Using an actor-oriented approach to political ecology integrated with theory on the social production of scale, this dissertation examines the extent to which diamond exploitation constitutes a resource curse in Sierra Leone, with Kono District as a case-study. It uses social survey methods and remote sensing analysis of Landsat images to (1) evaluate the role of Sierra Leone's diamonds in economic development from a historical lens, (2) examine the extent to which a weak regulatory state apparatus makes a rich diamond endowment more of a curse than a blessing, (3) determine whether geographically diffuse and remotely-located diamonds are more a liability than an asset, and (4) assess whether environmental conditions are worse in diamond than in non-diamond chiefdoms. Results of the study showed that the contribution of diamonds to national economic growth declined precipitously following the politicization of diamonds and growing informalization of mining under the leadership of Siaka Stevens. Growing disenchantment combined with grievances over access to diamond resources and rights, culminating in a civil war fuelled by conflict diamonds. Findings indicated that actors capitalized on a weak regulatory state to fulfill their agendas. Illicit diamond exploitation was mainly driven by corruption, economic constraints and perverse economic incentives. Preferential land allocation to industrial mining following World Bank Group-directed national mining policy reforms and the weakness of the state in ensuring companies' adherence to mining clauses precipitated corporation-community conflicts. Study findings showed that the resource curse was acute on diggers who received less than 1 a day unlike their South American counterparts who made at least 7 daily. Results from the study demonstrate that the spatiality of diamonds also contributed to the resource curse. Illicit diamond mining was more acute in remotely located mining sites than in extractive sites closer to towns, and spatial proximity to Guinea and Liberia facilitated diamond smuggling. Remote sensing analysis and social surveys revealed that negative environmental impacts were more manifested in the diamond mining chiefdoms than in non-mining areas, confirming the environment as major dimensions of the resource curse. The environmental impacts of diamond mining had broader implications as the forest, land, and water were affected. Transformation of fertile lands (wetlands) to mining lands, and without required reclamation, had negative consequences on the agricultural productivity of local residents in mining areas. Examination of power relations constituted the pros and cons of managing diamond exploitation. Policy makers should employ broad-based strategies to empower mining communities so that they can elect credible local governments. Clearly demarcated industrial and artisanal mining zones and equity and transparency in the distribution of mineral revenues could minimize potential conflicts between corporations and mining companies.
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- Geography;Engineering, Mining;Remote Sensing