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From "blood diamonds" to possible IPO, Sierra Leone diamond mine provides jobs for locals

Reuters:  While burnt-out houses surrounding the mine in the eastern town of Koidu serve as a reminder of the West African country's 11-year civil war, which claimed some 50,000 lives before it ended in 2002, Koidu's managers see the operation as a success story that augurs a better future for Sierra Leoneans.

Simon Akam / Reuters

Heavy equipment is used at the 'No. 1 Pipe' at Koidu Holdings' kimberlite diamond mine in eastern Sierra Leone, March 2, 2012. Sierra Leone's only pit diamond mine has come far from its origins as wartime booty presented to mercenaries by a grateful military junta. Seventeen years and several changes of ownership later, Koidu Holdings is selling gems in outlets such as U.S. jeweller Tiffany & Co. and considering a possible public listing, which could raise hundreds of millions of dollars to fund expansion.

"First and foremost, it's providing employment opportunities for the people of this chiefdom and beyond and also transferring skills," Paul Ngaba Saquee V, once a truck driving instructor in the United States, told Reuters.

Not far away from Koidu, meanwhile, a gang of men shovel mud and sift it for diamonds under the merciless sun - the same kind of operation that funded rebels during the civil war. "I have no job, only talent," said 25-year-old Alpha Koroma, who came from Freetown last year. "So I find myself in Kono (the district around Koidu) to find diamonds." Read full story

Simon Akam / Reuters

Artisanal diamond miners work at Tumbodu, north of the town of Koidu in eastern Sierra Leone, March 3. Low technology artisanal mining goes on alongside Koidu Holdings' kimberlite operation in Kono District.

Siimon Akam / Reuters

Rough diamonds worth around US$10,000 sit on a sheet of doodled paper in the office of a Lebanese gem dealer in the town of Koidu in eastern Sierra Leone, March 2, 2012.