Sierra Leone fortunes change as diamond trade brings back investment
Lying in Sierra Leone's mineral-rich eastern belt, the Koidu Holdings diamond mine and others like it were once at the heart of the country's decade-long civil war. Six hours from the capital, Freetown, burned-out houses are testament to the conflict that coined the term "blood diamonds" as warring factions fought to control lucrative diamond fields.
Now, the mine that served as a war chest for the rebels supplies the jeweller Tiffany's. It is at the heart of a remarkable turnaround that has lifted this nation of 5 million people to world-leading growth of 35% this year.
"When the mine began operating in 2002, there were still 16,000 peacekeepers in the country. From an investment perspective, it was, basically, how much money are you prepared to lose," said the Koidu Holdings chief executive, Jan Joubert, who persuaded investors to put down $16m (£10.4m) back then.
Joubert, who came to Sierra Leone in 1995 with the now defunct South African mercenary outfit Executive Outcomes, said the company planned to raise $1bn on top of a $300m expansion programme, and boost production to about 500kg of gemstones annually.