In eastern Sierra Leone, gravel caused by mine blasts can be seen surrounding Koidu, a city known largely as the capital of the diamond mining industry.
Moses Bangura is an independent miner in Koidu – called “artisanal miners” in Sierra Leone. He says that he found just one diamond this week, and that, in recent years, the number of diamonds found has generally declined.
Hassan Bangura became an artisanal miner after a failed career as a carpenter. He pans for diamonds each day with his brother, wife and infant son.
Many of Octea’s local staff say that they’re afraid to publicly voice their complaints – doing so could cost them their job.
Koidu Mayor Saa Emmerson Lamina was suspended in February. At the time, he was in the process of taking Octea to court, arguing that the company should pay property taxes.
An artisanal miner in Koidu shows off diamonds. He hopes to sell them to one of the town’s many dealers.
Koidu residents living within the mine’s 500-meter safety zone are escorted by police and private security officers to safety checkpoints, where they wait for the mine’s bi-weekly blasting to pass.
Sia Momoh’s father, an artisanal miner named Aiah Momoh, was shot and killed by police in 2007 while protesting mining activity. Sia, now 15 years old, lives with her aunts and grandmother and spends her days selling produce and butterscotch around town.
Ibrahim Bokari was shot in the foot by police during an anti-mining protest in 2007. He now leads the Campaign for Just Mining at the Network Movement for Justice and Development, a civil society organization in Koidu.
Jariatu Kamara, the wife of a local chief, was one of several people moved to the resettlement site in 2010 after the mine’s safety zone was expanded to 500 meters. She says that the new house is a welcome improvement to their old property.
Kumba James, left, and her daughter, Kumba Johnbull, were moved to the resettlement site in 2013, which locals call Benghazi. They say that they are frustrated by limited access to water during the dry season, when the resettlement site’s wells dry up.
While waiting for the bi-weekly mine blasting to end, young men pass time by playing football at a security checkpoint. Their homes are within the mine’s 500-meter “safety zone,” which makes them vulnerable to flying debris.
A Koidu resident points out one of the cracks in his house, which he says was caused by vibrations coming from by the mine’s bi-weekly blasts. Many structures in Koidu suffer similar cracks.
Koidu was a rebel stronghold for much of Sierra Leone’s 11-year civil war, and the damage is still visible in many of its buildings.
Aiah Momoh was killed by police during a 2007 anti-mining protest.
This piece is a collaboration between The GroundTruth Project and the International Consortium for Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), by Silas Gbandia, Khadija Sharife, Will Fitzgibbon, Cooper Inveen and Michael Hudson of ICIJ. Read the full story or take a quiz on Africa’s offshore empires.