Sierra Leone: Local population doesn't benefit from diamond industry due to corruption & smuggling, says analyst

Author: Julian Lahai Samboma, African Business Magazine, Published on: 7 May 2019

"Sierra Leone's diamond industry must be reformed", 3 May 2019.

If Sierra Leone’s diamond industry is to make a positive contribution to the socio-economic development of the nation...there has to be a radical overhaul of the way the industry is managed. At the centre...should be a concerted campaign to curb the rampant smuggling of diamonds, which leads to tens of millions of dollars of potential tax revenue being lost each year...The World Bank estimates that the value of diamonds smuggled out of the country each year is now between 50 and 90% of total production...

Aside from the bloody decade-long war it fuelled...diamond mining has caused severe environmental degradation to large tracts of land in the eastern Kono district...

Smuggling has been blamed on artisanal miners and on small-scale, illegal mining operations in remote areas that are not regulated by local authorities. After farming, artisanal mining is the second largest employer of labour in the country, providing a livelihood for up to 500,000 illiterate or poorly-educated day labourers...The Ministry of Mines and the NMA [National Minerals Agencyhave embarked on a campaign to arrest and prosecute those who illegally mine or sell diamonds. Experts such as David Rhode, co-founder of London-based ethical jewellers Ingle & Rhode, say that incentivising people to do the right thing also works. “While enforcement of the law is always a good thing,” he says, “paying a fair price to artisanal miners or their employers will also do the trick.”...

The Sierra Leone People’s Party government trumpets the fact that its diamond exports are certified under the Kimberley Process...However, the scheme has a number of flaws. It is designed to verify the origins of batches of Sierra Leone’s diamonds, not the pedigree of individual stones, which greatly impairs its ability to stop smuggling. It also ignores issues such as the environmental degradation...or whether the producers are paid a pittance...

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