By Michelle Graff
Debswana employees are pictured here inside the pit of the Orapa mine in Botswana. Debswana, the joint venture between De Beers and the government of Botswana that’s in charge of mining in the country, reported a 6 percent year-over-year increase in production in 2018, due in part to increased production at Orapa. (Photo credit: © De Beers)
London—De Beers’ production rose 6 percent year-over-year in 2018, though sales were down as demand for lower-quality rough diamonds dropped off in the second half of the year.

Parent company Anglo American reported Thursday that De Beers mined 35.3 million carats of diamonds in 2018, compared with 33.5 million carats in 2017. This included a 12 percent increase in fourth quarter production, from 8.1 to 9.1 million carats.

Production in Botswana—De Beers’ top country for diamond mining—was up 6 percent due to a 20 percent total increase in production at three mines: Orapa, Letlhakane and Damtshaa.

In Namibia, production rose 11 percent as the Mafuta crawler (one of the company’s off-shore mining vessels) spent less time in port, though the country’s land mining operations were mothballed. De Beers said last February it was looking for a buyer for Elizabeth Bay but hasn’t found one.

Production in South Africa dropped 10 percent. De Beers has just two diamonds mines left in South Africa, Venetia and Voorspoed, and is set to close Voorspoed, leaving it with one operation in the country.

In Canada, where De Beers also will soon be down to one diamond mine, production rose 19 percent year-over-year due to higher grades at the Victor mine as it nears end-of-life.

Sales came in lower than production.

De Beers sold 33.7 million carats of diamonds in 2018, down 4 percent from 35.1 million carats in 2017, as demand for lower-value rough diamonds declined in the second half of the year.

For the full year, the average realized price was $171 per carat, up 6 percent from $162 per carat in 2017, with fewer lower-value rough diamonds sold during the year.

As previously reported, De Beers forecasts it will mine fewer diamonds in 2019, between 31 and 33 million carats.

It is predicting lower output this year because production at South Africa’s Venetia mine is transitioning from an open-pit operation to underground and because the Victor mine in Canada is scheduled to permanently close in the first half of 2019.

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