Beny Steinmetz, one of largest customers of De Beers’ Diamond Trading Company, plans to invest in a Sierra Leone diamond mine this year, South Africa’s Business Day reports. This development adds credibility to the country’s drive to become a legitimate gem producer.
Sierra Leone’s diamond production has been tainted by conflict diamonds following an 11-year civil war that ended two years ago.
Sierra Leone, which has some of Africa’s richest alluvial diamond deposits, is a member of the United Nations-backed Kimberley Process certification scheme.
It has granted exclusive mining licenses to foreign players and claims that it has implemented policies and procedures to enhance transparency, accountability and good corporate governance.
The government’s approval of the development of Tongo Diamond Fields by Steinmetz through a process that included 11 potential foreign investors should provide a significant boost to the country’s diamond production, Business Day reports.
The license, which was awarded to Koidu Holdings, in which Steinmetz has a controlling stake and full management control, is valid for two years and covers an area of about 54.7 miles, Business Day reports. Toronto-listed DiamondWorks holds the balance of ownership.
Steinmetz already operates Koidu, a $28 million sealed-off diamond deposit, and has three other exploration licenses in Upper Sewa, Middle Sewa, and Matemu, making it the biggest foreign investor in Sierra Leone and the only one to bring an industrial project into production.
“If proven economic, Tongo can be brought into production relatively quickly as another source of quality stones for the company,” James Campbell, chairman of Koidu and former senior executive of Anglo American and De Beers, reportedly said.
Steinmetz plans to invest $30 m in diamond projects in the country this year.
A UN report published last year ranks Sierra Leone at the bottom of the United Nations Human Development Index, which gauges the quality of life in each country, using criteria such as poverty eradication, education, and maternal health.