Sierra Leone unearths $7.8m diamond

FREETOWN (AFP) - Sierra Leone said on Saturday it had discovered a diamond worth US$6.2 million (S$7.8 million), declaring it one of the most precious finds of the past decade.

The stone, dug up last week in the eastern district of Kono, was measured at 153 carats, making it significantly bigger than the largest find of 2013, a 125-carat diamond unearthed in the same area, the state-run National Minerals Agency said.

"This 153.44-carat diamond is one of the finest diamonds to be found in Sierra Leone in the last 10 years," the agency said in a statement.

It was graded as D+ on the D-to-Z diamond colour scale, meaning that it has almost no yellow tint caused by nitrogen impurities, and the agency said it "could only be matched or surpassed by fancy diamonds such as blue or pink in terms of price".

"The diamond is a cleavage in terms of shape and the clarity is of very high quality," the statement added.

"In other words, this is a premium stone as a result of its colour and clarity, and had it been an octahedron-shaped stone, it could have almost doubled the price of US$6 million."

Sierra Leone remains one of the world's poorest countries after a brutal 11-year civil war which ended in 2002 - a conflict that left the world with images of feared rebel leaders armed from the sale of "blood diamonds" recruiting drugged-up child soldiers and hacking the limbs off thousands of civilians.

But the country's mineral riches - which include gold, bauxite, titanium ore and magnetite iron-ore, as well as diamonds - have attracted massive investments.

Small-scale artisanal mining has sustained the country's eastern region since diamonds were discovered in 1930, and it was here that the 968.9-carat Star of Sierra Leone - the largest alluvial diamond ever found - was mined in 1972.