A pastor in Sierra Leone has unearthed one of the largest uncut diamonds found in the region to date – a 706-carat alluvial diamond.
The fortuitous discoverer, Pastor Emmanuel Momoh, found the stone in the informal mining sector of eastern Kono. He handed the discovery over to the government, who will sell the precious stone in a “transparent” bidding process.
"A 706-carat diamond was presented to President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma yesterday evening," said the government in a statement. "Receiving the diamond, President Koroma thanked the chief and his people for not smuggling the diamond out of the country."
The diamond is one of the largest discovered in Sierra Leone, second only to a 968.9-carat stone unearthed in 1972. It sold for $2.5 million.
Although substantial in size, it’s dwarfed by previous mammoth discoveries: A 3,106-carat stone was found in South Africa in 1905, and a 1,1110-carat diamond was discovered in Botswana in 2015.
The highest bidder will receive the diamond, with the profits distributed between Momoh and the government (the amount each will receive has not been disclosed).
Momah told The Associated Press that he turned the diamond in, rather than smuggling it, because "I believe the government can do more, especially at a time when the country is undergoing some economic challenges."
Sierra Leone is infamous for being one of seven African countries whose “blood” diamonds spurred a decade-long civil war. Rival groups fought to gain control of mineral-rich territory, resulting in bloodshed and human rights abuses.
The government has made moves to crack down on diamond trafficking, and seems to be trying to use this opportunity to present a better face.
In 2003, the United Nation lifted their ban on the region’s diamond exports. Let's hope this diamond can go towards positive development in the country.
The 706-diamond discovered by Pastor Emmanuel Momoh has yet to be valued. State House, The Republic of Sierra Leone