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Ebola Virus Hurts Sierra Leone Diamond Production

Sep 1, 2014 11:17 AM   By Ronen Shnidman
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RAPAPORT... Diamond mines in Sierra Leone have cut back on production as the spread of the Ebola virus in the region has left artisanal miners afraid to work the alluvial mines in the country’s east.

Sierra Leone will miss the government’s goal of exporting $200 million in diamonds in 2014 because of the Ebola outbreak, Sierra Leone’s Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources, Abdul Ignosis, told Reuters.

Besides the decision by some miners to stop working, tight border controls implemented to halt the spread of the virus have also made trade more difficult.

Last year, Sierra Leone exported $186 million in diamonds. Artisanal and small-scale diamond mining activities are widespread in the Kono District as well as the Kenema, Bo and Pujehun districts, according to the Mineral Resources Ministry website. The ministry’s website says 1,700 licensed artisanal miners operate in these areas.

Ebola is a hemorrhagic fever that kills close to 90 percent of those infected. It is transmitted through contact with bodily fluids of the infected.

According to multiple media outlets, scientists have determined that the outbreak began at the funeral of a traditional healer in Koidu, a diamond mining town in Sierra Leone. A dozen of the early victims of the virus were women who attended the funeral and came into contact with the body of the healer as part of traditional funeral rites.

The town of Koidu is located two kilometers from the Koidu kimberlite project, a diamond mining operation in Kono District owned by Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz’s BSG Resources Ltd. Stellar Diamonds' Tongo mining project is also located in eastern Sierra Leone in the neighboring Kenema District.

BSG Resources and Stellar Diamonds did not respond to Rapaport News requests for comments on the outbreak by the time of publication.
Tags: BSG, Ebola, Koidu, Ronen Shnidman, Sierra Leone, Stellar Diamonds, tongo
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