Christian pastor who found one of world's biggest diamonds to launch own mining venture

Government of Sierra Leone

The Christian pastor who found one of the largest diamonds ever discovered has handed it over to the government to support his country's development.

Pastor Emmanuel Momoh gave the the 706-carat stone that he found in the Kono region of Sierra Leone to President Ernest Bai Koroma.

The diamond, thought to be worth as much as $62 million, will be used to 'advance' the people of Sierra Leone, according to AP.

In a subsequent interview, Momoh also told AFP that he will receive a share of proceeds from the sale and hopes to use this to invest in his own mining venture. An earlier AFP story explained the financial breakdown

Momoh is among thousands of people in Sierra Leone who regularly go 'artisanal' mining, panning for diamonds and other gems in the open-cast mines of the West Africa nation.

His diamond is the largest found in Sierra Leone since 1972, according Africa Today

Explaining his gift to his country, Momoh said: 'I believe the government can do more, especially at a time when the country is undergoing some economic challenges.' He cited public transport and services such as electricity power supply as among those needed in Sierra Leone. Although he will still receive his share of the profits, by turning it over to the government rather than smuggling it out of the country, he has ensured that a substantial part of the sale profits go to help his own people of Sierra Leone. 

Mines and Mineral Resources Minister Minkailu Mansaray thanks Momoh for his 'gift', found by Momoh in a village called Yakadu, in an area that has suffered from both civil war and the 2013 Ebola crisis. Sierra Leone was traumatised for years by a civil war financed by the sale of 'blood diamonds'. More than 120,000 people are believed to have lost their lives. 

The  706-carat diamond has been locked up in Sierra Leone's central bank in Freetown.

The largest diamond ever, 'Sergio', a black diamond weighing 3167 carats, was found in Brazil in 1893.

The famous Cullinan diamond found in South Africa in 1905, at 3,106 carats, was cut into separate stones with two now in the sceptre and crown of the British Crown Jewels.

An 813-carat diamond sold for £51 million at auction in London last summer.

The present government is taking a firm line against illicit diamond trading.