Higher-grade ore boosts De Beers diamond output

Orapa, meaning “resting place for lions”, has been operating since 1971. (Image courtesy of Debswana.)

De Beers, the world’s top diamond producer by value, saw production of roughs climb 4% to 9.6 million carats in the third quarter of the year, compared to the same period of 2021.

The Anglo American unit said the production increase was the result of treatment of higher-grade ore at its Orapa mine, in Botswana, and at its South Africa operations. Strong production growth in Namibia also contributed to the output.

Production in Botswana rose 4% to 6.6 million carats, driven mostly by the treatment of higher-grade ore at Orapa. The growth was partly offset by the processing of lower-grade ore at Jwaneng, the world’s richest diamond mine by value. Production in Namibia increased by 33% to 500,000 carat, primarily driven by continued strong performance from the Benguela Gem vessel.

The miner’s South African operations yielded1.7 million carats of diamonds in the quarter – a 5% year-on-year increase – as a result of the treatment of higher-grade ore and the benefit of plant upgrades.

Canadian production dropped 7% to 700,000 carats due to a mix of lower grade ore and the impact of a tight labour market.

De Beers, which sells its gems through 10 sales each year in Botswana’s capital, Gaborone, to handpicked buyers, said demand for rough diamonds remained steady in the third quarter. It sold 9.1 million carats from three sights, slightly lower than the 9.4 million carats sold from three sights in the second quarter of this year.

De Beers raised prices of rough diamonds throughout much of 2021 in an effort to recover from the first year of the pandemic. The company has benefitted this year from US sanctions on Alrosa PJSC, its Russian rival, which halted sales through much of the spring, prompting buyers to look elsewhere.

Alrosa, however, began quietly selling again in the summer and stones from Russia continue to flow. At the same time, surging inflation threatens wider consumer demand in the US and Europe.

“While consumer demand for natural diamonds continues to be robust, a deterioration of global economic conditions, reduced consumer spending and continued Chinese Covid-19 lockdowns have the potential to impact demand for diamond jewellery,” the miner said.

De Beers, which is in the process of replacing its chief executive officer Bruce Cleaver, kept production guidance for 2022 is unchanged at between 32 million and 34 million carats.