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Sierra Leone News: Glittering hope for gloomy Koyadu village

Saturday 16th March marks the third anniversary since the discovery of a 706-carat diamond by a freelance artisanal miner, Emmanuel Momoh, in the village of Koyadu in eastern Kono district. New York Times reported that this strange lump which turned out to be one of the biggest diamonds ever uncovered in Sierra Leone was valued at as much as “$50 million USD.” The initial, local auction price was $7.7 million USD. The diamond ended up being auctioned in New York for $6.5 million USD by a diamond dealer, Rapaport. Momoh promised to use half of his payoff to fund infrastructure projects in the community where his fortune was discovered. Momoh received 40% of the proceeds because of violations to the Mines and Minerals Act. His diamond mining licence application was still being processed. According to a Government statement at the time, about $3.9 million USD of the final selling price were taxes, while $980,454 USD would enter a community development fund. Apparently, about $1 million USD was disbursed to local diggers in Kono. On the eve of the third anniversary since the diamond’s discovery, the Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources, Morie Manyeh, and officials from the Mines Ministry and the National Mineral Agency (NMA) visited Koyadu to tour development projects. Three years after finding the diamond and more than two years after promises, the construction of classroom buildings, a library, staff quarters, clinic, recreational centre, boreholes are ongoing. The project consultant, Mohamed Coomber, of the Architectural Engineering Services (AES), said construction should be completed in 4 months. The project covers furnishing the structures, providing solar lights and building a fence for the school. They also want to construct a 10-kilometre road into the village. The health clinic will have four wards for casual admission. A male and a female ward; a pediatric and a maternity ward and a delivery room will be part of the complex. The Mines Ministry Permanent Secretary, Brima Sowa, said the project was halted by the newly appointed Minister, following the election, because he was not satisfied with the construction timeline or quality. The Mines Minister said when he took-up office he was not impressed with what he saw and remarked “…this structure is overpriced”. “During the run up to the elections, work halted and the consultant was not doing anything. So, to move the project forward we recruited Coomber as the new consultant. So far, so good. I’m impressed with the progress being made thus far in just one month,” the Minister said.  However, he noted, the Ministry is thinking about training teachers and nurses to work at the facilities so that it won’t be another white elephant project. While in Koyado, community members raised concerns with the Minister and his entourage. The town secretary said the community is going to be responsible to pay the teachers. However, we are appealing to the government to approve this school so that teachers would be paid by the Government. Another concern is the availability of water. The construction of the borehole has not yet started and residents have to walk miles just to fetch water. An appeal was made to the consultant to construct the boreholes now because the community is having a serious water crisis.

OG/16/3/19

By Ophaniel Gooding

Monday March 18, 2019.

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