Sierra Leone gold, diamond exports plummet
Sierra Leone said Saturday gold exports had plunged threefold and diamond exports nearly halved in the first half of 2015, a sign of the devastation wrought on the mining industry by the Ebola epidemic.
Gold exports went from 11,751 grams in January to 3,900 grams in June and July with revenues plummeting from US$433,000 to US$132,000, the National Minerals Agency (NMA) said in a statement.
“The whopping 297- percent drop in gold export is not unexpected given that the deadly Ebola virus was raging through the countryside by then driving the workforce from the mining fields and mine owners from the country,” the NMA statement said.
Meanwhile, diamond exports dropped from a high of 64.5 thousand carats in April to 35.6 thousand carats in July.
Already fragile after years of civil war, dictatorship or coups, the Ebola epidemic has devastated the mining, agriculture and tourism industries in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.
The three countries account for more than 99 percent of some 11,300 people killed by the disease since late 2013, according to the World Health Organization.
Fueled by foreign investment in its mineral wealth, Sierra Leone had made considerable progress in recovering from a brutal 11-year civil war and the economy grew by 11.3 percent in 2013.
However, Ebola slashed the growth to four percent in 2014 and the country’s economy is expected to go into recession, contracting by 2 percent this year, according to the World Bank.
Although poverty is widespread, Sierra Leone has mineral riches including diamonds, gold, bauxite, titanium ore and magnetite iron-ore, which have attracted massive investment.