De Beers, which is building a R20bn underground mine at Venetia in SA, is hampered in its hunt for fresh diamond sources by the country’s regulatory environment despite itching to spend millions of dollars here.
De Beers spends $35m a year on exploration in SA, Canada and Botswana but is running into headwinds in SA, which the miner reckons is one of the more prospective regions for new diamond sources.
There is an adage in the diamond industry that the best place to find kimberlites, the carrot-shaped ancient volcanic pipes bearing diamonds, is near other kimberlites. SA was a leading source of diamonds for nearly a century. However, De Beers’s efforts at securing diamond prospecting permits using an enormous century-old database has become nearly impossible.
The third version of the Mining Charter, which was introduced in mid-June and subsequently suspended pending a court challenge from the Chamber of Mines, stipulates prospecting rights must be 51% owned by black economic empowerment (BEE) partners.
“I would like to explore more in SA because we think it is prospective, but it’s very unli-kely we are going to do that where we don’t have control of the exploration project and don’t have complete certainty of tenure when we move from exploration to mining,” said De Beers CEO Bruce Cleaver.