More than 10,000 Sierra Leonean nationals are illegally mining diamonds in Liberia, according to a United Nations Panel of Experts on Liberia report provided to the UN Security Council.
The report says that many of the illegal miners crossed the frontier with Sierra Leone with funding from diamond brokers in Kenema, the third largest city in Sierra Leone which is some 50 kilometers from the border with Liberia.
In addition, the illegal miners compete with Liberians for mining territory which could lead to conflicts between the Sierra Leoneans and Liberians, the report says.
Indeed, industry sources have complained that legitimate Liberian diamond miners have been threatened when they have attempted to move Sierra Leoneans from their claims, it added.
The experts' report looked into Liberia's alluvial diamond mining activity and state of security. It found that illegal diamond mining in Liberia is mostly being carried out in the Grand Cape Mount, Gbarpolu and Lofa counties, next to the country's borders with Sierra Leone, Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire.
However, illegal mining is particularly strong in areas near markets in Kenema and Koidu in Sierra Leone which are across the border from Guinea.
"During the course of interviews with diamond miners in western Liberia, the Panel learned that markets in Sierra Leone often pay higher prices for diamonds than those in Monrovia [Liberia's capital]", the report says.