Feldspars are the most common minerals in the Earth’s crust. They vary in composition between calcium, sodium, and potassium rich end-members, and enough names have been applied to the different compositions that I’ve never even tried to memorize them.

Labradorite is a feldspar variety named for Labrador in Canada. Its most distinctive property is the spacy, shimmering, iridescent color reminiscent of the famous ammolite we’ve featured many times.

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A brief meditation with Ilmenite and hematite in Orthoclase feldspar.
Orthoclase feldspar with ilmenite and hematite inclusions. This material is only found in Mud Tank, Hartz Range, Northern Territory, Australia. The field of ...

Orthoclase feldspar with ilmenite and hematite inclusions.
This material is only found in Mud Tank, Hartz Range, Northern Territory, Australia.
The field of view on this video is 3mm.
This is technically a stop motion of a single “focus stack”.
There are 264 photos, each separated by 0.025 mm of movement. This means, you’re watching the camera move through 6.6mm of depth in this video.


So last night, some of my friends here and I journeyed to the QMM residential complex to see a concert by a Malagasy pop singer named Melky. Before I go into any details about the concert or Melky herself, I’ll just give a bit of context about what QMM actually is, since it’s of fairly substantial importance here in Fort Dauphin.

QMM is short for QIT Madagascar Minerals (I know, who ever heard of an acronym that has another acronym in it?), and QIT stands for Québec Iron and Titanium. Despite these multiple aliases though, QMM is basically just a local affiliate of Rio Tinto, a multinational mining corporation headquartered in London. As you may or may not know, Rio Tinto has a pretty terrible record both in terms of environmental destruction and human rights violations (some particularly notorious examples are found on Native American reservations (US & Canada), in Australian aboriginal communities, and in Richards Bay, South Africa. So supposedly, their goal in Fort Dauphin is, in addition to mining ilmenite (a whitening agent), to greatly ameliorate their global image by practicing conservation and employing the impoverished indigenous people here.

I have a fair amount to say about this still, so if you just want to hear about pop singers, I’d skip the next few paragraphs. We visited the QMM factory and their conservation site in Mandena a week or so ago to get a better handle on what exactly the project means here. Their goal as far as conservation goes is to have an overall positive impact, i.e. transplant any species endangered by their activities into other plots. I do want to give them credit for the fact that there is a lot of important biodiversity research being done because of their financing that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. However, I was very unimpressed with their answers to our questions and it definitely seems as if this plan is a little overambitious/unrealistic.

As far as employing local people, there are a fair amount of Malagasy employees working for QMM, but a very large number of them are “expatriates” (people who moved out of Fort Dauphin to be educated and then came back to work there) or from wealthier and better-connected ethnic groups/areas of Madagascar (I may attempt to write a post explaining racial tensions in Madagascar once I have a better grasp on them). To be sure, there are some local Tanosy people who work for the plant, but it’s not the numbers that it should be.

So now, we’re getting back to where this story started. Many of QMM’s employees (Malagasy, Canadian, American, Australian, Japanese, Chinese, French) and their families live in a gated community that QMM created here. Three of my fellow SIT students live in these communities (called Phases I, II and III) and they’re getting a completely different experience from my own. The QMM Phases look like suburbia. There are identical cookie-cutter houses with driveways, well-paved roads, running water, reliable electricity and no livestock all throughout them. And when I said they were gated communities, I meant that you cannot get in there without knowing someone who lives or works there.

So that’s where the concert took place last night, and it was the first time that the six of us who went who don’t live in the Phases got to see the inside of them. The concert venue is the community center in Phase II, which is air-conditioned (a luxury almost unheard of for most people here) and has a bar with delicious food, among other amenities. We were expecting a fairly rambunctious and energetic concert, but what we got was much more a lounge act. As one of us joked on the bus on the way there, we were essentially at the yacht club. Everyone there was either vazaha or wealthy Malagasy and it had a distinctly American feel, even though all of the lyrics and between-song chit-chat was in Malagasy.

She started out with some very slow love songs, which was a little hard for us, since at 9 o clock, it was already most of our bedtimes and we were all pretty tired. Nonetheless, she does have a very powerful voice. When she came back on after a brief break while some man talked for about 20 minutes in Malagasy (definitely a bit torturous for us), she was much livelier and it was much easier to get into. However, once that portion had finished, it was 11 and we were all much too sleepy to stay any longer. Which is a little disappointing because apparently the final section was going to be interpretations of foreign music (AKA music we might actually have known), but I’m always a proponent of sleep. 

But, on the whole, definitely a positive experience.


Colour: grey or purple/black metallic)
Found: worldwide

This stone is named after the place it was found, i.e. in the Ilmen Mountains of Russia. This is a good mineral to increase understanding of mammals and to analyse their thought patterns. This is good for animal trainers, pet-owners, farmers, etc.


Males PA (1974): Ilmenite Crystals associated with Rutilated Quartz from Brazil. Australian Gemology, Volume 12, Number 1, February 1974, p11.

Mineralogical Journal (Japan)(1989): 14: 179.

Photograph: taken from Mindat, copyright © Rock Currier

More photographs can be found here:

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Text copyright: © madcatwoman 2013,

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FOV 1.8mm !
This is orthoclase feldspar with ilmenite and hematite inclusions - aka Rainbow Lattice Sunstone.
It’s only been found in Mud Tank, Hartz Range, Northern Territory, Australia. It’s pretty, rare and very finicky.
This is a one-shot just to get my chops back and to set a mood.
(One-shot = no stacking).
I look forward to shooting a lot more of this.

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