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De Beers Planning Return of Botswana Sights

Dec 6, 2020 8:10 AM   By Joshua Freedman, Avi Krawitz
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RAPAPORT... 
De Beers intends to reintroduce sights in Botswana in the first quarter of 2021, enabling a more efficient sales process following months of viewings in scattered locations.

The miner plans to offer sightholders the flexibility to attend sales in Gaborone or continue inspecting goods in markets such as Dubai, Paul Rowley, executive vice president of diamond trading at De Beers, told Rapaport News last week.

De Beers hasn’t held sights in Botswana since February, as the country placed limitations on incoming travel, with the company instead bringing the rough to Antwerp, Dubai and Israel. However, Botswana relaxed some of those restrictions in the past month, allowing foreigners to enter without quarantine if they are asymptomatic and present a negative Covid-19 test result.

“We have had interest from sightholders who wanted to come into Botswana, now that things are starting to lift,” Rowley said. “[At] the first three sights [of 2021], we want to give the flexibility. And I think we’ll see a gradual move to more people coming to Botswana itself, and particularly sending technical teams.”

Holding sights at the usual location enables the faster delivery of goods to the market, Rowley explained. This is especially significant now that sales volumes are returning to normal levels, as sending rough to and from other countries can lead to delays, he added.

“The speed [at] which the product can move to market will become important going forward,” the executive continued.

Botswana has reopened international airports, aiming to reignite the economy while maintaining rules to avoid a widespread Covid-19 outbreak. The pandemic has ravaged two of the country’s most important industries: diamonds and tourism.

“Tell all the diamantaires out there, the sightholders, [that] they’re welcome to come to Botswana,” the nation’s president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, said in an online video session with De Beers last week. “They’ll be fantastically treated. The health protocols are quite in place, evacuation plans are solid, and we’ve put in our bid to procure the vaccine once it becomes available.”

De Beers moved its sights from London to Gaborone in 2013 as part of a 10-year deal with the government. The sales arrangement is currently under negotiation, but has reportedly been delayed due to Covid-19.

The resumption of the Gaborone events would have implications for the wider southern African diamond sector: Visitors to the region also attend sales at Botswana’s Okavango Diamond Company, as well as tenders in South Africa, Rowley noted. 

“There’s a purpose of coming to the region, and it all seems to oscillate around the sight,” he commented. “I think that rhythm will return.”

The December sight — the last one of 2020 — runs this week from Monday through Friday, with viewings in Dubai.

Image: Diamond sorting in Botswana. (De Beers)
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Tags: Avi Krawitz, Botswana, De Beers, Joshua Freedman, Joshua Freedman, Avi Krawitz, mining, Sightholders, Sights
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