MINING. Sierra Leone is endowed with many mineral resources. Prospects for minerals began in 1926 and reserves of iron, gold, diamonds, platinum, chromite, bauxite, and rutile (a titanium ore) were quickly found. The first diamond was discovered in 1930 and mining began 2 years later. Bauxite mining began in 1963 and reserves are estimated at nearly 50 million tons with a high alumina content of 55 to 56 percent. Exploitation of the estimated 170 million tons of rutile started in 1967. The country has one of the world's largest deposits of rutile. At the height of production in the 1970s, Sierra Leone was ranked as the fourth largest producer of gem diamonds in the world.
The country's civil unrest has caused serious problems in the mining sector. All mining permissions have been suspended since January 2000. Although diamonds and rutile have historically played major roles in Sierra Leone's economy, the war has caused legitimate mining production to virtually cease and has increased smuggling of diamonds from the country. In addition, the exploration of potentially valuable amounts of gold and bauxite in the country has been interrupted.