By Michelle Graff
Both De Beers Group and Alrosa released second-quarter sales and production results Thursday. Both were down as COVID-19 restrictions brought mining to a halt and hampered diamond demand worldwide. (Image courtesy of De Beers Group)
New York—Production fell by 30-50 percent in the second quarter for the world’s two largest diamond mining companies as they shut down mines due to the coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdowns.

Alrosa, which is cutting production by as much as 18 percent this year, reported Thursday Q2 production fell 29 percent quarter-to-quarter and is down 42 percent year-over-year to 5.7 million carats.

Year-to-date production is down 22 percent to 13.7 million carats.

For De Beers, production dropped 54 percent year-over-year in the second quarter to 3.5 million carats, due primarily to restrictions in southern Africa, the company said.

In Botswana, the company’s biggest producer, De Beers mined 1.8 million carats in Q2, down 68 percent year-over-year due to a nationwide lockdown from April 2 to May 18 and the implementation of COVID-19 safety measures for the workforce.

Operations restarted in mid-May, with production targeted at levels to meet the lower demand.

Production in South Africa slipped 3 percent but rose 7 percent in Namibia, where De Beers was able to continue off-shore mining despite the lockdowns on land.

De Beers also saw production fall in Canada, decreasing 27 percent due to the Victor mine no longer being in operation and the COVID-19 safety measures put in place at Gahcho Kué, its lone active mine in Canada.

The company aims to cut production by as much as 26 percent this year.

2016 Gahcho KueA file photo of Gahcho Kué, De Beers’ only remaining mine in the Canada. The diamond miner and marketer’s production in Canada totaled 789,000 carats in the second quarter, down from 1.1 million in Q2 2019.

Also on Thursday, both companies released figures on Q2 sales, which also took a nosedive due to the drop in demand caused by COVID-19 as both miners continue to let customers defer purchases.

Alrosa’s preliminary results show Q2 sales totaled 634,000 carats, 361,000 of which were gem-quality, a mere fraction of the 8.3 million carats sold in the second quarter 2019.

In the first six months of 2020, Alrosa has sold 10.1 million carats of rough diamonds, down 47 percent from 18.9 million carats in the first half of last year.

In the second quarter, Alrosa said the diamond price index was down less than 2 percent quarter-to-quarter and has slipped only 2 percent year-to-date, which the company tributes to its “price-over-volume” strategy.

In dollar terms, rough and polished sales totaled $87 million in the second quarter, down 90 percent from Q1 and 89 percent year-over-year.

Year-to-date, sales have totaled $991 million. At this point last year, Alrosa had sold $1.78 billion in diamonds, a 44 percent decline.

De Beers’ rough diamond sales totaled 300,000 carats, compared with 9 million carats in Q2 2019.

In dollar terms, sales totaled $56 million, compared with $1.3 billion in the same period last year.

The company’s average realized rough diamond price was down 21 percent in the first half of the year to $119/carat (H1 2019: $151/carat), driven by a higher proportion of lower-value rough diamonds sold and an 8 percent reduction in the average rough price index.

De Beers canceled its third sight because of COVID-19-related travel restrictions and is letting sightholders defer up to 100 percent of their allocations at the fourth and fifth sights.

Alrosa too said it is satisfying “only the real demand while maintaining a stable price,” a policy aimed at “supporting long-term customers and the entire diamond industry.”

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