Sierra Leone diamond exports up 43 pct in first half of 2013
FREETOWN Aug 16 (Reuters) - Sierra Leone exported $102 million worth of diamonds in the first half of 2013, up from $71 million in the same period last year, largely due to higher output from the country's main producer, the National Mineral Agency said on Friday.
The government collected $5.1 million in taxes in line with the mining code's 5 percent levy on exports, highlighting progress in channelling diamond revenues through the government.
"At the end of the first half of 2013, exports exceeded those of 2012 by 42.95 percent, an improvement of $30.71 million," Ibrahim Mohmed, who oversees the diamond sector at the NMA, told Reuters.
"The total diamonds exported ... amounted to 331,471 carats valued at $102,205,588," he said.
Sierra Leone exported 296,334 carats of diamonds in 2012.
The NMA said that increased production from Koidu Holdings had been primarily responsible for the rise in output. Koidu is Sierra Leone's only commercial pit mining operation. It is privately-owned by Israeli diamond trader Beny Steinmetz's BSG Resources through its Octea diamond unit.
Kimberlite, or industrial, production accounted for 62 percent of the diamond exports with a total of 205,834 carats over the six month period.
Other artisanal production accounted for the rest, producing some 125,637 carats.
The United Nations in 2003 lifted a worldwide ban on diamonds exported from Sierra Leone and the country is now a member of the Kimberley Process.
The Kimberley Process certification scheme was established by the industry, producer countries and civil society groups in the wake of diamond-fueled wars in Angola, Sierra Leone and Liberia to ensure that revenues from diamonds sold on the world market were not financing violence.
(Reporting by Christo Johnson; editing by Joe Bavier and Keiron Henderson)
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