17 December 2012

Liberia: Over 10,000 Sierra Leoneans Illegally Mining Diamonds in Liberia - Report

Over 10,000 Sierra Leoneans are illegally mining diamonds in the country, the United Nations Panel of Experts on Liberia has reported. According to the Panel in its final report submitted to the UN Security Council early December 2012:"The Panel estimates that the number of Sierra Leonean miners in Liberia is now in excess of 10,000."

"As the Panel stated in its midterm report, many of the diggers operating illegally in the sector have crossed the border from Sierra Leone with financial backing from diamond brokers in Kenema," said the Panel's report. The report indicates that the illegal Sierra Leoneans miners compete with Liberians for both mining ground and logging areas, adding that in this case, the potential for territorial conflict between the Sierra Leoneans and Liberians remains significant.

The UN Panel of Experts says it is concerned about "several reports from industry sources that have complained that the influx of Sierra Leonean miners continues unabated, and, as the Panel reported, legitimate Liberian diamond miners have been threatened when they have attempted to move squatters off their claims."

The Panel of Experts report, which covered Liberia's alluvial diamond mining sector and security condition, states that much of the illegal diamond mining in Liberia is taking place in Grand CapeMount, Gbarpolu and Lofa counties, adjacent to the country's borders with SierraLeone, Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire.

The report details that specifically, such illegal mining activities are carried out within areas that have close proximity with markets inKenema and Koidu, in Sierra Leone, adding that these areas encourage trafficking, particularly as thosemarkets are larger and more vibrant than those in the interior parts of Liberia.

"During the course of interviews with diamond miners in western Liberia, the Panel learned that markets in Sierra Leone often pay higher prices for diamonds than those in Monrovia [Liberia's capital]', the UN Panel of Experts report noted, adding that: "The temptation to traffic is further increased when the difficulty and cost of transportation to Monrovia or even regional offices is factored in."

The report avers that the scenario of increased difficulty and cost of transportation is particularly true for areas in the remote north-western part of Liberia, which the report says are often much closer to Sierra Leonean markets than to Liberian ones.

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