Stellar Diamonds seeks to fund first post-Ebola mine in Sierra Leone

File Photo: A trader holds a four carat diamond worth about  US$8,000 in the town of Koidu in eastern Sierra Leone.

A trader holds a four carat diamond worth about US$8,000 in the town of Koidu in eastern Sierra Leone, file. REUTERS/Finbarr O’Reilly /File Photo

Stellar Diamonds, a London-listed small-cap, is seeking funding for a $45 million diamond project in Sierra Leone it says will be the first major mining project since the Ebola crisis rocked the country’s economy.

Diamonds and other forms of mining are central to an economy hard hit by the 2015 Ebola epidemic.

Trade in diamonds helped to fuel the decade-long conflict that ended in 2002, but since the lifting of a ban on exports in 2003 and strict international rules, the industry says Sierra Leone’s exceptionally high quality diamonds have become a force for good.

“This is the first large-scale mining licence to be issued by the government since Ebola, creating up to 1,000 jobs,” Stellar CEO Karl Smithson said in an interview.

Initially, Stellar Diamonds planned to buy the diamond prospect through a reverse takeover to acquire acreage from private firm Octea, which already operates Koidu, the biggest diamond mine in Sierra Leone and West Africa. The new project Tongo-Tonguma will be the region’s second biggest, Smithson said.

In an environment in which small players can struggle to raise cash following the 2015-16 commodity crash, Smithson abandoned the reverse takeover plan in favour of a revenue-sharing deal.

That means Stellar will pay a 9.3 percent gross royalty to Octea, which continues to own the Tonguma prospect, while Stellar keeps the adjacent Tongo acreage and operates both.

Between them, Tongo-Tonguma should produce 200,000 carats per year over the 21-year mine life and generate gross revenue of $45 million annually.

For a small-cap, the advantage of the deal is it gets rid of the need to raise all the money upfront and means work can begin quickly – Smithson hopes next year.

To provide working capital, meanwhile, the company this week announced a share issue and an open offer to minority shareholders to raise roughly 500,000 pounds ($676,700).

Its share price, which was suspended for half a year while the reverse takeover was considered, has fallen more than 50 percent this year.

Stellar Diamonds expects to raise cash from a deal agreed earlier this year to sell its assets in Guinea to BDG Capital Limited, although Smithson said the final price would be less than the $2 million figure initially announced.

BSG Resources (BSGR) said it could not comment as the Octea deal was still being finalised.

The group was founded by Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz, who is now an advisor and not involved in daily business.

($1 = 0.7389 pounds)

Originally reported by Reuters.

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Kenya central bank holds benchmark lending rate at 10.0 pct

Kenya shilling coins and notes are pictured inside a cashier's booth at a forex exchange bureau in Kenya's capital Nairobi

Kenya shilling coins and notes are pictured inside a cashier’s booth at a forex exchange bureau in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, April 20, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Kenya’s central bank held its main lending rate at 10.0 percent as expected on Monday, saying food supplies were likely to improve and lower pressure on inflation.

The Monetary Policy Committee said inflation rose by half a percentage point to 8.0 percent last month, mainly due to shortages of some foods, including tomatoes, because of transport disruptions after the Aug. 8 national election.

Demand for rice, wheat flour and other food had risen before the election, leading to shortages.

“A normalization of supply, the expected short rains, and supportive measures taken by the Government are expected to further lower food prices in the near term,” the MPC said.

Gross bad debts in the banking sector had jumped to 10.7 percent in the year to August from 9.9 percent in June, the committee said, adding private sector credit growth had ticked up to 1.6 percent in the year to August, from 1.4 percent in July.

The inching up of credit growth in the period was the first reversal of a downward trend since August 2015, the MPC said.

The market largely expected the bank to keep the rate it has held since November last year, the consensus estimate in a Reuters poll showed.

Originally reported by Reuters.

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Sierra Leone Pastor Discovers 706-Carat Diamond

An undated picture of a 706-carat diamond discovered by pastor Emmanuel Momoh in eastern Sierra Leone

An undated picture released March 16, 2017 of a 706-carat diamond discovered by pastor Emmanuel Momoh in eastern Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone State House/Handout via Reuters 

A Christian pastor has found one of the world’s largest uncut diamonds – weighing 706 carats — in Sierra Leone’s eastern Kono region.

The stone, a photograph of which was posted on the president’s official website, is being stored in the country’s central bank, government sources said.

A local chief from Kono handed the stone to President Ernest Bai Koroma on behalf of Emmanuel Momoh who made the discovery. The government plans to auction it.

The presidency said in a statement on Thursday that Koroma thanked the chief who acted as an intermediary for not smuggling it out of the country.

Diamonds fueled a decade-long civil war that ended in 2002 in which 50,000 people were killed. Rebels forced civilians in the east to mine the stones and bought weapons with the proceeds, leading to the term ‘blood diamonds’.

“He (Koroma) underscored the importance of selling such a diamond here as it will clearly give the owners what is due them and benefit the country as a whole,” the statement said.

The stone is yet to be valued but could be worth millions of dollars. Sierra Leone’s gross national income per capita stood at $620 in 2015, according to World Bank data.

The United Nations lifted a ban on diamond exports from Sierra Leone in 2003. The International Monetary Fund expects the country to export $113 million worth of diamonds this year though the sector remains plagued by smuggling.

Despite its size, this week’s discovery is considerably smaller than the Cullinan diamond, which was found in South Africa in 1905. That 3,106-carat stone was cut into several polished gems and the two largest pieces are part of Britain’s crown jewels.

A 1,111-carat diamond was unearthed in a Botswana mine in 2015.

Originally reported by Reuters.

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Nigeria Determined To Overcome Recession This Year

Nigeria is determined to emerge from its first recession in a quarter of a century this year and needs to put more effort in revamping its infrastructure, its budget minister said on Wednesday.

Udoma Udo Udoma said the economy was beginning to recover after it experienced a smaller contraction in the fourth quarter, although it was still in a recession.

“The 2017 budget is structured to do just that … we are anxious to get the budget passed so that we can begin the implementation and begin to take all the steps we need to get the economy out of recession,” he told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

Originally reported by Reuters.

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African Grey Parrot has Global Summit to Thank for Protected Status

The loquacious African grey parrot, one of the most illegally trafficked birds in the world, has been talking itself towards extinction for years thanks to its reputation as a gregarious and long-living pet.

On Sunday it was given extra protection after a global wildlife summit agreed a ban on the international trade.

“If this bird could talk, the African grey parrot would say thank you,” said Susan Lieberman, of the Wildlife Conservation Society. “Now, with the protection, the voice of the African grey parrot will not be silenced across the great forests of Africa.”

Between 2 and 3 million of the parrots have been taken from the wild in the past 40 years and populations of the species have plummeted across its range in west, central and eastern Africa.

The 182 nations gathered in Johannesburg for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) tackled the crisis on Thursday, but only after an acrimonious debate and a rare secret vote. The result went 95 to 35 in favour of awarding the African grey the highest level of protection, which bans all international trade. Captive-bred birds can still be traded but only if facilities register with Cites.

african-grey-parrots

African Grey Parrot

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, home to the largest African grey parrot population, argued strenuously against the new ban, saying it was based on a “doubtful hypothesis yet to be proved”. But the proposal, put forward by Gabon and six other African nations plus the EU and US, was passed, with the Ivory Coast delegate saying: “Birds know no borders, so we have to work together.”

Colman O’Criodain, of WWF, said: “A total ban on international commercial trade in wild African grey parrots is a huge step forward and will help to protect this extraordinary species from the rampant trapping and trading that has contributed to population collapses and local extinctions across Africa in recent decades.

“Fraud and corruption have enabled traffickers to vastly exceed current quotas and continue to harvest unsustainable numbers of African grey parrots from Congo’s forests to feed the illegal trade. Banning the trade will make it easier for law enforcement agencies to crack down on the poachers and smugglers and give the remaining wild populations some much-needed breathing space.”

The African grey parrot is a popular pet not only for its ability to chat, but also for its longevity: it can live up to 50 years. One famous African grey, called Alex, lived to 30 and was able to communicate using 100 words.

The African grey is a gregarious bird, making it easy for trappers to cast nets over flocks of dozens at a time. But about 50% of the birds die before reaching their destination.

Feathers flew among the Cites nations over a proposal to downgrade the protection for the world’s fastest creature, the peregrine falcon. It currently has the highest level of protection, following a plunge in its population from the 1950s to the 1970s as pesticides, including DDT, wrought havoc. Persecution by farmers and egg collecting also hit the falcons’ numbers.

peregrine-falcons-3

Peregrine Falcon

However, the population has rebounded and there are now about 300,000 spread all over the globe. The raptor has adapted to the spread of towns and cities by learning to catch feral pigeons. Furthermore, only 500 or so falcons are officially traded every year, almost all of which are bred in captivity, according to Canada, which led the proposal.

The downgrade was supported by Arab states, where falconry is popular. “It is part of our history and heritage,” said the delegate from the UAE, who said falcon “passports” ensured only captive-bred falcons were used. Some conservation groups also backed the downgrade. “The recovery of this species from catastrophic decline is one of the great conservation success stories,” said O’Criodain. “It is time this is recognised.”

However, the Pro-Wildlife conservation group said several local populations were still vulnerable, especially those with unusual colour variations, which can fetch $50,000 on the black market.

The EU opposed the downgrade, arguing it would increase the demand for wild-caught falcons. Iran’s delegate also opposed it, claiming that 300 illegally caught peregrines had been seized in one operation in 2014. “We have a very big problem with poachers all around the country, and even the injuring or killing of wildlife rangers,” he said.

The proposal was forced to a vote and was defeated 57-52.

Originally reported by The Guardian.

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Rwanda’s Tourism Earnings Seen Up 25% In 2016 From Last Year – Official

Rwanda expects to boost its revenue earnings from tourism this year by 25.8 percent from 2015, helped by extra attractions including a new game park, an official told Reuters late on Friday.

The central African country famed for rolling green hills and treks to see endangered gorillas on the slopes of the Virunga Mountains, sees tourist earnings reaching $400 million this year, up from $318 million in 2015.

Francis Gatare chief executive officer of state-run Rwanda Development Board (RDB) told Reuters that Rwanda wanted to maximise earnings from visitors “by giving several opportunities so that they (visitors) can increase the length of stay in the country.”

A new national park called Gishwati-Mukura, the country’s fourth, a “cultural village” in the capital Kigali, a vast new hospitality facility called the Kigali Convention Centre, and new adventure activities on Lake Kivu would drive revenue growth, Gatare said.

Rwanda is credited with rapid growth since the 1994 genocide that claimed the lives of 800,000 people but critics of incumbent President Paul Kagame say his authoritarian style undermines the potential for long-term political stability.

The nation’s misty valleys and mountain gorillas are a strong magnet for tourists and visitor numbers in 2016 are expected to increase by 4 per cent up from 1.3 million in 2015.

Originally reported by Reuters.

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Zimbabwe Plans To Use Drones To Fight Elephant Poaching

Zimbabwe plans to deploy aerial drones in its biggest wildlife sanctuary in the west to combat poaching of elephants, a parks official said on Monday, as the country aims to protect one of its top tourist attractions.

Tourism contributes 11 percent to Zimbabwe’s $14 billion economy, according to Ministry of Tourism data, with the country’s wildlife parks popular with overseas visitors.

Poachers have in the last two years killed dozens of elephants in Hwange National Park by lacing watering holes with cyanide, a toxic substance that kills within hours. Hwange holds two thirds of Zimbabwe’s 80,000 elephants.

Cephas Mudenda, a board member of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) told a committee of parliament that the agency had bought two drones, as well as sniffer dogs from South Africa.

The parks authority is struggling with lack of funding and plans to gradually increase the number of game wardens. Mudenda said ZPWMA had about 2,000 employees, instead of 3,200.

Originally reported by Reuters.

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CWIIL Group of Companies is a global group of multi-specialized units with diversified interests and activities, wherein each company is a separate legal entity registered under prevailing laws in different parts of the world. CWIIL Group of Companies Products, Services, Project and Solutions are in a multitude of Verticals including, but not limited to, Infrastructure, Power, Oil & Gas, Legal, Media, Technology, ITES, HR, Shipping, Aviation, Real Estate, Hospitals, Health and Medicine, Education, Funding & Investment, Business and Legal Consultancy, and Public Private Partnerships, and other CWIIL Group Units, worldwide, to name a few.

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