A diamond prospector shows a diamond stone as other diamond prospectors filter earth from a river, in Koidu, the capital of the diamond-rich Kono district, in eastern Sierra Leone, some 250 km east from Freetown. Small-scale artisanal mining has sustained this area since diamonds were discovered in 1930, and it was here that the 968.9-carat Star of Sierra Leone was found in 1972 -- the largest alluvial diamond ever found. Koidu also suffered some of the worst ravages of Sierra Leone's war in the nineties as rebels forced citizens to mine at gunpoint. But surface diamonds are near-depleted and only capital-intensive mining can reach the gems. On the other side of town, Koidu Holdings, a mining company owned by Israeli diamond magnate Beny Steinmetz, is testing a new plant built to process the diamonds from its two vertical kimberlite mines as part of a $150 million (115 million euro) expansion plan.
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