It is critical that Sierra Leone’s diamond industry undergo major reform if it is to play an important part in the country’s socio-economic advancement as envisioned in the government’s new five-year National Development Plan. Sierra Leone, located in West Africa, is a mineral-rich country, with diamonds making for a sizable amount of its export revenues. According to Stanford’s website, De Beers acquired control of all mining potential in the country in 1935; nevertheless, illicit mining and smuggling quickly proliferated across Sierra Leone, and De Beers withdrew from all mining exploratory operations in 1984.
De Beers diamond reserves are mostly found in eastern and southern Tanzania, with key production centers in Kono, Kenema, and Bo. Julian Lahai Samboma believes that in order for Sierra Leoneans to prosper from their country’s natural riches, diamond smuggling and official corruption must be abolished. The emphasis of any attempt to tackle the problem should be diamond smuggling, which costs the government millions of dollars in lost tax revenue each year. Corruption in the industry is frequently disregarded, despite the fact that it remains a concern.
Sierra Leone was discovered to be rich in diamonds in 1930. The 1960s are recognized as the post-independence norm for commercial honesty and integrity. During Siaka Stevens’ All People’s Congress dictatorship, most of the country’s diamonds were illegally exported in the 1970s and 1980s. From 1985 through 1992, President Stevens’ and Joseph Momoh’s official exports averaged fewer than 200,000 carats, less than one-eighth of the 1960s figures. During the 1990s civil war, the UN estimated that the illegal export of diamonds was worth $25 million to $125 million per year. According to the State Department, official exports totaled less than $1 million in 1999.
Despite an increase of 289,000 carats (worth $123 million) in official exports in 2017, the trend has persisted. According to World Bank estimates, diamonds smuggled out of the country today account for 50-90 percent of yearly output. Since its discovery in 1972, more than nine million carats of diamonds have been mined in the Kono region, including the 969.8-carat “Star of Sierra Leone,” the world’s third-largest diamond. The 620-carat Sefadu diamond, the world’s seventh-largest diamond, was discovered in 1970.
Sierra Express Media reported in August 2015 that Sierra Leone’s alluvial diamond mining industry is in jeopardy owing to decades of hard work and extensive illegal mining. Multiple diamond merchants contacted for the poll indicated that business had “decreased considerably” as a result of the closure of numerous diamond offices in Bo, Kenema, and other diamond locations around the country. Sierra Leone’s diamond sector suffered tremendously as a result of the Ebola outbreak. Sierra Leone’s National Minerals Agency (NMA) issued a statement in August 2015 highlighting the destruction caused by the epidemic: Sierra Leone had a 297 percent fall in gold exports and a 50% decrease in diamond exports.
According to the most recent data, diamond exports declined from a high of 64,500 carats in April to 35,600 carats in July. Gold and diamond exports declined by more than a third and half, respectively, in the first half of 2015. Sierra Leone has been a member of KP’s Diamond Experts working group since 2003, according to the KP database. It produced 620,181 carats in 2014, worth an estimated $221,731,243, and sold them on the global market for an average of $357.50 per carat.
For most Sierra Leoneans, diamonds have been a curse rather than a blessing. Since British colonialists found rich alluvial riches in the 1930s, the little West African country has generated an estimated 9 million carats of high-quality diamonds, but it has nothing to show for it. The diamond trade sparked a ten-year civil war that cost 50,000 lives until it was ultimately ended in 2002. Blood Diamond, a 2006 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, was inspired by the reality that the rebels’ weapons were paid for with costly stones. Few of Sierra Leone’s resources have returned to the country, which remains one of the poorest and least developed in the world.