During 2008, De Beers continued to focus both investment and divestment activity to position the company for future growth. The strategy centres on exploration in central and southern Africa; driving profitable production growth across operations and seeking enhanced levels of organisational effectiveness. De Beers has been divesting from those mines that, under the company’s current cost structures, are deemed marginal or loss making. In 2008, De Beers completed the sale of the Kimberley underground mines and Cullinan Diamond Mine to Petra Diamonds Limited and the disposal of Williamson Diamond Mine in Tanzania.
During the reporting period, De Beers officially opened its first mines in Canada at Victor mine in northern Ontario and Snap Lake mine in the Northwest Territories. Victor was completed and commissioned eight months ahead of schedule and Snap Lake commenced commercial production in early 2008 with both mines reaching full production in the second half of the year. In South Africa, the long-dormant Voorspoed mine was officially re-opened with its first diamonds being recovered in June. As a result of the coming on stream of these projects during the year, De Beers’ capital expenditure has declined significantly.
In April, De Beers commissioned a new $83 million diamond facility in Gaborone, the largest and most sophisticated of its kind in the world, which is now home to the DTCB. This boost to beneficiation – adding downstream value to mining operations – in the producer country includes the process of sorting and valuing rough diamonds, their subsequent cutting and polishing, and the manufacture of diamond jewellery. The focus on beneficiation extends to Namibia through the NDTC, to South Africa through the State Diamond Trader and to Canada through local supply agreements reached with the governments of Ontario and the Northwest Territories respectively. All these initiatives seek to create an enabling environment through which each country’s valuable diamond resources can be further transformed into a source of national wealth, pride and development.
In May, Judge Chesler entered an order in the US Federal District Court in New Jersey approving in all respects the Settlement in the Diamond Class Actions, which addressed De Beers’ outstanding historical civil legal issues in the US. Certain appeals have been noted against the order, which will be addressed in accordance with ordinary legal processes.
The DTC completed its Sightholder selection process in 2008, appointing 78 clients for the new three-year contract period. Clients will be receiving ‘Sights’ through wholly owned and joint venture DTC operations around the world, with many of the Sightholders receiving Sights in several different countries. The selection criteria for Sightholders were designed to identify those applicants that demonstrated excellence in their technical ability, their distribution and marketing effectiveness and the core strengths of their diamond business. Financial transparency and ethical accountability were mandatory.
DBDJ continued to expand its global network of operations in 2008.