Beginning Monday, Liberians can start applying for licenses to mine, sell, or broker for diamonds. This follows the weekend lifting of a six-year moratorium on the trade in diamonds.
In 2001, the U.N. imposed sanctions on Liberian diamonds after it accused former president Charles Taylor of using the so-called blood diamonds to support the civil war in Sierra Leone. To comply with the U.N. sanctions, the Liberian government imposed a moratorium on diamonds.
Lawrence Bropleh is Liberia’s minister of information. He told VOA lifting the moratorium means that Liberia’s diamond industry is once again back in business.
“Liberia is now an active member of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme. That means that in order for us to comply with these requirements, our work has focused on efforts to combat the smuggling of our diamond resource and to establish regional offices that form the basis of a chain of custody mechanisms. What this means now is that the diamond industry is up and running, and for Monday, July 30th, the Bureau of Mines at the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy will be opened to process diamond mining licenses and claims,” he said
Bropleh said the rejuvenated diamond industry would assist Liberia’s poverty reduction strategy.
Prior to the sanctions, about $600,000 worth of Liberia’s diamonds were reportedly being smuggled out of the country. Bropleh said the industry would from now benefit all Liberians.
“It will be a viable sector because the mechanism has been put in place in order to monitor, in order to make sure that every diamond that leaves Liberia has the Kimberley Process Certification. This would also prevent conflict diamonds. This is a good day for our country, and this is happening as we celebrate Liberia’s 160th independence anniversary,” Bropleh said.
He also said this time around the diamond industry would provide meaningful employment for a good number of Liberians.
“I cannot give you the actual number, but I can tell you that hundreds of people would be employed because what is going to happen is that there is a rule. For those who are going to enter into the diamond business, you have to employ a certain number of Liberians. This is going to make sure that Liberians are put back to work in the diamond mining industry,” he said.
Bropleh also said a process has been put in place to make it easier for small-scale miners to gain access to government offices responsible for the diamond industry.
“There is an office at the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy. But I also want to tell you there are diamond houses that the ministry has opened up in the various areas. And even to assist everyone to act within the law, the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy has established a telephone hotline. This is direct to what we call the government diamond office. And calling this number would put them in direct contact with a staff who can answer all of their questions about diamonds, because we want to make the process accessible to everybody,” Bropleh said.