Published on 10th July 2018 by

In eastern Madagascar amateur prospectors are on the hunt for sapphires. Large forest areas are being cleared for new mines. [Online until: 08.08.2018]

Although exploitation of the region is illegal, the government is doing little to prevent it. Thousands of amateur prospectors have descended on eastern Madagascar. They’re trying their luck at mining sapphires — valuable gemstones often used in jewelry. The quality of the sapphires here is exceptionally high, and there are lots of them. Large areas of Madagascar’s rainforests have been cleared to make way for the sapphire mines, including a sector that was recently designated as ‘protected’ by the government. The illegal mining has disrupted the habitats of some animals, particularly a unique species of lemur. The mines are run by foreigners, who hire teams of local workers for low wages. Sometimes the miners try to keep a few of the precious stones for themselves. These mines are illegal, but the government of this bitterly poor country seems incapable of shutting them down. Reporter Sabine Bohland made the risky trip to the mining region to find out how these operations are making some people rich at the expense of the local environment.

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