, Volume 76, Issue 3, pp 191–212 | Cite as

Sierra Leone’s illicit diamonds: the challenges and the way forward



Although the Kimberley Process Certificate Scheme has considerably reduced the flow of conflict diamonds from 4% to less than 1%, other forms of illicit diamonds are estimated at 20% of global production. While scholars and policy makers have given considerable attention to illicit mining and smuggling (with some success), illicit exploitation still hinders revenue generation that is needed for economic growth and development in Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries heavily reliant on alluvial minerals. Based on surveys of 240 households in four diamondiferous chiefdoms in Kono District in Sierra Leone, key informant interviews, focus groups and secondary data, and drawing from the actor-oriented approach and Le Billon (Fuelling war: natural resources and armed conflict. London, International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2005) conceptualization of the political geography of the resource, this paper examines the problem of illicit diamond exploitation in post-conflict Sierra Leone. It investigates: (1) the causes of illicit diamond mining and smuggling; (2) the spatial and temporal aspects of illicit mining and smuggling, and (3) possible solutions to illicit diamond exploitation. The paper argues that the ineffectiveness of national mining laws/policies has created conditions that are exploited by local and international actors in the diamond industry. This is further exacerbated by the political geography of the resource. Study findings reveal that while better mining regulation could reduce illicit exploitation, bringing buyers closers to miners and offering them better prices for rough diamonds will minimize smuggling and thus increase government’s mineral revenue base.


Alluvial minerals Illegal diamond mining Diamond smuggling Artisanal miners Kono District Sierra Leone 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Michigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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