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Petra Diamonds taking comfort from underlying fundamental market support

Petra Diamonds CEO Richard Duffy: presentation covered by Mining Weekly’s Martin Creamer. Video: Darlene Creamer.

25th October 2022

By: Martin Creamer

Creamer Media Editor


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JOHANNESBURG ( – Notwithstanding the recent softening of the diamond market and issues that have affected production at the Cullinan and Finch diamond mines, Petra Diamonds remains in a strong position, being considerably more resilient through its strengthened balance sheet and the implementation of its operating model, together with ongoing cash generation.

Petra CEO Richard Duffy highlighted this before reiterating guidance for the company’s financial year 2023 (FY23) and taking comfort from the underlying fundamental market support as a result of the structural supply deficit, regardless of any short-term volatility relating to prevailing macroeconomic challenges. (Also watch attached Creamer Media video.)

The London Stock Exchange-listed Jersey-headquartered diamond mining and marketing company produced 763 220 ct in the three months to the end of September, when 3 147 731 t were treated, 520 000 ct sold, and $104.3-million worth of revenue generated.

At the Williamson diamond mine, in Tanzania, ore processed in the three months to the end of September increased 22% year-on-year.

Finsch production was 2% higher than in the last quarter of the 2022 financial year and Cullinan production was down 13% year-on year to 763 220 ct owing to lower grades.

Options for a responsible exit at Koffiefontein diamond mine are being explored as the mine approaches the end of its mine plan. This is being done in close consultation with its stakeholders, in particular the workforce.

The company has maintained its production guidance for the year, although this will likely be towards the lower end of the range for Cullinan mine and Finsch, the company stated in a release to Mining Weekly.

Lost time injury frequency improved 48% year-on-year, ore processed rose 22%, and gross debt reduced by $143.6-million during the quarter.

Cullinan mined and treated 1.1-million tonnes for the quarter and run-of-mine grades at 33.2 cpht were in line with those achieved in the last quarter of FY22.

This is attributable to a lower run-of-mine (RoM) grade resulting from the previously announced change in the ore make-up of the C-Cut block cave footprint as the production progresses from southwest to northeast due to cave maturity with a higher proportion of cave waste. Various options are being considered to mitigate this impact.

Finsch tonnes from underground were negatively impacted by a safety stoppage notice and lower tunnel availability on 73 and 75 levels. RoM grade benefitted from enhanced drill, blast and draw controls previously reported on, as well as certain changes effected in the treatment plant.

“We continue to benefit from the operational improvements we have made across the business which provide for greater stability and resilience.

“We will continue to seek to mitigate the impact of the recent challenges experienced at Cullinan mine and Finsch and remain confident in our ability to generate cash to fund capex, allow further deleveraging and the payment of dividends,” said Duffy.

“While our operations have benefitted from a weaker rand, we continue to closely monitor the current macro-economic uncertainties, particularly the impact of inflation on our cost base, and the impact of sanctions on Russian producers as well as the ongoing implications of Covid on demand in China.

“The backdrop of structural changes to the supply and demand fundamentals in the diamond market remains unchanged and we anticipate it to remain supportive going forward, although we expect some short-term volatility driven largely by the ongoing lockdowns in China,” he added.

Petra has extended the closing of its second sales tender for FY23 for a portion of its gem and near gem quality goods as a result of unusual market conditions.

These are Duffy’s answers to questions put to him by investors:

What do you see as realistic options for Koffiefontein mine as you look to exit?

As we announced, we had been through a process in looking at options for us to exit Koffiefontein and we have now announced that on the back of a process to look for a potential buyer, we didn’t receive any offers from that route. As a result of that, we’re engaging with our key stakeholders, which are employees, organised labour as well as the Department of Mineral Resources to look at a sensible way forward to reduce the cash burn at Koffiefontein. It’s been a marginal operation in our hands for a number of years and we’re exploring how we sensibly and responsibly exit. That is currently work in progress. There are processes we need to follow. We’re doing that and we’ll keep you posted as that process unfolds.

What is the plan regarding the payment of a dividend?

We did, together with our full-year 2022 results, announce that we had approved a dividend policy. We as a board will consider the possibility of dividends against that dividend policy and we would be doing that together with our interim results, which will be in and around February of next year.

Are there any further monies due from the Williamson parcel of diamonds that were taken away a few years ago?

We announced that we had concluded the framework agreement with the government of Tanzania in December and as part of that framework agreement, we referenced the seized parcel of diamonds, which was around $14-million to $15-million. That framework agreement references that the government of Tanzania would contribute the proceeds from the sale of that parcel to the mine itself. That was set out in the agreement. There were also various payments that the mine would make as part of that settlement, to the government of Tanzania. The parcel has not yet been sold. The proceeds from the parcel once sold will be contributed to Williamson. That hasn’t yet happened and we continue to engage with government. The agreement isn’t yet effective. We’re in the process of completing some conditions precedent and getting various regulatory approvals. That’s all happening, but it hasn’t concluded as yet.

Do you see a mid- to long-term bifurcation of the rough diamond market due to sanctions on Russian supply by the US and possibly the EU as well?

That’s a difficult question to answer definitively. It’s all a little bit in a state of flux at the moment. We’ve seen some slowdown in supply of smaller size categories to the market, which we attribute to some difficulty in the normal supply and payment chains associated with Alrosa production. They typically produce small size ranges. There seems to be some disruption but it would appear that Russian diamonds are still finding their way to the market. A number of retailers have required certification that the diamonds they purchase are not Russian sourced and if sanctions are extended by the US and EU, then you may see that result. From our side, we continue to supply the market, we are able to clearly detail the provenance and the source of our diamonds and we’re also able to supply information around the benefits that accrue as a result of purchasing those diamonds. We just have to watch how this evolves and if sanctions are extended further through the supply chain than is the case now, you may see some bifurcation, but right now, I think it’s still in a state of flux.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter


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