JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – In the six months to June 30, rough diamond production of the De Beers Group increased by 10% to 16.9-million carats, reflecting a strong operational performance and higher planned levels of production to meet continued strong demand for rough diamonds.
Underlying earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) increased by 55% on sales recovery and unit costs were flat at $59/ct.
“I'm really pleased to report a very strong set of results for the first half of 2022. We reported a revenue of $3.6-billion and an Ebitda of $944-million – and this is on the back of some really strong production from across our portfolio,” De Beers Group CFO Sarah Kuijlaars told Mining Weekly in a Zoom interview. (Also watch attached Creamer Media video.)
“It all starts with production and safe production, and we produced 16.9-million carats, which is a very strong performance – and up from 2021. We had good operational performance across all our assets, and this is in contrast with the beginning of 2021, when our assets, particularly in South Africa, were impacted by heavy rainfall, and this year, we've had a really strong operational excellence across all assets.
“We're at the last cut in the Venetia openpit, so it's a really important part of getting the remaining carats from open pits before we transition to the underground in 2023,” said Kuijlaars.
The new diamond recovery Benguela Gem vessel came in ahead of schedule, ahead of budget, and is contributing markedly to the high-quality carats coming from Namibia.
“Looking ahead, I think we've got to acknowledge that with inflation and more vulnerability on the macroeconomic environment, there's a bit more uncertainty ahead, so I think we've got a more cautious approach for the remaining six months of the year," added Kuijlaars.
Total revenue increased to $3.6-billion with rough diamond sales rising to $3.3-billion as the midstream replenished stocks following strong consumer demand over the holiday season.
Rough diamond sales volumes totalled 15.3-million carats and the average realised price rose by 58% to $213/ct, driven by a larger proportion of higher value rough diamonds sold, as well as growth in the De Beers rough diamond price index. The rough price index increased by 28% compared with the same period in the prior year, reflecting positive consumer demand for diamond jewellery as well as tightness in inventories across the diamond value chain.
Capital expenditure increased by 22% to $250-million, largely owing to a ramp-up in the Venetia Underground project, ahead of first production in 2023.
In Botswana, production increased by 10% to 11.7-million carats owing to increased processing at both Orapa and Jwaneng, as well as planned higher grade at Orapa. The Government of the Republic of Botswana and De Beers Group have extended their existing agreement for the sale of Debswana’s rough diamond production by 12 months until June 30, 2023. Following further positive progress towards a new agreement being made in the first half of 2022, the two parties have agreed to the one-year extension to enable the finalisation of the ongoing discussions.
Namibia production increased by 50% to one-million carats, primarily owing to continued strong performance from the Benguela Gem in the first quarter of 2022.
South Africa production increased by 20% to 2.9-million carats on the treatment of higher grade ore from the final cut of the opencast mine at Venetia.
Production in Canada decreased by 22% to 1.2-million carats, mainly as a result of treating lower grade ore and Covid-related absenteeism.
Mining Weekly: What are you guiding?
Kuijlaars: On the production side, we've increased our guidance to 32-million to 34-million carats, and that reflects the strong reduction beginning of the year and reflects our confidence in the longer-term market for diamonds. But you're aware we don't give any more forward-looking guidance on prices.
How much growth capital is De Beers Group spending in 2022?
We invested $250-million in the first half of the year, the majority of that in Venetia in South Africa, and this is part of the real investment in the Venetian underground. The project has made huge progress in the last six months and I was fortunate to be down at Venetia with the DBCM board, and it's great to see the progress they've made in the last 18 months and they're on track for first production in the underground in the first half of 2023.
Gem diamonds continue to sparkle, no matter what happens in the world. Why is that sparkle always so bright?
It's really great to reflect on the strength of the market in the first half of the year. As you're aware our largest market is the US and that has continued to see strong growth. And it's great to see the confidence that consumers continue to have in our product. China has obviously had a difficult first half where lockdowns have impacted the behaviour of consumers, but even there as lockdown has been lifted in June, we do see a healthy uptick in consumer behaviour in China.
What should be the biggest takeaway from these results?
It's a great strong set of results from us, and I really appreciate all the effort from around the globe that sets us up for the future. We recognise there could be more uncertainties in the future, but the value of De Beers diamonds is absolutely front and centre for our consumers. I think it's also worth highlighting that provenance has been even more important in the first half and you'll see that we've announced the scaling and acceleration of our TracrTM blockchain capability to give our customers the confidence that they're buying a De Beers diamond absolutely aligned with our Building Forever commitments.