A pastor in Sierra Leone unearthed one of the world largest diamonds in the district of Kono. Pastor Emmanuel Momoh who discovered the diamond, is part of thousands who work in the informal mining sector to support their livelihoods.

The uncut diamond weighing 706 carats was kept in the central bank in the capital, after being presented to President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma who assured the community, where the diamond was discovered that it would be sold in a transparent bidding process to their benefit.

Mathew Nyaungwa a bureau chief for Rough & Polished organization publishing information and analytics on diamond and jewellery markets worldwide estimated the gem as a bit smaller than a hockey puck, and the gem is the second largest diamond found in Sierra Leone.

Pastor Momoh’s discovery is the biggest diamond to be found in more than four decades in the West African country after 1972, when 968.9-carat Star of Sierra Leone was discovered by miners, and sold for approximately $2.5 million.

Currently, the hopes are high in the village the gem was found, and there’s belief that it will be sold to help boost development in community, and impoverished nation which has suffered under civil war for many years.

Read: Is the illegal trade Congolese minerals financing terror?

The “blood diamond” history of Sierra Leone

Some of the victims of “Blood Diamonds” the bloody civil war, they were amputated by the Sierra Leone warlord Foday Sankoh Revolutionary United Front between 1990 to 2002. Caption photo: Flickr

Sierra Leone is well known for its diamond industry that dates back to 1935 when diamond exploration was started by village miners. The Europeans were also heavily involved in the scramble for the country’s minerals, particularly diamonds. The exploitation of this rich natural resource upscaled, and the mining of large scale diamond started. The gems were later sold as “blood diamonds” to help finance the bloody civil wars across Sierra Leone in the 1990s.

Read: Liberian warlord claims Britain violating human rights

Between 1990 and 2002, tens of thousands of Sierra Leoneans were enslaved and forced to dig for diamonds in Kono district, which was the centre of the “blood diamond” trade that was used by the warlords to fund the country’s brutal civil war as rebel groups exchanged gems for weapons with the European nations.

The Sierra Leone warlord Foday Sankoh Revolutionary United Front backed by Liberian Charles Taylor punished those who resisted digging the diamond to finance the civil war. The diamonds were exchanged for weapons such as machine guns, artilleries, bombs, and warplanes. The people who resisted digging for diamonds had their limbs, ears, genitals amputated. More than 120,000 people were killed and tens of thousands more were maimed, making it one of the deadliest and bloodiest civil conflict in African history.