Wednesday, August 09, 2006

FEATURE-Gold may out-shine diamonds in Sierra Leone NIMIKOR CHIEFDOM, Sierra Leone, Aug 9 (Reuters) - Chief Aiah Lebbie weighs a small but heavy pile of metallic flakes glistening in the palm of his hand. It is gold, found by small-scale or artisanal diamond miners in the tailings of a diamond gravel pit in Lebbie's Nimikor chiefdom, in Sierra Leone's eastern province. Unaware of soaring gold prices on international markets and more concerned with looking for diamonds, miners sell these flakes to the chief for a just a few dollars. 'People are so obsessed with diamonds in Sierra Leone, they overlook the value and abundance of this gold,' Lebbie said. 'They think in the short term, the quick fix of finding a single diamond, but really with gold the long-term potential is enormous.' Sierra Leone is notorious for its 'blood diamonds' which helped fuel a brutal 1991-2002 civil war, made famous by images of drugged up child soldiers and mutilated civilians. Diamonds are now at the heart of a burgeoning post-war mining sector, but geologists say Sierra Leone's untapped gold potential may even exceed that of diamonds. (read more)