27 February 2018

Zimbabwe: No Rush for Zim Return - De Beers

Photo: The Herald
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Leading global diamond trading, exploration and mining company De Beers Group remains focused on other African countries in which it is already established with no rush to return to Zimbabwe, The Herald Business has learnt.

Contrary to early February reports at the African Mining Indaba in Cape Town that Phillip Barton, chief executive officer of De Beers said the group is considering resumption of exploration for diamonds in the Northern Cape by looking in the longer term at opportunities in countries like Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo, De Beers told the Herald Business exploration focus remained around countries it has well established operations.

Apart from Mr Barton's statements, highly placed sources at the Mining Indaba in Cape Town said De Beers chairman Mark Cutifani was part of a private dinner for the Zimbabwean government officials and South African companies at the event. Sources close to the Zimbabwean team said Mr Cutifani appeared enthusiastic although Mines and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando said he was just like any of the many investors at the dinner interested in learning about opportunities in Zimbabwe. Minister Chitando said Mr Cutifani was attending the event in his own capacity and not on behalf of De Beers.

"While we continue to monitor geopolitical matters in countries of interest and are encouraged by the progress being seen in many parts of Africa, including Zimbabwe, De Beers Group's exploration focus remains on those countries where we have well established operations - Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Canada," said the group in e-mailed responses.

The group has operations in 35 countries across the globe and mining activity in Canada and three African countries - Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. Responding to The Herald Business, De Beers also said its strategic focus will result in the closure of older and smaller mines while production expansion will be implemented in other existing assets. Recently the company put up for sale Elizabeth Bay Mine which is owned by Namdeb, a 50/50 joint venture between the Namibian government and De Beers.

This comes amid concerns diamond miners could be in trouble due to the influx of synthetics and an oversupply in the midstream that is made up of manufacturers. De Beers however told The Herald Business diamond demand is stronger than ever before with a positive outlook for its operations.

"In terms of the future outlook for the sector, global consumer demand for diamond jewellery is stronger than it has ever been, particularly in the key consumer market of the US, and demand fundamentals remain supportive of a positive long-term outlook," De Beers said.

With a positive outlook in mind, De Beers said, the company focuses on employing a responsible approach to managing its portfolio of world-class diamond mining assets.

"This includes planning for the responsible closure of older, smaller operations that are nearing the end of their operating life, while also continuing to invest in production capacity expansion in other assets to support our continued production requirements, such as the Venetia Underground Project, the new exploration and sampling vessel the SS Nujoma in Namibia and the Gahcho Kué mine in Canada, as well as planning for future expansions at our mines in Botswana," said De Beers.

The Business Weekly last week reported Parliament has started gathering substantive evidence to build a case that could reach international arbitration, against De Beers Group which collected and exported diamonds when it held only an Exclusive Prospecting Order in the Marange area between 1993 and 1999. Concern was raised in Parliament with legislators agreeing to gather evidence to see if Zimbabwe should sue De Beers.

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