RAPAPORT… Sierra Leone is expecting diamond exports to exceed $160 million in 2007, which would mark its highest level since the decade-long civil war in the country ended in 2002, Reuters reported.
A senior mining official told Reuters the country is on track to reach record diamond exports after the country’s gold and diamond office reported that Sierra Leone exported 448,988 carats worth of diamond valued at a total of $102 million in the first seven months of 2007. That marks a 32 percent rise in Sierra Leone’s exports from the same period in 2006.
According to Kimberley Process figures, Sierra Leone exported diamonds worth $125.3 million in 2006, which was a drop of 11.6 percent from 2005.
“We set a target of $132 million for the year, but we now think we are leading for $160 million,” Andrew Keili, acting director of the gold and diamond office.
Keili said the country has 200,000 to 300,000 artisanal miners with multiple dependants each, and stressed that the country needs to use its natural resources for the development of the economy.
The civil war of 1991 to 2002, in which some 50,000 people were killed and thousands mutilated, was largely funded by the trade of illicit diamonds for weapons.
“I won’t say diamonds have been a curse to Sierra Leone, but I would say we have not used the resources well,” Kali said.
He attributed the rise in exports in 2007 to the impact of efforts to reduce the channels for smuggling out of the country.
“After the war, more areas became accessible for mining, and the Kimberley Process has kicked in, making it much harder to smuggle,” Keili said. “Even if there were some diamond smuggling going on, it would not be significant.”