By Michelle Graff
London--Anglo American plc reported that De Beers produced 7.5 million carats of rough diamonds in the first quarter ended March 31, up from 6.4 million carats in the prior-year period.

Planned plant maintenance at the Orapa mine and the cleanup of the June 2012 sidewall failure in the Jwaneng pit contributed to the boost in production. Both mines are located in Botswana, which produces the world’s highest volume of rough diamonds in value terms. 

Total production in Botswana was up 27 percent in the first quarter. 

While production improved on a year-over-year basis, it is down 18 percent as compared with the fourth quarter 2013, when the company mined 9.1 million carats of rough diamonds. 

Heavy rainfall continues to hamper the company’s operations in South Africa, where production fell 7 percent in the first quarter, though improved preparedness mitigated the effects somewhat, Anglo American said. 

Production guidance for fiscal year 2014 remains unchanged, with De Beers expecting to produce 30 to 32 million carats of rough diamonds. That is on par with last year, when the diamond miner and marketer reported that it produced 31.2 million carats of rough.

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Anglo American spent less on both diamond exploration and evaluation in the first quarter. Total exploration expenditure for the company was $35 million, down 27 percent from the first quarter 2013. Diamonds were one of the commodities where spending on exploration was cut the most.

Evaluation expenditure fell 15 percent year-over-year to $47 million, with most of the money going to the company’s copper business.

Anglo American, which also mines platinum, iron ore, copper, nickel and coal, took control of De Beers in August 2012, after the Oppenheimer family sold their remaining stake in the business.

De Beers operates four mines in Botswana in partnership with the government of Botswana, two mines in Namibia in partnership with the government there, three mines in South Africa and two in Canada.  

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