West African Pastor Gives 14th Largest Diamond In History To Government To Help His People
Pastor Emmanuel Momoh's diamond sold for $6.5 million.
Pastor Emmanuel Momoh of Sierra Leone lived through the bloody civil war fought in part over the precious diamonds the nation has been known for. Diamonds dug up by an enslaved population were used to buy ammunition and spark an international crisis in 2002.
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The struggling evangelical preacher had to sell peanuts on the side to help his family survive. Things began to pick up a bit when he obtained a mining license in 2012 and brought in a few carats from his artisanal mine.
For the last few years, the mines did not yield enough to make a comfortable leaving for Momoh and his family. This past March, he told his wife that he was considering letting go some of his miners.
“I told my wife, it’s very difficult to balance between our family needs and those of workers," he told Buzzfeed. "It’s challenging. You’re looking for something you don’t know if you’ll ever find.”
By mid- March, a miner found something big and was demanding a month's wage of 800,000 leones — roughly $100.
“He said, ‘I think something important has happened. But before I tell you, you have to give me 800,000 leones,’” Momoh recalled. “I said, ‘what do you mean, what are you talking about?’”
One of the miners discovered the large Peace Diamond, as it has been called, and the first thing Momoh thought about was how to make money from the gemstone. Some suggested that he take the massive stone across the border and sell it on the black market. He ultimately decided to hand it over to the Sierra Leone government after a dealer tried to take it from him.
“It was very difficult to remove that diamond from the Lebanese [dealer]. We stayed four or five hours in that office that night, until finally we are able to convince him to bring that diamond out.”
The government initially held an auction in May but rejected a $7.7 million bid believing they could get more. However, that was not the case. In early December, the Peace Diamond sold for $6.5 million.“That’s the challenge for the diamond industry — how to market diamonds to make the world a better place,” said Martin Rapaport, a kingpin in the industry who handled the sale of the Peace Diamond. “Just like you have fair trade coffee, why shouldn’t there be fair trade diamonds?”
According to Buzzfeed, the nation will get 59 percent of the sale, or about $3.9 million in tax revenue to fund clean water, electricity, schools, health centers and roads, while a quarter of the money will be shared among the crew who dug up the stone.