Sierra Leone exports a $1 million diamond

From mine to market and legal all the way, Sierra Leone revealed Wednesday it had sold a whopping 110-carat diamond-the biggest yet under an 18-month-old diamond-certifying scheme, the Associated Press reported.

Proof, the war-ravaged nation said, that a crackdown on so-called “conflict diamonds” is working, the AP reported.

The $1 million gem-the size of a thumb and described by experts as a flawless crystal-was exported Tuesday, Mineral Resources Minister Al Haji Mohammed Swariay-Deen, reportedly said.

It was found in a mine in Kono district, which was once under rebel control and is now government-run, the AP reported. The district produces about 80% of the West African nation’s precious gems.

The export of the big gem is “very good news,” Swariay-Deen reportedly said.

Sierra Leone gave no further details on the transaction, the AP reported. Under normal procedures, Sierra Leone sells gems to a licensed exporter, who then markets it in Europe, Israel, or elsewhere.

Sierra Leone’s eastern district was controlled by rebels of the Revolutionary United Front until a U.N.-led disarmament program carried out late last year. The rebels raped, maimed and killed tens of thousands of civilians in a 10-year campaign of terror aimed at seizing control of the government and diamond fields.

U.N. sanctions on conflict diamonds were instituted in large part to cut the flow off diamonds used by rebels to fund their war. In October 2000, the government introduced a certification system to regulate diamond sales. Last year, $26.5 million worth of diamonds were legally exported. The government is guaranteed a 3% cut. The war was officially declared over in January and presidential elections are scheduled for May 14.