Auction for 709-carat diamond fails as Sierra Leone rejects offer

The diamond failed to attract the kind of attention the African country had hoped for. It will now be auctioned in Belgium in a bid for a better price.

Photo by: (AFP)
Photo by: (AFP)

The 706-carat diamond is the second largest found in Sierra Leone, after the 968.9-carat Star of Sierra Leone miners unearthed in 1972. (File photo)

A much-anticipated auction for one of the world's largest diamonds fizzled on Thursday, when the highest bid came in much lower than Sierra Leone had hoped the egg-sized stone would attract.

Authorities in the capital Freetown rejected the $7.7 million offer, saying it did not meet the government's target price. International media were speculating its worth at anything between $50 and $90 million.

TRTWorld's Adefemi Akinsanya has more.  

Belgium auction in bid for better price

The 709-carat gem was unearthed in the eastern Kono region in March. An evangelical preacher found the diamond, the second largest discovered in the West African country.

Thirty-nine-year-old Emmanuel Momoh is an amateur miner. He handed over his find to the government for auction with the aim of helping his poor country.

Auctioneers received five sealed bids. But they only ranged from $2 million to $7.8 million.

Director-general of the National Minerals Agency Sahr Wonday said the government rejected the high bid and would auction the diamond again, but this time in Belgium in a bid to get a better price.

Blood diamonds

Sierra Leone is known for its diamond-rich mines which funded the country's decade-long civil war which ended in 2002, with almost 50,000 people dead.

Mining and agriculture are the backbone of the country's economy, with diamonds bringing in an average of 50 percent of export revenue.

During the civil war, rebels forced civilians in the east to mine the stones and bought weapons with the proceeds, leading to the term "blood diamonds".

In 2003, the United Nations lifted a ban on diamond exports from Sierra Leone, but the $113 million sector is still plagued by smuggling.

TRTWorld and agencies