A pastor working in the mines of eastern Sierra Leone has unearthed a 706-carat diamond, a discovery that experts said on Thursday could be the 10th largest stone ever found.
The huge rock was extracted by Emmanuel Momoh, one of thousands who seek their fortunes in the informal mining sector that dominates the diamond-rich Kono region.
Mines Minister Minkailu Mansaray told AFP the government’s stake would be used to fund development projects nationwide.
Abdulai Bayraytay, spokesperson of the President of Sierra Leone said: “We believe that showing it publicly would enhance our image of transparency, especially with Sierra Leone’s participation in the Kimberly process, as well as open public partnership and the extractive transparency initiative in Sierra Leone.”
The diamond was presented to President Ernest Bai Koroma on Wednesday before being locked in Freetown’s central bank vault. It awaits an official valuation under the Kimberley Process, which certifies diamonds as “conflict-free”.
Sierra Leonean rebels allowed traders to exploit diamond mines and ship the gems abroad via Liberia during the 1991-2002 civil conflict.
Former Liberian warlord Charles Taylor was found guilty of supporting the rebels in exchange for diamonds mined by slave labour.
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.