The decision of diamond giant De Beers to place its Voorspoed diamond mine on the market opens the way for a lower-cost operator to buy the mine and potentially extend its life, the company said last week, when it invited expressions of interest from prospective buyers and appointed Standard Bank as financial adviser on the disposal process.
De Beers, which is currently spending $2-billion on the Venetia underground diamond mining project, in Limpopo, is intent on giving another operator the opportunity to take Voorspoed beyond 2020, when it is scheduled to close.
Potential buyers of the Free State mine will be required to show a record of both technical and financial success, and also meet applicable regulatory and social requirements.
“We believe the most responsible course of action is to give lower-cost operators the opportunity to purchase the mine and potentially extend its life, as this will maximise the benefit for the community and the mine’s workers,” De Beers Consolidated Mines (DBCM) CEO Phillip Barton said in a release to Creamer Media’s Mining Weekly.
As reported earlier this year, De Beers’ exploration programme in South Africa is grinding to a halt, owing to the Department of Minerals Resources (DMR) refusing to approve the 54 prospecting licence applications that the company has submitted in the last two years.
As DBCM has been prevented from augmenting its asset base through exploration, the disposal of Voorspoed will result in the company being down to the Venetia operation alone in South Africa, despite this country remaining highly prospective and De Beers being eager to spend R30-milllion to R40-million a year on exploration, helped by the surfeit of data that it has built up over the last 129 years.
Meanwhile, the Anglo American group company, which has been synonymous with diamonds since 1888, is continuing to invest in other diamond jurisdictions, including neighbouring Botswana, where it is expanding, Canada, where it has brought the Gahcho Kué diamond mine on stream, and Namibia, where it recently launched another diamond- mining ship.