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Friday, 8 September, 2000, 18:37 GMT 19:37 UK
'Diamond rush' in Liberia
Map of Liberia showing Paynesville, the new diamond site
Liberia denies smuggling diamonds saying it has its own
Liberia, condemned internationally for smuggling diamonds from neighbouring Sierra Leone, says it has found fresh deposits of the precious mineral near its capital, Monrovia.

The diamonds were said to have been discovered in the Paynesville area a few kilometres from the capital.


Let it be known to the world that there are diamonds in Liberia

Minister, Jenkins Dumbar
As a rush for diamonds gripped the city, the minister in charge of minerals, Jenkins Dumbar, said the discovery would counter UN claims that Liberia has no diamonds.

The UN and the British Government have condemned Liberia for smuggling Sierra Leonean diamonds and using the proceeds to supply the rebel RUF, with arms, a charge Liberia denies.

Washing and jigging

"Let it be known to the world that there are diamonds in Liberia. I'm happy that the BBC is here to see what is happening," Mr Dumbar said.

raw and polished diamonds
Liberia denies an arms-for-diamonds illegal trade
Mr Dumbar told the BBC that he had gone to Paynesville to "identify with the miners" and had watched as the prospectors washed and jigged the dust to eke out diamond stones.

"I have seen five pieces from dust. They were not large. The largest was about 1.8 carats," the minister said.

He said he could not state their value, saying the stones had "to be appraised first".

Mr Dumbar said the government would close the site from Friday, in order to regularise the operational process at the mines.

He said prospectors would be required to secure licences and adhere to the rules and policies of mining.

In July, the UN Security Council issued a worldwide ban on the export of diamonds from Sierra Leone, in order to crack down on the illegal trade.

Under a new scheme, only diamonds certified by the Sierra Leonean government would be traded on the international market.

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See also:

18 Jul 00 | Africa
Liberia's diamond links
18 Jul 00 | Business
Controls on conflict diamonds
15 May 00 | Africa
Diamonds: A rebel's best friend
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