De Beers Trims Production Plan for Coming Years

De Beers’ Venetia mine in South Africa

De Beers has reduced its production plan for the next two years, aiming to avoid releasing too much rough into the market as the diamond sector attempts to exit the crisis that dominated 2020.

The miner expects to unearth 33 million to 35 million carats in 2021, down from its previous forecast of 34 million to 36 million carats, parent company Anglo American said Friday in a presentation to investors. Output in 2022 will range from 30 million to 33 million carats — compared with earlier guidance of 33 million to 35 million carats — and will remain at the same level in 2023.

De Beers will produce around 26 million carats this year, after the pandemic prompted management to rethink the previous outlook of 32 million to 34 million carats.

“There’s an appropriate degree of prudence being exercised in what we’re forecasting going forward, and we certainly aren’t going to be a contributor to overstocking across the industry now,” said Anglo American CEO Mark Cutifani. “Given the supply situation, we’re going to watch that very carefully. We won’t push more production out there unless we’re comfortable prices are going to increase.”

The adjusted figures came despite De Beers’ expectations of limited global supply, with around 30 million carats dropping out of the pipeline as a result of Covid-19 and the closure of the Argyle mine, he estimated. At least two-thirds of that is unlikely to come back into the market, the executive pointed out. Meanwhile, Cutifani noted signs of a recovery in demand after a difficult year for the industry.

“[It’s] a bit early to call how the Thanksgiving [to] New Year selling season will go, but so far [it’s] quite encouraging despite the obvious Covid issues in the US,” he explained. “China’s been very strong. So far, things are going pretty well.”

However, caution is necessary following a string of major internal and external events that have derailed the diamond market in recent years. Those include a credit crisis in the Indian market in 2018, as well as the US government shutdown that occurred in late 2018 and early 2019, the CEO warned.

Separately, De Beers has made an advance purchase of rough from Debswana, its joint venture with the Botswana government, providing the company with inventory to sell in the first quarter if the demand recovery continues. It also received a one-year extension to negotiations with the African country over their sales deal, after the pandemic prevented the parties from reaching an agreement this year. The 10-year arrangement was due to expire on December 31, 2020.