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Diamond Exports Up in Sierra Leone, But People Aren’t Benefiting

May 2006

Thanks to the Kimberley Process, export earnings in Sierra Leone—once the poster child for "conflict diamonds" —have increased nearly five-fold, but experts say that this has yet to benefit the people of the country, more than 70 percent of whom remain below the poverty threshold.

During the country’s bloody civil war, which was financed mostly by diamonds, government income from official diamond exports plunged to $1.5 million a year, since most of the diamond areas were occupied by rebel sources. But after the Kimberley Process came into being, by October 2000, within the last quarter exports shot to $10.3 million, and then went up to $26 million. Last year, they hit $142 million.

But economists say mining laws have caused the diamond industry to be controlled by foreigners. They note that, under current law, anyone who can raise $40,000 for a license fee can be registered as an official dealer. They also note the amount of money the government realizes from these exports is only three percent, and only 0.75 percent of that goes into development projects, like schools and roads.

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