Anglo American has published its 2019 results which showed that its diamond unit, De Beers’ total revenue r went down by 24% to US$4.6 billion, with rough diamond sales falling by 26% to US$4.0 billion.
The mining giants said in its preliminary results for 2019 that rough diamond production decreased by 13% to 30.8 million carats (2018: 35.3 million carats), primarily driven by a reduction in South Africa. It noted that “while trading conditions have improved somewhat since the third quarter of the year, production was lower in response to softer rough diamond demand conditions compared with 2018”.
In Botswana, production was 4% lower at 23.3 million carats (2018: 24.1 million carats). Production at Jwaneng increased by 5% to 12.5 million carats (2018: 11.9 million carats) as throughput rose to partly offset a 12% decrease at Orapa to 10.8 million carats (2018: 12.2 million carats), owing to a delay in an infrastructure project and expected lower grades.
In Namibia, production decreased by 15% to 1.7 million carats (2018: 2.0 million carats). Output from the marine operation declined by 10% owing to routine planned maintenance for the Mafuta vessel. Production at the land operations decreased by 29% to 0.4 million carats (2018: 0.6 million carats) as a result of placing Elizabeth Bay onto care and maintenance in December 2018. In September 2019, the sale of Elizabeth Bay was announced.
In South Africa, production decreased by 59% to 1.9 million carats (2018: 4.7 million carats) as the mining sequence at the Venetia open pit had a higher waste to ore ratio as it moves into its final years, prior to the transition to underground. Production at Voorspoed ceased following the operation being placed onto care and maintenance in the final quarter of 2018.
In Canada, production decreased by 13% to 3.9 million carats (2018: 4.5 million carats) as Victor reached the end of its life during the second quarter of 2019, resulting in a 55% decrease in output to 0.4 million carats (2018: 0.9 million carats). Gahcho Kué maintained output at 3.5 million carats (2018: 3.5 million carats), with a planned grade reduction offset by strong plant performance.
Anglo said a range of factors created significant challenges for rough diamond demand in 2019: in late 2018, stock market volatility and US-China trade tensions resulted in lower than expected holiday retail sales, which led to higher than anticipated stock levels in the industry’s midstream at the start of 2019. “Throughout the course of 2019, the midstream inventory position was under further pressure due to the closure of some US ‘bricks and mortar’ retail outlets, an increase in online purchasing (where inventory levels are lower), and retailers increasing their stock held on consignment. Tighter financing also affected the midstream’s ability to hold stock, all of which resulted in lower demand for rough diamonds,” Anglo said.
“In US dollar terms, global consumer demand for diamond jewellery was broadly flat in 2019. This was despite the challenges of increased uncertainty around the economic outlook owing to the continued US-China trade tensions, as well as the impact of the Hong Kong protests and certain macro-economic issues affecting consumer confidence in India. US consumer demand remained reasonably strong, but growth in local currency terms in China and Japan was offset by the strength of the US dollar, while demand from India and the Gulf declined.”