Sierra Leone exports largest diamond in five years By KEMO CHAM in Freetown | Sunday, January 26   2014 at  19:00

A diamond prospector filters earth from a river on April 28, 2012, in Koidu, the capital of the diamond-rich Kono district, in eastern Sierra Leone. PHOTO | AFP. 

Sierra Leone`s mines and minerals authorities have announced the sale of the largest diamond discovered in the country in 2013.

The National Minerals Agency (NMA) said the 125 carat, rough octahedral stone went for $800,000, is one of the finest and most valuable stones extracted in the country in recent years.

The gem was recovered in November by an artisanal miner who preferred anonymity, in the village of Masabendu, Nimiyama chiefdom, in the eastern diamond-rich Kono district.

The government cashed in $122,713 in total royalty.

The identity of the buyer was however not disclosed.

Ibrahim Satti Kamara, Communications Manager of NMA, said the precious stone is the largest to have passed through official channels since a 2009 government measure imposing an export tariff of 15 per cent on diamonds valued at least $500,000.

It is believed that several diamonds might have been smuggled to avoid paying the royalty.

Together with several smaller but significant discoveries announced by the agency during the same year, this gem confirms the West African country as a rich source of high quality gem, and also established the commodity as major source of its revenue.

“What makes this diamond exceptional is the fact that it is very rare for a diamond above 100 carats to maintain its original shape, and to be without any crack or inclusions/impurities,” said Mr Kamara.

Diamonds were the key fuel of Sierra Leone`s 11-year civil war.

Following the end of the war in 2002, the mining sector has been dominated by an increasing discovery of iron ore deposits.

Diamonds were first discovered in the country in 1930, in Kono.

And the district is also where the largest alluvial diamond ever found was mined, a 968.9 carat called the Star of Sierra Leone.

But all these years small-scale artisanal mining has dominated the diamond mining sector.