De Beers’ Diamond Production Flat in Q1
De Beers said the main reason production leveled off in the first quarter is Venetia, which is transitioning to an underground operation.
First-quarter diamond production totaled 8.93 million carats for De Beers, compared with 8.94 million carats in the first quarter 2022, the company reported Tuesday.
Compared with the fourth quarter 2022 (8.2 million carats), production was up 10 percent.
In three of the countries where De Beers operates—Botswana, Namibia, and Canada—first-quarter production was positive year-over-year, but those gains were offset by South Africa, where production fell 56 percent to 739,000 carats as the country’s only diamond mine moves from an open-pit to an underground operation.
The open pit at Venetia closed at the end of 2022, and workers there currently are only processing lower-grade surface stockpiles while the mine transitions.
De Beers began working on taking Venetia underground in 2013, a $2 billion project expected to extend the life of the mine to 2046 and produce around 94 million carats.
In Botswana, which accounts for more than 75 percent of De Beers’ total production, diamond production increased 12 percent year-over-year in the first quarter to 6.9 million carats, driven by planned treatment of higher-grade ore and the continued robust performance of the processing plant at the Orapa mine.
De Beers and the government of Botswana are in the midst of renegotiating their sales agreement, which originally expired at the end of 2020. The two parties have extended the deadline to reach a new agreement three times.
The current sales contract is set to expire in June.
Production in neighboring Namibia, meanwhile, was up 37 percent to 619,000 carats due to the continued output of the new marine mining vessel, the Benguela Gem.
In Canada, production rose 11 percent to 673,000 carats despite unplanned maintenance challenges, De Beers said.
De Beers’ release on its Q1 production results repeated what new CEO Al Cook said earlier this year—sightholders are pushing rough diamond purchases until later in the year because of economic uncertainty.
In volume terms, rough diamond sales have totaled 9.7 million from three sights so far this year compared with 7.9 million carats from two sights in the first quarter 2022, and 7.3 million carats from two sights in the fourth quarter 2022.
De Beers said its production guidance for the year remains unchanged at 30 million to 33 million carats, down from the 34 million carats it mined in 2022.
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