Sierra Leone’s illicit diamonds: the challenges and the way forward

Type Journal Article - GeoJournal
Title Sierra Leone’s illicit diamonds: the challenges and the way forward
Volume 76
Issue 3
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2011
Page numbers 191-212
Although the Kimberley Process Certifi-
cate Scheme has considerably reduced the flow of
conflict diamonds from 4% to less than 1%, other
forms of illicit diamonds are estimated at 20% of
global production. While scholars and policy makers
have given considerable attention to illicit mining and
smuggling (with some success), illicit exploitation
still hinders revenue generation that is needed for
economic growth and development in Sub-Saharan
African (SSA) countries heavily reliant on alluvial
minerals. Based on surveys of 240 households in four
diamondiferous chiefdoms in Kono District in Sierra
Leone, key informant interviews, focus groups and
secondary data, and drawing from the actor-oriented
approach and Le Billon (Fuelling war: natural
resources and armed conflict. London, International
Institute for Strategic Studies, 2005) conceptualization
of the political geography of the resource, this
paper examines the problem of illicit diamond
exploitation in post-conflict Sierra Leone. It investigates:
(1) the causes of illicit diamond mining and
smuggling; (2) the spatial and temporal aspects of
illicit mining and smuggling, and (3) possible solutions
to illicit diamond exploitation. The paper argues
that the ineffectiveness of national mining laws/
policies has created conditions that are exploited by
local and international actors in the diamond industry.
This is further exacerbated by the political geography
of the resource. Study findings reveal that while
better mining regulation could reduce illicit exploitation,
bringing buyers closers to miners and offering
them better prices for rough diamonds will minimize
smuggling and thus increase government’s mineral
revenue base.

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