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Giant liddicoatite(Tourmaline) from Estatoby pegmatite, Madagascar (2)

Workings in Estatoby. J. Gajowniczek photo.
Workings in Estatoby. J. Gajowniczek photo.

   Some of the pegmatites in the areaare very rich in gem crystals what hasresulted in extensive prospecting andmining. The most famous mineralsoccurring in them are certainly tourmalinesforming multi-colored, gemmy, lustrousand well-terminated crystals. Theother varieties of colored tourmalinessuch as red, green, pink, blue, yellow andviolet are also well known from the area.

  Additional gemstones mined in the valleyare beryls (pink, blue and polychrome),danburite, and kunzite. As a result of extensive gemstone mining, anumber of other rare and interestingspecies have been found (manandonite,bityite, rhodizite, londonite, behieriteetc).
 
One of many primitive shafts in Estatoby. J. Gajowniczek photo.
One of many primitive shafts in Estatoby. J. Gajowniczek photo.
 
  The most important gem-producingarea is located in the central part ofthe Sahatany Valley near the village ofAnkadilava, an area dominated by Mount Ilapa. The Tsarafara and Estatobypegmatites, located there, are partof a large pegmatitic system, extendingon the surface for over one kilometer inthe foothills of Ilapa Mountain. Themines in the area are divided into twogroups: Tamponilapa (which means"the top of Ilapa Mountain”) and Antanetinilapa(which means “the cultivatedfields of Ilapa”). The second groupincludes Tsarafara (which means "thebeautiful Fara" – Fara was a woman who directed mining works and the buying ofgemstones in the seventies), and Estatoby(which means "the field to theeast"). Diggings on the side of the hilldominating Etatoby are known as Vietnam.
 
Woman sifting kaoline, product of weathering feldspar and mica, looking for gem fragments of tourmalines. J. Gajowniczek photo.
Woman sifting kaoline, product of weathering feldspar and mica, looking for gem fragments of tourmalines. J. Gajowniczek photo.
 
Workings in Estatoby with numerous primitive shafts. J. Gajowniczek photo.
Workings in Estatoby with numerous primitive shafts. J. Gajowniczek photo.
 
  Most of the gem bearing pegmatitesof the central part of the Sahatany Valleyare claimed by a Malagasy company(Ruby-Red Madagascar s.r.l.) based inAntananarivo. This company is currentlyoperating two mines – one located in thenorthern Tsarafara, and the second atAmpatsikahitra, located on the southernside of Ilapa Mountain. In addition to itsown commercial operations, the companyalso allows members of the localpopulation to conduct several small scalemining projects. However, activity byminers, brokers, and dealers from out outsidethe local area is prohibited. This restrictionis strictly enforced by the localauthorities including the police.
 
DISCOVERY AT ESTATOBY
 
  The majority of the workings in theSahatany Valley are located in heavilyeroded (kaolinized) pegmatites, whichare quite easy to dig. Therefore, mostminerals are extracted as loose crystals.
 
  Multi-mineral specimens are found muchmore rarely. Because of the very primitivemethods of mining, plus the focus ongemstones, the majority of mineral specimenscome out damaged or incomplete.
 
  Also the Estatoby pegmatite is heavilyeroded, at least in the main part.
 
  Almost all workings in the valley aresmall very primitive shafts operated by afamily or a group of miners. Sometimesshafts are over 30 meters deep, with noventilation. Candles and primitive lampsare used for lighting. Tools are usuallyvery simple hand tools.
 
Group of multicolored liddicoatite crystals photographed on the front of the car right after they were collected in the mine. F. Pezzotta photo.
Group of multicolored liddicoatite crystals photographed on the front of the car right after they were collected in the mine. F. Pezzotta photo.
 
Workings in Estatoby with snow-white dumps colored by kaoline clay. J. Gajowniczek photo.
Workings in Estatoby with snow-white dumps colored by kaoline clay. J. Gajowniczek photo.
 
  Areas with intense exploitation areusually covered by snow-white dumps(because of kaolinite) and today the arealooks like a battlefield with scores ofholes and dumps etc.
 
  Before 2012 Estatoby was characterizedonly by some superficial workingsin colluvial and eluvial depositsformed by the erosion of the pegmatiticveins outcropping on the side of the hill(Vietnam), and the erosion of some pegmatiticveins existing at depth. Theseworkings produced a minor quantity of gem-quality polychrome tourmaline andpale pink spodumene (kunzite). Belowthe colluvial and eluvial deposit, a fewpits in the past encountered a kaolininzedpegmatite, but without finding anythingof interest.
 
Whole families are working for gems in Sahatany Valley. Usually men are working underground and women and kids are sifting dump material. J. Gajowniczek photo.
Whole families are working for gems in Sahatany Valley. Usually men are working underground and women and kids are sifting dump material. J. Gajowniczek photo.
 

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