The tiny village of Ilakaka, Madagascar had barely 40 residents before 1998. Then, a large deposit of sapphires was discovered along a nearby riverbed, and caught the eye of some Thai businessmen in the gem trade. Word got out, and Ilakaka swelled to tens of thousands of residents - the center of a sapphire boom, today the source of nearly 50% of all the sapphires in the world. Illegal miners mixed with large-scale operations, all operating under little or no regulation, in a wild-west atmosphere of potential fortunes, lawlesness, violence and hardship. In the years since, the easily-mined sapphire fields have been picked clean, and the remaining miners often work in deep holes, climbing far underground. Mining is also a family effort - according to an official study, of the 21,000 children living in the region, 19,000 belong to working families.