U.N. Concerned About Liberian Diamond Activity

May 2, 2005

U.N. Concerned About Liberian Diamond Activity

There has been a recent increase in mining for diamonds in Liberia which could be exported illegally, United Nations officials told the BBC. Although exploring for diamonds is not illegal in Liberia, U.N. sanctions ban their export because of fears that revenue could be used to buy weapons.

Liberia recently emerged from a brutal war and now has the largest U.N. peacekeeping force in the world. A U.N. investigator estimates diamonds worth $400,000 are found each month. Flying over jungle air space in the country, the investigator, Caspar Fithen, identified several active mines for a BBC reporter. Some were small-scale, not much more than holes by the sides of rivers. But other mines were much larger operations. At these, the BBC saw mining pits, mechanical diggers and dozens of miners.

Some of the miners tried to hide when they saw the white U.N. plane in which the BBC was flying; others looked unconcerned. The BBC was unwilling to say exactly where the large scale diggings were, citing "legal reasons." The U.N.'s Fithen concluded from the aerial survey that more mining activity was taking place in Liberia than during his last over-flight three months ago.

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