De Beers’ sales volume fell 15% to 7.5 million carats in the first quarter, as overall demand for lower-value rough goods remained soft.
Production for the three months ending March 31 dropped 8% to 7.9 million carats due to lower output from the company’s South African operations. Total carat recovery in the country plunged 65% to 382,000, with the company transitioning its Venetia project from open-pit to underground mining, De Beers said last week. The miner placed its other South African deposit, Voorspoed, on care and maintenance in the fourth quarter of 2018, preparing to close the mine.
Diamond recovery at De Beers’ Orapa mine in Botswana declined 7% due to a plant shutdown. However, overall output for Debswana — the miner’s joint venture with the nation’s government — rose 2% to 6 million carats, as production at Jwaneng increased 12% to 3.3 million carats.
Production in Canada slipped 3% to 1 million carats due to planned recovery of lower grades at Gahcho Kué, which the company owns in partnership with Mountain Province. Output from De Beers’ Namibian operations slid 9% to 483,000 carats.
The first quarter featured two sales cycles, with proceeds falling 19% to $996 million. Demand picked up in April, but combined sales for the first three sights of the year still decreased 11% to $1.6 million. De Beers expects to reduce rough supply to its sightholders, beginning with its May sight, as a result of the lower production. The company has maintained its 2019 production forecast of 31 million to 33 million carats, versus 35.3 million carats in 2018.
Image: The Venetia mine. (De Beers)