A Christian pastor has discovered one of the world’s largest uncut diamonds was working in the mines of eastern Sierra Leone in Kono district has unearthed a 706-709 carat diamond and is now locked up in Sierra Leone’s central bank in Freetown. It is one of the 20 largest diamonds ever found.
The huge diamond was discovered by Emmanuel Momoh, one of thousands of Sierra Leoneans who seek their fortunes in the informal mining sector that dominates the diamond-rich Kono region, a government statement said. Pastor Emmanuel Momoh’s discovery, which has not yet been valued, is the biggest diamond to be found in Sierra Leone since 1972, when the 969-carat Star of Sierra Leone was dug up.
The diamond was presented to President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma yesterday evening,” the president’s office said, “Receiving the diamond President Koroma thanked the chief and his people for not smuggling the diamond out of the country,” it added, referring to the Tankoro chiefdom where Momoh uncovered the gem. Mr Koroma said that the owners should get “what is due to them” and it should “benefit the country as a whole”, it adds.
The office of the president said, It will be sold in Sierra Leone with a “transparent” bidding process to the benefit of the community and country. The government of Sierra Leone has attempted to crack down on cross-border diamond trafficking to persuade foreign investors that “blood diamonds” that fuelled its civil war are a thing of the past.
Diamond expert Paul Zimnisky told AFP that once the gem’s quality was assessed it could rank “between the 10th and 15th largest gem-diamonds ever recovered. It is also the 13th largest diamond ever to be found, says Mathew Nyaungwa from Rough and Polished diamond analysts.
Last May, diamond-mining firm Lucara sold a 813-carat stone for $63m (£51m) at a closed auction in London.
Sierra Leone’s role in the diamond industry has long been controversial.
The sale of “blood diamonds” helped finance civil wars across Africa in the 1990s and often funded military dictatorships on a continent that the London Diamond Bourse estimates provides 65 percent of the world’s diamonds. Diamond sales partly fuelled the country’s decade-long civil war when rebel groups exchanged them for weapons.
Sierra Leonean rebels allowed traders to exploit diamond mines and ship the gems abroad via Liberia.
In one of the most notorious cases, former Liberian warlord Charles Taylor was found guilty of supporting the rebels in exchange for diamonds mined by slave labour.
The district where the 700 plus carat diamond was discovered is where US-Belgian businessman Michel Desaedeleer, accused of enslavement and diamond trafficking during Sierra Leone’s civil war, is alleged to have committed his crimes.
He died in jail in September before he could stand trial.
The death toll from Sierra Leone’s civil war is estimated at 120,000 in a country that now has roughly six million people, making it one of Africa’s deadliest conflicts in recent history. This aspect of the conflict gained global exposure in the Hollywood film Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo Di Caprio and Djimon Hounsou.