Interview with an artisanal diamond miner in Liberia

As Diamonds for Peace coordinator in Liberia, I visited some mining communities the first time to understand the field operations of artisanal and small scale diamond miners in Liberia. Despite the long years of such mining activities in Liberia, artisanal and small scale miners are still seen operating in Liberia as hustlers (people barely managing to survive). Perhaps, they don’t have formal trainings in the field they found themselves or diamonds that they get are bought below their values.

In my trips, I interacted with some artisanal and small scale miners in a village called Gbenyan-kpelley in Margibi County as:

DFP Coordinator:  Hello my people, I am from Diamonds for Peace (DFP). DFP wants to work along with the government of Liberia to improve the lives of you people in such mining activities. In doing so, we first want to understand how you’ve been operating in Liberia- your progresses (good time) and challenges (hard time).

Miner: My brother, you are welcome. We are very happy that you made your way through this bush to find us. I am trying to form “SAVE LIBERIA INTERNATIONAL” a local Non- Governmental Organization whose focus is in this type of mining activities and in agriculture as well. Our article of incorporation is been processed by the government.

Money is here but to get it you go through too much hard times, my dear (This is a common expression in Liberia which means “there seems to be lots of diamonds here but it’s not easy to find them”).

At this site, we are still prospecting but some people were doing similar type of mining here before us. When we came we found a diamond in their small left- over gravel. We sold the diamond for US$ 300 to start our prospecting. Now, we have seen two small diamonds in few weeks. My colleagues on the other side have also found diamonds.

Two small diamonds that an artisanal miner found in Liberia
Two small Diamonds found during prospecting.

DFP Coordinator: Do you have challenges on the field?

Miner: Yes, the challenges or problems on the field can almost swallow us. They are many. For example, we need tools: shovels, diggers, cutlasses, washing boxes, watering machines; we also need food stuffs to keep the manpower strong.

DFP Coordinator:  I believe you were prepared to come in this distance to work. You must have counted the cost of tools and other materials to your operation in the bush.  

Miner:  Any good operation of business has a plan. Yes, we planned to come here in search of mineral. But sometimes, the money to start and implement the plan cannot be there, and lives need to go on at all cost. So, all the materials we are using have been used many times by other miners. We are only managing with them to get started. After that, we will be talking with individuals and organizations interested in the field to provide assistance.

DFP Coordinator: Is finding diamonds easy?

Miner: This process of searching for mineral is not easy. It requires physical strength. For this reason, we need more food to get stamina to work.

Diamond digger displaying a tool Liberia
Diamond digger displaying a tool

DFP Coordinator: Is there final message?

Miner A:  My message goes first to Diamonds for Peace which has developed interest in working with artisanal and small scale miners in Liberia and to other organizations. As we need financial and moral supports to help transform the industry.

We need capacity building trainings to bring artisanal miners together under one union. The trainings will enlighten our minds to know the value of our functions in the economy. Sometimes, we get diamonds but don’t know how to sell them to get the value for money.

DFP Coordinator: Thank you for your time.