A pastor who supplements his stipend by digging for minerals in one of the various artisanal mines in eastern Sierra Leone has discovered one of the largest diamonds ever found.
The 709-carat stone was extracted this week by Emmanuel Momoh, a pastor in one of the churches that ministers to the mining communities of Kono district, the diamond centre that became the crucible of Sierra Leone’s civil war.
The discovery is believed to be the 13th largest uncut diamond ever to be pulled from the ground, industry analysts said.
The stone is to be auctioned, the Sierra Leonean government announced yesterday, although its value cannot be determined until its quality is assessed. An 813-carat diamond was sold at closed auction in London last month for £51m.
Ernest Bai Koroma, the president of Sierra Leone, promised that the auction of the diamond would be transparent and praised Mr Momoh “for not smuggling the diamond out of the country”. He also promised that Mr Momoh would be rewarded.
Although big, the diamond is still dwarfed by the 3,106-carat Cullinan Diamond discovered in South Africa in 1905 and was never matched since. It was later cut into several gems, two of which have been set into the British Crown Jewels.
The precious stone should have been found by one of the internationally-financed companies operating in the Kono diamond fields, with their huge Caterpillar bulldozers, dredges and industrial water pumps.
But members of the pastor’s church think a higher being was directing the search
That the discovery was instead made by one of the thousands of ordinary men and boys who toil bare-chested under the relentless equatorial sun — a man of the cloth, no less — will be taken by many as an answer to the fervent prayers whispered daily in Kono’s churches.