Heavy rainfall in southern Africa, a COVID-19 shutdown in Canada, and planned maintenance all contributed.
A digger loads kimberlite into a haul truck at the Orapa Diamond Mine in Botswana. Heavy rains hampered diamond production in Botswana in the first quarter, De Beers said. (©De Beers, Photo credit: Ben Perry, Armoury Films) London—De Beers Group’s diamond production fell in the first quarter due to a mix of inclement weather, COVID-19, and planned maintenance.
The company mined 7.2 million carats of diamonds, down 7 percent from 7.8 million carats in Q1 2020 and 9 percent from 7.9 million carats in Q1 2019.
De Beers recorded its steepest decline in Namibia, where production fell 34 percent to 338,000 carats.
The marine mining vessel, the Mafuta, was undergoing planned maintenance while another vessel remained sidelined, part of the response to lower demand first implemented in Q3 2020.
Production in Canada dropped 16 percent to 710,000 carats, primarily because a COVID-19 outbreak forced De Beers to close Gahcho Kué in February.
Heavy rainfall impacted diamond mining in Botswana, where a 24 percent reduction at the Orapa mine contributed to the overall 12 percent slide in production to 5 million carats.
South Africa was the first quarter bright spot for De Beers.
Production increased 55 percent to 1.2 million carats due to the planned treatment of higher-grade ore from the final cut of the open pit at Venetia, the company’s sole remaining mine in South Africa.
De Beers said demand for rough diamonds recovered to pre-COVID levels in Q1, as the midstream restocked following strong demand for diamond jewelry in the U.S. and China at the end of 2020.
Rough diamond sales totaled 13.5 million carats from three sights, up from 8.9 million carats from two sights in Q1 2020 and 6.9 million carats from two sights in the fourth quarter 2020.