[GemTrends] Madagascar

Hello, everyone. The furor over “dirty diamonds” and ivory seemed to
truly indicate that this is not only a learned and talented crowd, but
people who care and make an effort. It’s wonderful to know you’re out
there. Does anyone have an opinion on Madagascar? Suddenly every list
seems to proudly display gems from Madagascar- a small, unique and
fragile island ecosystem being swamped by a sort of goldrush fever
syndrome. I’m sitting in PA, USA and all I know is what I’ve read- but
what I’ve read doesn’t incline me to buy gems from Madagascar. Or at
least I’d seriously like to know if there are any sources praticing
ecologically sound conservationist mining? Thanks- Stephanie Long

Regarding Madagascar and ecologically sound mining practices:

As a jewelry writer who has visited diamond and gold mines throughout
southern Africa, and has also spent time in Madagascar (although not
at any mine site for reasons explained below), I can tell you that
mining and ecology do not go together. It is simply not possible to
wrench hundreds of tons of earth out of the ground, sort through them
for a few ounces of gems, and not leave a mess behind.

When I visited Venetia, the first new diamond mine in South Africa, a
few years ago, the management proudly talked of their environmental
efforts. But when I asked if they were planning to fill in the
’hole’ – which will be a deep, vast open pit when they have mined it
out – there was no answer. The answer is, ‘no.’

As for Madagascar, colored gemstone mining tends to be much smaller
scale mining than gold or diamonds. (It would have taken me the
better part of a week just to get to a mine, given the difficulty of
connecting with people and traveling.) Madagascar is an
environmental problem for reasons that go way beyond gemstone mining.
The people are systematically cutting down all the trees for use as
fuel for cooking. An estimated 90% of the forest has been cut down.
The lemurs, unique to Madagascar, have very little habitat left.
The population of people keeps growing – it’s not difficult to see
the future.

Anyone in the jewelry business who would like to limit his/her use of
materials to those that don’t destroy the environment is well advised
to stick with found objects. There really is no way at present to
get the raw materials you need – silver, gold, diamonds, colored
gems, platinum and the like – without abusing the earth.

Ettagale Blauer

Hi Folks If one had to compile a list of the worst polluters of mother
earth the USA would be at the very top by a long way (with Madagascar
probably near the bottom). Why do we overlook her indiscretions and
continue like the proverbial bully to pick on those that contribute
far less to the denigration of our planet? Human nature perhaps?

All abuse of our fragile ecosystem must be protested at. If you’re
genuine in your concern and are going to stop buying Madagascar for
heavens sake don’t spend a cent in the good old US of A.

The world certainly doesn’t “need” gems from Madagascar or anywhere
else for that matter. What is also not needed are big gas guzzling
cars and the resulting pollution (that ends up creating a hole in the
ozone layer over countries far from the USA). Remember, not so long
ago, there were many large, unique and fragile ecosystems all over
the USA that are now gone, and probably forever. I hope the USA with
all its immense resources and skillful leadership can show the rest
of the world that it has a handle on the situation and can reverse
the trend of environmental damage. If not, then what chance for a
half starved Madagascar and its meager resources?

Come on guys, show us some examples of how the big boys do it and
we’ll follow suite.

Cheers from sunny (ultra violet rays included) South Africa.

Alan Rathbone

Truthfully if more people did something about the problem instead of
jacking their jaws a lot more would be accomplished… I have may
ideas on free available wind, wave, and solar generation of energy
including a system that would eliminate the need for fossil fuels…
No more nuclears but use the available sources of free power that
this planet can provide… We in the US are held hostage to the
energy and political stronghold made by the rich… the working
class man stands little chance of producing a new source as we are
stuck in just trying to survive inflation… sure there are grants…
Have you ever tried to get one? Not as easy as one would hope…
Please if you are going to place blame place it on the greedy ten
upper percent and not the majority of Americans …we are frustrated
also… Living in the energy baron shadows… ringman John Henry

Dear Alan,

As an American, I would have to agree with you about America being
the biggest bully on the block…we frequently say one thing and do
another. We have ranted about conservation of the Amazon rain forest
while our own forests have been ravaged to the extent that less than
one and one half per cent of our original forests are left. We look
the other way when powerful automobile lobbies buy loopholes in the
laws and allow the continued glutonous production of gasoline
guzzling SUV pollutemobiles. We make plastic baubles out of precious
energy hydrocarbons.

However, maybe the problem is not so much one of nationality as it is
economics and a consumer society. We are committed to mindless
expansionism and unbridled growth. There is a silly notion that
continued prosperity is inextricably tied to the belief that bigger
is better. Most of our freeways in urban areas are mired in gridlock
and there is nowhere else to go. Europeans have generally come to
realize that there are limits to endless growth and their populations
have, in many cases, stabilized to the extent that it is no longer
necessary to continuously expand.

I was in South Africa jut a few years ago, Alan. You have a beautiful
country. And yet, there isn’t much doubt about the fact that you are
fast closing ranks with America and are on the same path of
expansionism and consumption. Furthermore, it is evident throughout
Southern Africa that your corporations are spreading their influence
in adjacent countries. Whether this is good or bad is a moot
point…the fact is that Western style economics breeds consumption
of resources and that consumption results in pollution and the
consumption of non-renewable resources results in damages to future

A comment was made in a recent letter about the fact that Africans
are destroying the forests because of need for charcoal for cooking
fuel. This is evident wherever you travel in Africa. As a matter of
fact, the most favored wood fuel in many areas is Ebony!

My favorite roadside slogan is posted beside roads throughout
Brazil…it reads," O homen esta a ultima deprador ! " ( Man is the
ultimate destroyer ! )

I hope, Alan, that your country will learn by some of our mistakes
and that you will become a better steward of the land. I am not sure
that there is any easy way to do it, but I’m quite sure that there
are many examples of how NOT to do it.

Ron at Mills Gem, Los Osos, CA.

dear alan rathbone - for a first, i am going blatantly political in my
posts - regarding the issue of pollution while mining/treating
gemstone material - please bear with me while circuitously wending my
way to the bottom line:

there is no real gasoline shortage in the usa; no one truly believes
that opec would not increase production if the usa president
intervened - there’s a long history of such practice. however, the
vice president paid close to $2,000,000.00 in income taxes for 2000 &
that income, in excess of $70,000,000.00, was derived from his
business that sells/leases/etc. oil drilling equipment. this
’gasoline shortage’, even though the last figure i found for usa
consumption of domestic (usa produced) oil is at less than a double
digit amount - the lion’s share being imported, is looming at this
time only because big oil businesses want to ransom our children’s
futuRe: national parks, wildernesses, offshore bays, gulfs, oceans,
by exploiting them with oil drilling & mining - all for the sake of
profiting from the nongrowth oil equipment industry which the owners
knew could not continue without deceit & political backing. there are
numerous bills now being pushed in state legislatures and both houses
of the usa congress to allow the trashing & raping of usa resources
with oil exploitation on sensitive land & water.

NOW the bottom line: through a loophole in federal regulations, for
decades foreign owned companies have been allowed to mine precious
metals (mostly gold) on public land & in national parks - they are
not required to pay more than a few dollar permit fee NOR do they
have to share any of the materials or profits - NOR do they have to
clean up or rehab the sites on our land & in our wildernesses & parks
after they have raped it to their hearts’ & wallets’ content; they
just move on to another pristine area.

this rape of our children’s legacy is, & will continue to be,
supported & protected republican politicians & big businesses - HEY!
before you start screaming ‘liberal’ at me: i was the first
republican elected since reconstruction in another county & a gop
member for many years before waking up & divorcing both husband &
party. i know the paradigm of the current president & his cohorts:
what is theirs is theirs, what belongs to our children is also theirs
to do with as they please if there’s a profit to be made or stolen.
they not only stole the presidency, they are stealing our land.


people: think!


The issue of gemstones and poor countries is far from simple. Yes,
large scale gem mining does do violence to the enviorment. Read my
Gemkey art icle on mining in Brazil at www.rwwise.com I have
visited most of the major gem producing areas and can say that most
gem mining is carried ou t by small “mom and pop” operations. This is
because most gems are rare and the mining areas themselves are
relatively small. The areas are smal l so the damage is also small.
How much can you do with a pick shovel an d wheelbarrow? However
large areas such as Illaka in Madagasgar do suffe r.

It is easy for us living as we do in relative prosperity to talk
about p ollution in other countries. It is more difficult to face up
to the fact that for many independent miners the real immediate issue
is survival. To eat or not to eat that is the question. Contrast
that with the big po lluters such as the U.S. whose large scale
mineral mining projects tear t hings up for tens of square miles.
Large scale consumption of the articl es we take for granted does
dramatically more damage than a few guys digg ing a hole in upper


All, I view the human population of the Earth as one community. Tied
intricately within the fabric of that community are economics,
governments, and population. In this constant interaction decisions
are made and actions are taken by humans which impact the Earth.
Resources of the Earth are used to benefit humans. Only recently
(last 50 years) did we as a human population realize that human
actions can have lasting impacts on the Earth, often to the detriment
of humans. Pointing fingers at each other over past actions will
accomplish nothing. Learning from the results of those actions and
making wiser future decisions will result in a cleaner, safer, and
more prosperous Earth for all humans. Humans have the ability to
change their environment. No other species on Earth has that
ability. We as humans can work toward wiser use of the Earths
minerals, energies, water, forests, and animal life. But, be advised
that the Earth will never again be a pristine land. Humans are in
every environment on Earth. We have changed those environments and
rearranged them to fit our needs. I disagree with most of the
comments posted that the Government of the US is out to steal and
ruin the resources of the land. Our government is moving in a
conscious effort to assure our standard of living and the environment
survive together. We must develop new energy sources or suffer a
decreased standard of living. California USA blackouts are just a
start. Too many humans utilizing energy are the reason for the
problem. Not the government or any other human organization. Our
government is doing everything possible to maintain our standard of
living and keep a healthy environment. In other parts of the world
the same problems exist. Utilization of energy sources determines
the standard of living of each country. You either have good energy
sources and live at a high standard of living or do not have them and
are at a poor standard of living. For myself I choose to live at a
high standard of living, use my environment to furnish raw materials,
and solve problems as they arise. If I can help provide a government
frame work where all humans can make money and keep a safe and
healthy environment I am happy. That is my goal. I am a republican
and proud of it.

Gerry Galarneau

Ive, what a beautiful rant! I’m with you 100% on this issue. Here
in Idaho it’s quite easy to go see the price we pay for our
extractions. We have superfund sites all over this state, primarily
from the mining industries.

Well said,

Mike Rogers
Precious Metal Arts

Understand first that I believe we are committing irreparable damage
to the earth and that I try to do my part to help by recycling, not
buying those ridiculous gas guzzling SUVs that have no pollution
controls as they are considered trucks, and limiting the amount of
nonrenewable energy resources that I consume (my thermostat is never
set higher than 62 degrees in the winter). However, economic growth
is critical to the prosperity of this country and the rest of the
world as well. While I would love to see a controlled economic growth
of 1-2% every year all the time, it just doesn’t work that way. If
all of the young jewelers on this list want to generate enough
business to get where all of us older people are, there is going to
have to be some economic growth and growth in the desire for what is,
let’s face it, a luxury item–jewelry.

However what many of you seem to have forgotten is that you chose a
profession that uses mined resources. There is just about no way
around this. Even the most environmentally conscious mining companies
are going to do some damage. If you don’t like this than perhaps you
should have chosen another profession that doesn’t use mined products.
No one is forcing any of you to be jewelers.

Of course you might want to look thoroughly at your own lifestyles
first before deciding that you aren’t damaging the environment in any
way at all before jumping ship.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Spirer Somes Jewelers

Ron, I hate to discuss politics but Iam confused.You are a
jeweler,right?You use Gold,Right?Diamonds?You capitalize from these
goods?You live in a house and consume?You say you are an American but
I get the feeling (and pardon me for assuming )that you want to be
European or anything but American.We have some of the most beautiful
wilderness areas and parks in the world.Even in Cali.I just drove down
highway one from San Francisco to Moro Bay .Went to Muir Woods and
Stinson Beach north.Stewardship?Come on.It is under great
stewardship.You have to have blinders on not to see good
stewardship.I live in Colorado.We have more open space than people to
use it.Sure Denver is congested.You drive 30 min and you are sitting
on14,000 ft peaks and guess what?They are protected.Even the prairie
dogs are up for protection.People wait for years and survive terrible
ordeals to live in our country.I was in Shanghai,China recently it is
a beautiful place but the air and water are unbreathable and
undrinkable.Did the American corporations cause that?If you have to
have a demon especially in Africa demonize their leaders.Leaders who
systematically annihilate their own people.Who rape there own
countryside’s for wealth.Africa is the recipient of more welfare than
any place on earth and most of the people who need it,the people who
are starving to death never receive it.It is sold for more profit.By
greedy politicians.I was raised in Chicago and when I was a boy not
only did we walk 32 miles to school but Lake Michigan and the Chicago
River were so polluted you could not swim in them at times, with out
getting a rash, the river and lake were infested with raw sewage.Gas
had lead in it.Paint had lead in it.Food sucked. It had enough
preservatives to kill you.Eagles eggs were as thin as paper.Guess what
I went back to Chicago many times since then and Lake Michigan is blue
instead of brown.Thanks to Zebra Mussels imported on the hulls of
ships.Now zebra mussels are a problem.Kids were fishing out of the
Chicago river and water skiing in it.There is no lead in the
gas,there is no lead in paint.Eagles eggs are much thicker and at
least in Colorado Bald eagles are all over the place.Sure there are
many many bad points to look at.Even though there is no lead in the
gas there are more drivers and more cars but we are working on it as
Americans.Iam tired of the “Ugly American” label.Americans are a great
people made up of all people we should celebrate our achievements and
not be ashamed of ourselves.Sorry for being so long winded but the
Avalanche just beat the LA Kings and my adrenaline level is up. Let
the arrows fly! Regards J Morley Coyote Ridge Studio