A pastor in Sierra Leone, Emmanuel Momoh, has discovered the largest uncut diamond found in more than four decades in the West African country and has turned it over to the government, saying he hopes it helps to boost recent development in his impoverished nation.
Presidential spokesman Abdulai Bayraytay said the pastor found the 706-carat alluvial diamond in Yakadu village in Sierra Leone’s diamond-rich east, and it was presented to President Ernest Bai Koroma on Wednesday.
The gem, a bit smaller than a hockey puck, is the second largest diamond found in Sierra Leone.
In 1972, the 968.9-carat Star of Sierra Leone was found by miners and sold for about $2.5 million.
Momoh told The Associated Press that he turned in the diamond because he was touched by the development being undertaken in Kono District, where the gem was found. He cited road construction and improvements to electricity after almost 30 years of blackouts.
“I believe the government can do more, especially at a time when the country is undergoing some economic challenges,” he said.
Sierra Leone’s diamond wealth was the cause of a decade-long civil war that ended in 2002.
Despite its mineral wealth, the country remains one of the poorest in the world.
It was not immediately clear how the pastor came across the diamond.
President Bai-Koroma expressed his appreciation that there was no attempt to smuggle the gem out of the country, and encouraged others to emulate the pastor’s example.
He promised that the diamond would be sold to the highest bidder and whatever is due to the owner and government would be distributed accordingly.
The president described the diamond as “a gift from God, and it will be a terrible thing if anyone tries to do something criminal with it.”
Presidential spokesman Bayraytay said the diamond has not yet been valued and has been placed in the Bank of Sierra Leone.
The president has given “clear instruction to the Ministry of Mines that the evaluation, sale and distribution of the proceeds must be done in the most transparent manner,” he said.