It is history in the making, big, big news in the jewelry world. This week marks De Beers’ inaugural sight in Gaborone, Botswana following the relocation of its sales activities from London to Botswana, a move that has been two years in the making. In September of 2011, De Beers announced that it would be moving its rough stone sorting and trading division 5,400 miles south to Botswana when it signed a 10 year sales agreement with the Botswana government. The deal included moving professionals, skills, equipment and technology from London. Rough stone sorting or aggregation operations have been based in the British capital for nearly 80 years, but from now on this will be done in a new $35 million facility in Gaborone.
The move impacted about 120 members of De Beers’ London based staff. About 80 of the staff opted to move, with the remaining 80 positions being filled by Batswanas. The 160 person team is now a 50/50 split between the London De Beers office and Botswana.
Around 200 representatives of leading diamond buyers will attend the buyings sessions known as “sights”. During sights preselected buyers receive allocated gem batches in sales meetings.
Industry sources said diamonds account for about 30 per cent of Botswana’s GDP. Debswana, a 50/50 joint venture between De Beers and the Botswana government, is the worlds’ largest diamond producer by value. Debswana’s Jwaneng open pit mine is the world’s richest diamond mine.
All roads, diamond roads will lead to Gabarone. Gabarone the city and its surrounding areas will dramatically change in the upcoming months and years as the growth of the operation seizes hold. This will directly influence the future of Botswana.
It is estimated that around $6 billion worth of rough diamonds will be sold from Gabarone to the DTC (Diamond Trading Company) sightholders in the 10 sale sights throughout the year.
Among those not making the move, is Varda Shine, the executive vice president of global sightholder sales. Initially Ms. Shine was to make the move but has since announced that she will be stepping down at the end of January to explore other opportunities. She has been with De Beers for over 30 years.
Paul Rowley, the senior vice president of midstream operations for global sightholder sales at De Beers, will replace Shine.
Rumors about Shine’s imminent departure had been circulating for some time, citing conflict between her and De Beers Group CEO Philippe Mellier. On Thursday, Diamond Intelligence Briefs (DIB) reported that De Beers chose not to renew Shine’s contract even after she had asked to stay on board for another two years.
A De Beers spokeswoman called the DIB report “inaccurate”. De Beers’ first sight in Botswana runs through Thursday.
Mrs. Jones will post another article on the history of De Beers in the near future.