Diamonds and COVID-19: Who’s Reacting and How?

- March 26th, 2020

In an effort to help investors navigate the market amid this unprecedented uncertainty, INN has gathered coronavirus responses from diamond miners and explorers.

As confirmed cases of the coronavirus continue to grow globally miners and explorers are being forced to make hard decisions regarding operations.

Some have chosen to introduce enhanced hygiene practices and asked corporate staff to work from home, while others have opted to shutter projects for the time being.

The complexity of international supply chains and multinational operations has only added to the challenge of mitigating the spread of COVID-19 while offering value to shareholders.

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Like most of the resource space, the diamond sector has also been affected by the market volatility and infusion of instability brought on by a global pandemic.

In an effort to help investors navigate the market amid this unprecedented uncertainty the Investing News Network has gathered a list of individual responses from diamond miners and explorers.

All news and data were current as of March 26, 2020. This article will be updated as new information becomes available — if you know of a diamond company that has issued a response to COVID-19 but is not listed, please email editorial@investingnews.com.

Diamonds and COVID-19: Producers

Petra Diamonds (LSE:PDL) Gem miner Petra operates several projects globally, its flagship being the Cullinan mine in South Africa.

A March 23, order from the South African government mandates a 21-day lockdown, as the nation works to control the spread of the coronavirus.

As a result, Petra has undertaken a review of the directive and will be putting the Cullinan mine into a state of care and maintenance for the duration of the lockdown.

The renowned open-pit mine produces as much as 25 percent of the world’s gem quality stones, and the vast majority of blue diamonds. It is also the site where two diamonds included in the Crown Jewels were unearthed.

Lucapa Diamond (ASX:LOM) Lucapa Diamond operates two diamond projects in Africa, the Mothae mine in Lesotho and the Lulo mine in Angola is Lucapa.

The gem miner, which initially planned to monitor the situation as it unfolds, was forced to shut down Mothae after the government of South Africa announced a the 21-day country-wide lockdown.

Because Lesotho is an independent kingdom completely land locked in South Africa, Lucapa’s managing director, Stephen Wetherall, noted that the flow of essential mining supplies and services across the border from South Africa would prevent the company from carrying on as usual.

A reduction of corporate overhead is also planned to help bring costs down. Currently exploration at Lulo is still ongoing.

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Gem Diamonds (LSE:GEMD,OTCPink:GMDMF) Also operating in Lesotho, the company owns the Lesteng mine.

In a statement released (March 26), the diamond producer states it will be closing down its mine in adherence to the Lesotho Government’s three-week lock down strategy to combat the spread of the virus.

According to the announcement, the government will implement a mandatory nationwide lockdown that goes into effect March 29, ending  April 21.

In early February, Gem Diamonds recovered a 183 carat, type IIa diamond from Letseng. The mine is renowned for producing a number of the largest diamonds ever discovered, including the 910 carat Lesotho Legend, as well as the 603 carat Lesotho Promise.

Firestone Diamonds (LSE:FDI) Another Africa-focused miner, Firestone will similarly suspend its operations at the Liqhobong diamond mine, also located in Lesotho.

Reducing activity at the mine to essential care, maintenance and security is a result of the South African decision to lock down its borders for three weeks, which prohibits the company from from accessing essential mining supplies.

The Firestone announcement also cited the close contact and secluded nature of mining operation as motivation in closing Liqhobong.

“All staff on the mine may be especially vulnerable to an onset of the coronavirus due to the remote location of the mine and distance from expert medical care, high altitude and close proximity to one another in buildings on mine,” it reads.

While there is no word on how long the diamond miner expects operations to be suspended, the South African lockdown is scheduled to last until April 16; while the newly announced Lesotho lockdown referenced by Gem Diamonds ends on April 21.

The South African lockdown will essentially paralyze land locked Lesotho, which relies on South Africa for 85 percent of its annual imports.

ALROSA (MCX:ALRS) The Russia-focused diamond major has rolled out an extensive list of measures it is taking in a precautionary effort to limit the spread, including allowing corporate employees to work remotely, cancelling travel plans, imposing self-isolation for employees that have traveled recently and enhanced sanitation protocols.

“The spread of the pandemic and the measures implemented around the world to curb it create a situation of global uncertainty,” said Sergey Ivanov CEO of ALROSA. “In these circumstances, we are doing our best to protect our employees, customers and residents in the regions where we operate.”

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Mountain Province Diamonds (TSX:MPVD,OTCQX:MPVD) The company owns a 49-percent stake in Canada’s Gahcho Kue diamond mine. While its project partner De Beers Canada has yet to release a statement regarding the pandemic, Mountain Province was one of the first diamond miners to address the uncertainty in a March 16 statement delaying the release of its full-year 2019 results.

A day later, the company postponed its third diamond sale of 2020 until further notice.

Most recently (March 23), in its fourth quarter results, President and CEO, Stuart Brown addressed the pandemics spread and the state of the company.

“[The] 2020 year started off positively with a continuation of good production and a confidence boosting January sale in Antwerp,” he wrote. “This positive momentum has now been swept aside by the COVID-19 virus that is having a devastating effect on the world.”

He went on to say that employee health and safety was a priority of the both De Beers Canada and Mountain Province, noting the companies will closely monitor the situation.

Dominion Diamond Mines — A private Canadian company which operates the Ekati diamond mine in the Northwest Territories also planned to shutter its mine site.

On March 19, the miner reported it had put the Ekati mine into care and maintenance, “to safeguard its employees and the communities surrounding its operations from threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic.”

Dominion also owns a 40 percent stake in the Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO,LSE:RIO,NYSE:RIO) owned Diavik diamond mine, and a controlling interest in the Lac de Gras project, all located in NWT.

Diamonds and COVID-19: Explorers

Dunnedin Ventures (TSXV:DVI) The diversified company owns the exploration stage Kahuna diamond project in Nunavut. Kahuna was acquired by the company in 2014 and is estimated to contain an inferred resource of four million near surface carats.

On March 24, Dunnedin issued a statement regarding its copper and gold assets. Giving no Kahuna specific update the company did note: “The essence of our exploration strategy remains unchanged.”

More COVID-19 coverage from INN

Click the links below for more of INN’s commodity-specific coverage of COVID-19:

Don’t forget to follow us @INN_Resource for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Georgia Williams, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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