- The Canadian company Diamond Fields International Ltd has announced the finding of two significant sized diamonds in Madagascar and positive recent exploration activities on the Indian Ocean island. The Malagasy government meanwhile is struggling to regulate its booming gem industry.
Diamond Fields today announced it had found two extraordinary big diamonds in Madagascar, of 23.82 and 8.39 carat respectively. Both stones were found to be of high quality and purity. The larger stone was frosted on the exterior while the smaller one was a clear octahedral crystal.
The two gems represent a significant discovery on the island, where prospects for the sector are believed to be high. Madagascar remains a largely unexplored territory for the gem industry, but is known to have reserves of diamonds, sapphires, rubies, aquamarine, emeralds and alexandrite.
Diamond Fields - which mainly operates in Namibia - is only one of several international exploration companies to take interest in the under-explored island. Madagascar's extraordinary geology also hides other mineral resources, including titanium, copper and nickel, which now are about to be commercially exploited.
According to Diamond Fields, the company recently had acquired land concessions in Madagascar. The Canadians had focused their fieldwork "on defining the potential of two extensive concession areas to host diamondiferous kimberlite," following the discovery of the two large diamonds by alluvial sapphire miners in areas near the company's concessions.
Land staked consists of diamond concessions located on the south eastern shore of the country (Midonge) and the central highlands (Horombe), Diamond Fields reports. The concessions were acquired together with International Gemstones Company Ltd (IG). IG has more recently been awarded concession areas in the north and central southern parts of Madagascar to cover reported occurrences of magmatic and lateritic-hosted nickel deposits, respectively.
- The government of Madagascar is working hard to develop its mining industry, noted Diamond Fields director Earl Young, who is also President of the US-Madagascar Business Council. "The World Bank has recently granted significant funding to help Madagascar manage its mineral resources more effectively", added Mr Young, after meeting with the Malagasy President, Marc Ravalomanana and the Minister of Mining, Jacquis Rabarison.
The Malagasy government and the World Bank are aware of the critical situation that is about to develop as Madagascar's gem riches become known. A poorly managed minerals sector attracts smugglers and other dubious elements in large numbers. According to the World Bank, most of Madagascar's gem production is already smuggled out of the country, leaving the island with few resources.
Another pressing problem is the environmental aspect of existing and potential mining in Madagascar. As environmentalists note, the most popular spots for illegal prospectors are the ecologically unique island's few protected areas. Madagascar's park rangers are outnumbered by the growing army of fortune hunters.
The World Bank therefore recently agreed on a US$ 40 million project aiming at regulating Madagascar's minerals sector. "Madagascar is the talk of town among mineral companies at the moment, and everybody is coming here with their geologists to see what the potential is and what the legal and regulatory framework is," Paulo de Sa of the World Bank was quoted today by Reuters.
President Ravalomanana is cooperating with the private sector and international finance institutions to quickly impose a regulatory regime on the mining sector before illegal structures strike root. The World Bank, after all, expects the Malagasy minerals sector to produce some US$ 400 million a year within short time.
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