The mines of Ilakaka: shear madness

Ilakaka: Ask anyone in Madagascar and they will tell you it's a modern day far-west. Only difference: instead of the Gold Rush, it's sapphire fever. Otherwise the gunshots, gang fights, greed, international dealers, sudden growth spurt, prostitutes and mercenaries... all the ingredients are there. Rumors has it that one of Bin Laden's relatives who was killed in one of the Southern town of Madagascar had invested in one of the mines.
As far as the working conditions of the miners, it is really more "blood diamonds" than "the Mangificent Seven".
A lot of has been documented about Ilakaka. If you are new to the story, a good place to start is the outstanding photoblog entry at the big picture:

(from BigPicture at the Boston Globe)

the journal "Le monde" and the BBC also offered their takes on Ilakaka and the tales of hellish working conditions and cutthroat capitalism.

This first video (in French) illustrates the genesis of Ilakaka and the unsuing violence. The second video shows that the promise of new wealth also brought increased prostitution in the region.

Bloggers also tell personal experience of Ilakaka.

Brice explains (fr) how people are recruited to be miners and then exploited by middle men.
Croc says (fr) that cost of living in Ilakaka is higher than anywhere else on the island (this for a town that had 40 people a decade ago).

Quinta Maconda shares a telling story:
"Ten thousand kilometers away, the whisper of “Bleu Royal”, reverberates with awe and glamour and never fails to cast a spell on the stratospherically rich when presented with a perfectly cut stone by one of Place Vendome’s prestigious jewelers. For us, hearing “Bleu Royal” spoken by shoeless Malagasy men covered in thick clay emerging from the bowels of the earth sent shivers through our spines.[..] when passing through Ilakaka, the infamous mining town of southern Madagascar in the province of Tulear, we had the urge to explore. Didier, our driver then, did not want to set foot out of the vehicle. He was adamant: “it is shear madness.”"


  1. definitely sounds like blood diamond. what is it about carbon atoms smashed close to each other that produces such misery?

  2. this story has been making me ill! and to think it's in Madagascar makes me even more so outraged! i cried my eyes out when i watched blood diamond which only made this reality even more hurtful! it always makes me sad that the country i remember is slowly becoming a place that terrifies me...

  3. Anonymous9:27 AM

    Priceless post Lova !

    By the way you should read this : "Fort-Dauphin, the lost paradise" le paradis perdu de Fort-Dauphin >>]

  4. @Mosi
    It's all about the promiscuous carbons :). It drives men crazy :)

    @kristina: one can hope the search for fossil fuels won't get as bad


    That's one must-read article, thank you for sharing. Marcel's sentence strikingly sums up his anger

  5. Anonymous11:33 AM

    Greetings and thanks for posting an excerpt of my Ilakaka story,following are some pics of that journey.