A 709.41-carat diamond found by a pastor in Sierra Leone earlier this year is currently being prepared for auction in Antwerp, Belgium, the government of Sierra Leone confirmed on Wednesday.
Pastor Emmanuel Momoh, who discovered the massive rock in Sierra Leone's Kono district six months ago, has traveled to Belgium to meet sales agents, auction houses and potential buyers.
He stated that he is expecting no less than $50 million for the diamond, which is said to be one of the world's 20 largest rough precious rocks ever found and the second-largest ever unearthed in the West African nation. It is also one of the largest found in mines in southern Africa in recent years, falling closely behind Lucara Diamond's 1,111-carat rock, which was found in Botswana in 2015.
The diamond was auctioned in Freetown in May, but the highest bid of $7.7 million was turned down, Mining.com reported. The Sierra Leone government announced two months later that the precious rock would be sold either in Antwerp or Tel Aviv.
"I want my diamond to be sold abroad so I can get the best price to enable many people to benefit from the proceeds," the pastor said.
Momoh, who is one of the hundreds of artisanal miners in Sierra Leone's key mining district of Kono, handed over the rock to the government, but he remains as its chief owner. The proceeds from the sale of the diamond will reportedly be used to fund development projects nationwide.
In March, the pastor revealed how he plans to use the money he would receive from the sale of the diamond.
"First and foremost, I will have to give my tithes. I promised God. I know that God still has a plan for me," he said.
After he is done with tithes, he vowed to build a new school and a state-of-the-art bridge in the village where he discovered the precious rock.
"We have to make a bridge, we have to build a school, and we have to improve the lives of the people," he stated, adding that he also plans to build a "magnificent church."
Kono was at the center of the trade of "blood diamonds" that helped fuel the country's decade-long civil war as rebel groups exchanged gems to pay for weapons.
The Kimberley Process international certification scheme was created following the end of the conflict in 2002 in order to keep conflict diamonds out of the market and lay down export conditions applying to the agreement's 75 signatories.