De Beers’ rough prices spiked in the first half of 2021 as supply shortages coincided with buoyant diamond demand at the trade and retail levels.
The miner’s price index rose 14% during the six months, reflecting “tightness in inventories across the diamond value chain, as well as positive consumer demand for polished diamonds,” parent company Anglo American said Tuesday.
De Beers implemented price increases at its January, February and June sights, with an emphasis on the larger categories of rough. This brought prices back to pre-pandemic levels: The index for the first half was flat versus the same period of 2020, the company reported.
Sales volume at De Beers rose to 7.3 million carats in the second quarter from just 300,000 carats a year earlier during the peak of the coronavirus crisis. The average sales price advanced 13% to $135 per carat as demand shifted to higher-value rough.
“Consumer demand for polished diamonds continued to recover, leading to strong demand for rough diamonds from midstream cutting and polishing centers, despite the impact on capacity from the severe Covid-19 wave in India during April and May,” the miner said.
Meanwhile, production more than doubled to 8.2 million carats for the quarter versus 3.5 million carats last year, reflecting planned increases to meet the stronger rough demand, as well as the sharp impact of lockdowns in southern Africa in 2020.
With half of 2021 now over, De Beers was able to give a more specific production outlook for the full year, predicting output of 32 million to 33 million carats — compared with a previous plan of 32 million to 34 million carats. The company has already reduced its guidance for the year twice because of operational issues at mines.
“Most of the impact on production for the year as a whole is a result of the challenges we experienced earlier in the year, particularly with excessive rainfall in southern Africa, the Covid-19-related shutdown in Canada, and power supply disruptions in Botswana,” a De Beers spokesperson commented. “We still expect production in the second half of the year to be significantly above the 15.4 million carats produced in the first half of the year, however, and this will take us to the narrower guided range.”
In the second quarter, output in Botswana more than tripled to 5.7 million carats from 1.8 million carats a year before. Production in Namibia slipped 6% to 338,000 carats, as one of the company’s mining vessels underwent planned maintenance and another remained demobilized.
Output in South Africa more than doubled to 1.3 million carats from 555,000 because the company processed higher-grade ore at the Venetia mine. Canada’s production climbed 14% to 899,000 carats, mainly reflecting the comparison with last year’s slowdown.