Sierra Leone pastor to get less cash for giant Peace Diamond

The Peace Diamond on display at the Rapaport Group on December 4, 2017 in midtown New York. The government of Sierra Leone sold the rough diamond for $6.5 million. Named the Peace Diamond, $3.8 million was to directly benefit 250,000 inhabitants of the region it was found in with the pastor who found it promising to undertake development projects. But the government now says it will give him only 40 per cent of the proceeds as he did not have a mining licence when he found it. PHOTO | TIMOTHY A. CLARY | AFP

What you need to know:

  • The pastor will get 40 per cent of the money as he did not have a licence when he found the diamond, a government official said.
  • Pastor Emmanuel Momoh had promised to undertake a number of development projects for the community in Kono using the proceeds.

FREETOWN

The pastor who found Sierra Leone’s giant ‘Peace Diamond’ will not receive the entire proceeds from its sale because he was operating illegally, the government has said.

The National Minerals Agency (NMA), which oversaw the sale of the 709 carat diamond said to be one of the largest precious stones to be discovered in the country, said Pastor Emmanuel Momoh held no licence, in contravention of the Mineral's Act.

LICENCE

The pastor will, however, receive 40 per cent of the proceeds and the rest would go to the government.

The gem, which was sold earlier this month in New York for $6.5 million after several months of auction, was found in a village in the diamond-rich eastern Kono District.

The Director-General of the minerals regulatory agency, Mr Sahr Wonday, said the pastor engaged in mining while his application for a licence was being processed.

“They applied for one and the process was ongoing when they took to mining,” Mr Wonday said, adding: “So technically, he did not own the diamond. The diamond belongs to the government of Sierra Leone.”

MINING

Ninety nine per cent of artisanal miners in Sierra Leone operate without licences, according to NMA.

Often, someone with the ability to provide food and shelter sponsors groups of strong men to work for him, with the understanding that they give him whatever gem they discover.

NMA says the money from the sale of the giant diamond was kept in the government-owned Sierra Leone Commercial Bank, as the government engaged all stakeholders.

The agency said the proceeds would be shared according to the dictates of the Mines and Minerals Act.

PROMISES

The announcement was likely to occasion widespread displeasure in Kono where expectations have been high over the outcome of the auction.

Pastor Momoh had promised to undertake a number of development projects for the community using the proceeds.

It was unclear how the decision would impact his promises.

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