The government of Sierra Leone was forced to extend the bidding process for the sale of the 709 carat diamond, so as to allow potential buyers from Belgium, Israel, South Africa and the Middle East to make an offer the government cannot refuse.
So far, only a handful of offers have been received and are believed to be well under the expected price the government anticipates. The public auction will take place on Thursday, 11 May, 2017, at the Bank of Sierra Leone.
The diamond has generated lots of controversy about its ownership. The 709 carat diamond was reported to have been found in Kono by a 39 year-old local pastor turned miner Emmanuel Momoh, who decided last month to hand over the gem to the government to carry out the sale on his behalf.
Speaking to reporters after handing over the gem to the government, Momoh said: “I also had an opportunity to escape with the diamond to Belgium through a local dealer, but I was convinced that the government is committed to helping our people, so I handed it over to the government,” Momoh said at a press conference in Freetown on Wednesday.
“I have been part of all the processes in the weighing, bidding and cleaning of the diamond, and it has been transparent, and I’m very satisfied with the process so far,” he added.
But the Sierra Leone authorities lack the necessary equipment for properly cleaning and polishing the uncut stone, which currently appears to be coated by a reddish stain.
The Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources said it had tried to clean the diamond “by boiling (it) in hydrofluoric acid and nitric acid for 72 hours,” but it was not enough to be able to set an accurate estimate of its value.
“We had to do with what we have to ensure that the diamond is sold with quality to the highest bidder as soon as possible,” said Sahr Wonday, Director General of the National Minerals Agency.
“We want more individuals or companies to bid for the diamond so that we can get the best price” for what is expected to be between the 10 and 15 biggest diamond ever found.”
The people of Sierra Leone, opposition parties and the media are watching developments very carefully. They want to ensure that the government is held to its pledge of organising a “transparent” bidding process and use the proceeds of the sale to develop Kono.
“The president is keen to use proceeds of the diamond to develop Kono and other parts of the country,” said Abdulai Bayratay, the government spokesman.