- Sierra Leone's new direction - Mining Journal
- How I funded my studies by digging for Sierra Leone diamonds
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It hardly seemed worth it, he said, after days spent up to his haunches in mud, digging, washing, searching the gravel for diamonds. But farming had brought no money for clothes or schoolbooks for his two wives and five children. He could find no work as a mason.
Diamond mining in Sierra Leone is no longer the bloody affair made infamous by the nation's decadelong civil war, in which diamonds played a starring role. The conflict - begun by rebels who claimed to be ridding the mines of foreign control - killed 50, people, forced millions to flee their homes, destroyed the country's economy and shocked the world with its images of amputated limbs and drug-addled boy soldiers. An international regulatory system created after the war has prevented diamonds from fueling conflicts and financing terrorist networks.
Even so, diamond mining in Sierra Leone remains a grim business that brings the government far too little revenue to right the devastated country, yet feeds off the desperation of some of the world's poorest people. So my love, and my conscience, can sleep easily. In many cases, the vilified foreign mine owners have simply been replaced by local elites with a firm grip on the industry's profits.
At the losing end are the miners here in Kono district, who work for little or no pay, hoping to strike it rich but caught in a net of semifeudal relationships that make it all but impossible that they ever will. The vast majority of Sierra Leone's diamonds are mined by hand from alluvial deposits near the earth's surface, so anyone with a shovel, bucket and sieve can go into business; in a country with few formal jobs, at least , people work as diggers, government officials said.
Most days, diggers like Charles Kabia, a year-old grade-school dropout who has been digging since the rebels forced him to mine as a teenager, come up empty - he has not found a stone in two months.
View all New York Times newsletters. The struggle to reform Sierra Leone's troubled mining industry is emblematic of many of the difficulties faced by this small, impoverished nation as it tries to heal.
Sierra Leone's new direction - Mining Journal
Some countries, like Botswana, whose diamonds lie locked deep underground, have been able to make their deposits a source of wealth through careful management and control. But countries such as Sierra Leone, Congo, Angola and Ivory Coast, where diamonds wash up in rivers and often sit just a few feet below the surface, have struggled to manage what may be the world's worst resource curse. The sprawling mining business here includes about 2, small operations.
Unlike oil, iron ore and even gold, diamonds are so easy to transport that if regulations are too onerous and taxes too high, miners and exporters will simply turn to smuggling.
Before that, most diamonds were smuggled out of the country through Liberia and Guinea and sold for weapons. But even now, the government's share of the revenue is modest, just 3 percent. Licensing fees add to that total, but it is hardly enough to rebuild a nation of six million people.
How I funded my studies by digging for Sierra Leone diamonds
Usman Boie Kamara, the deputy director of the government's mining office, noted that new laws requiring permits for dealers, mine owners and exporters have forced out shadowy operators, smugglers and money launderers. Laws also set minimum standards for the pay and benefits of diggers - though they are scarcely enforced, miners and experts say.
At the Bondobush mine here, the grim routine of mining is on daily display - hundreds of diggers sifting through tons of gravel. The mine is divided into areas of square meters, or 2, square feet with each controlled by a license holder. By law that person must be Sierra Leonean, but in practice the licensees are often fronts for foreign backers. Yet even with the laws requiring local control, working conditions have not improved much. The mine where Kabia works is operated by a chief who functions as a kind of local government executive.
The chief, Paul Saquee, 46, is a former truck driver who spent the last two decades in the United States, most recently around Atlanta. The drop in the value of diamonds on the world market meant that the value of diamond exports decreased by The largest diamond found in Sierra Leone, and the third largest diamond in the world, was a It was found in and named the An-al of Sierra Leone.
Revenue from mining in Sierra Leone has not been redistributed to benefit the larger population. Sierra Leone's production of bauxite , an aluminium ore, is around one percent of the total global production. Sierra Minerals Holdings is the only company mining bauxite in the country, and the second largest employer in the mining industry.
This was due to Sierra Minerals ceasing production from June to September as a response to falling global demand for aluminum, which is produced from bauxite. Mining for haematite iron ore recommenced at Marampa mine on 11 February after 35 years. The Tonkolili region hosts the biggest iron ore deposit in Africa and the third largest in the world, exploited by African Minerals , in the hills around Bumbuna, Mabonto and Bendugu  .
Absence of well-established institutions is the result of the destructive civil war which ended only in This reflects inefficiency in establishing a legal framework due to time-lag. It is also questionable whether there are proper corruption-checking mechanisms. However, the ACC objects to this and claims it is impartial. For example, the government of Sierra Leone can provide greater tax incentives for investors to conduct businesses and invest in Sierra Leone, to facilitate the transfer of technology and skills to the native workers.
One recent example is the Gemstone School Sierra Leone, which was established as an institution to improve diamond polishing, cutting and jewelry-manufacturing skills to boost job-training and employment opportunities locally and to attract overseas investors. More efforts from the government and Multi-National Corporations can hence be done in the future to build more diamond-processing facilities and plants in Sierra Leone to boost the diamond mining industry.
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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. OECD Publishing. Minerals Yearbook, , V.
Government Printing Office. Archived from the original on Sustainable Development and Mining in Sierra Leone. Pneuma Springs Publishing. Retrieved 22 March Sierra Leone Ministry of Mineral Resources.
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Archived from the original on 28 July Retrieved 19 March West African diamonds, an economic history. Manchester University Press ND. Killing Kimberley? Conflict Diamonds and Paper Tigers. Occasional Paper Ottawa: Partnership Africa Canada, November March The Mining Industry of Botswana. By Philip M. Published by USGS. August S Department of State: Economy. Bank of Sierra Leone. Voice of Africa news. Dan Hausel November