.
In 1998, after the discovery of an important sapphire mine, what was once a quiet rural village has been transformed into a Wild West town, a victim of "Sapphire fever," with thousands of arrivals hoping to stake a claim, complete with bars, brothels, and scores to settle.
The fever has overrun the entire country and every day hundreds of people flow in from throughout the region.
The village has exploded with the incessant influx.
As of 2008 the population was about 30,000 according to local authorities, but the number is highly approximate given the incessant turnover. All 18 ethnic groups of Madagascar are represented.
Sapphire is mined by the very poor, usually in father-son teams, who hope to become rich.
Environment and Infrastructure
Unofficial plots are pitted with wells, into which the miners descend at the risk of their lives to find a seam. The landscape has been remade by such operations.
The area is spotted with giant baobabs.
- Hogg, Jonny (2007-11-17). "BBC NEWS | Programmes | From Our Own Correspondent | Madagascar's sapphire rush". BBC News.
- Atlas Mondial, France Loisir, page 159
- Sapphire Rush in Ilakaka.
- Close-up satellite map of Ilakaka.
- http://www.riva-press.com/det.php?id=13 - Reportage about Ilakaka by French-Malagasy photojournalist Rijasolo (Riva Press agency)