Fascinating World of Diamonds…In Three Weeks

Bruce Cleaver
Bruce Cleaver

Gaborone: The past few weeks have proven to be a very significant time for the business for very different reasons.

I have found them to be immensely rewarding, encapsulating everything that makes the diamond sector so varied and so interesting. They have reminded me, if I needed reminding, how fascinating is the world of diamonds and how dedicated and interesting are the people who work in and around it.

First, at the beginning of September, we published our latest socio-economic impact report, focused on our operations in Canada. It highlights the economic impact De Beers’ activities have had over the more than 50 years we have been in the country.

Beginning with our first exploration programme in 1961, through to the opening of our newest mine just last month, we have been at the forefront of Canada’s diamond developments.

Pleasingly, this has helped bolster Canada’s position as third largest diamond-producing country in the world, by value, and has led to an estimated contribution of C$7.1 billion to the Canadian economy from De Beers’ activities in Canada over the past decade alone.

The launch of the socio-economic impact report was soon followed by the publication of our Diamond Insight Report 2016, which explores the industry’s fundamentals and the factors influencing them.

In the report, our third in as many years, we took an in-depth look at ‘Millennials’ – people born between 1981 and 2000 – highlighting their importance to the diamond industry. They represent the largest consumer market for diamond jewellery and they have yet to reach their maximum earning potential.

We unveiled the 2016 report at the Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair, one of the main global trade events in the diamond industry’s year. There was considerable interest in the report at the fair and in the days following.

Indeed, such was this interest that I spent two days talking to various stakeholders and media, who mostly focused on Millennials and the future of diamonds. I sought to underline the report’s finding that it is a myth to suggest Millennials are not interested in diamond jewellery. They are and, to an extent, they hold the very future of the industry in their hands.

Meeting the anticipated demand from Millennials is something our new Gahcho Kué Mine in Canada’s Northwest Territories is in prime position to do.

Its official opening took place towards the end of September and, as I have been working closely on the project since I joined De Beers a decade ago, to see it happen so soon after I took the reins as CEO made me very proud.

The opening was a very special occasion, with leaders from the First Nations communities who are hosting our mining activities joining us for it. We are a business that relies on partnerships, and our partnerships with communities of this kind are critical.

The mine is our third in Canada, likely to deliver 54 million carats from around 35 million tonnes of scheduled material over its lifetime, and will ensure the country stays firmly on the diamond map.

The day after the opening, I was invited to New York to participate in the second US-Africa Business Forum, an event to discuss investment in Africa – with US President Barack Obama and other world leaders, such as South Africa President Jacob Zuma.

While there, I was able to speak to a number of media outlets, including CNN and Bloomberg, about the importance of stronger ties between the two regions.

The US is our biggest market for diamond jewellery sales and we are huge investors in Africa, particularly sub-Saharan Africa. With major mining operations in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, we can provide a hands-on perspective at such events.

Our investment there, as well as our investment in Canada, is sustainable investment. Our aims when we invest are to boost our partner countries’ economies and to help them develop a diverse economy for when the mines close, in addition to delivering healthy financial returns for us and our government and business partners.

So, all in all, a rather busy few weeks. But, as a business that must be fleet of foot in a fast-paced sector, we continue to show that the foundations we’ve laid are more than stable enough for the momentum we maintain.

Posted by Bruce Cleaver, CEO, De Beers Group