MechChem Africa

In order to facilitate the growth and transformation of the South African diamond industry, De Beers has embarked on an Enterprise Development Project for Diamond Beneficiators. MechChem Africa talks to Frank Auger, project manager for De Beers Group.

Established in 1888, De Beers is synonymous with diamond mining in South and Southern Africa. “And for as long as we have had a diamond industry, people have been cutting and polishing diamonds here,” begins Auger.

De Beers talisman rough hero“Looking back in history, there have been attempts to intervene to expand local cutting and polishing through various incentives, but most of this work was always done overseas. For many years Antwerp, in Belgium, was the main diamond cutting centre, but today over 90% of the world’s diamonds by volume are cut in India,” he tells MechChem Africa.

“25 years ago 5 000 employees were estimated to be involved in local diamond cutting and polishing. However, as competition has increased from lower-cost centres overseas, numbers of local cutters and polishers have seen significant declines despite the efforts of De Beers to support the sector. Ten years ago, the industry was down to 2 500 people and today we are talking of less than 400 people beneficiating diamonds in South Africa,” he notes.

This decline has come about despite Government attempts to ensure diamond beneficiation occurs in South Africa with a number of legislative and regulatory interventions, one of which being the formation of the State Diamond Trader, to which all diamond mining companies in the country must make available up to 10% of their production.

In addition to this, legislation compels mining companies to sell an additional percentage of their production to local polishers. As a large producer De Beers has to make a significant portion of its production available to local cutters and polishers.

De Beers sells its diamonds in the globally adopted traditional way. “We sell to clients called Sightholders. To become Sightholders, companies now need to prove financial robustness and transparency supported by unqualified audits of financial statements, compliance with strict ethical criteria, and their ongoing demand for the products we sell.

“Our Sightholders in South Africa are local entities with B-BBEE partners, but most of them are essentially financed and owned from overseas entities. And while we are able to fulfil our commitments to local beneficiation through these customers, De Beers remains committed to local enterprise development and transformation of the industry,” Auger informs MechChem Africa.

The Enterprise Development Project for Diamond Beneficiators With this focus on local enterprise development in mind, De Beers began an initiative to provide opportunities for locally owned businesses to grow in the diamond sector.

De Beers’ enterprise development project began with …

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