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De Beers Q4 rough diamond output drop as sales continue to improve

29 january 2021
Image credit: De Beers Group

De Beers' fourth-quarter rough diamond output dropped by 14% to 6.7 million carats, driven by continued planned reductions in response to the lower demand for rough diamonds caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and operational challenges at Orapa, in Botswana that led to lower than expected production. 
Anglo American reports that De Beers' production in Botswana decreased by 28% to 4.3 million carats, due to the planned treatment of lower grade material at Jwaneng, where production decreased by 56%. This was, however, partly offset by a 9% increase at Orapa due to a planned improvement in grade, despite a slower than anticipated plant restart in December following scheduled maintenance, as well as power supply interruptions affecting plant availability.
In Namibia production also dropped by 26% to 300 000 carats as the majority of the marine fleet remobilised during the quarter, following the third quarter stoppage. 
Production in South Africa rose to 1.3 million carats due to the expected improvement in ore grade from the last cut of the open pit at Venetia as the mine continues to transition to underground operations.
De Beers' production in Canada eased 23% to 800 000 carats, as maintenance resulted in lower plant throughput.
Meanwhile, Anglo said demand for rough diamonds showed positive trends in the fourth quarter of 2020, and the indications are that encouraging levels of consumer demand for diamond jewellery continued during the holiday season in the US, while China also performed well. 
De Beers' rough diamond sales totalled 6.9 million carats from two sights during the quarter compared with 6.6 million carats from three sights in the third quarter of 2020, and 7 million carats from two sights in the fourth quarter of 2019.
"While it is still too early to signal a strong and sustained recovery, the resilience in demand [despite] ongoing Covid-19 impacts is very encouraging," said Anglo chairperson Mark Cutifani.
The full-year consolidated average realised price decreased by 3% to $133 per carat compared to the previous year's $137 per carat as a 10% reduction in the average rough price index was partly offset by an increased proportion of higher-value rough diamonds sold in 2020.

Mathew Nyaungwa, Editor in Chief of the African Bureau, Rough&Polished