18 Nov 2004
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By Chrispin Inambao
THE week-long unique exhibition showcasing gem-quality, flawless diamonds extracted from various NamDeb mines and a miniature version of the Orangemund Diamond Mine has so far attracted thousands of visitors since it started this week.
Thirty pieces or so of uncut, unpolished gems, reportedly worth a small fortune, are safely encased in a bullet-proof display cabinet where thousands of people among them diplomats, top government officials, school children, journalists, are accorded this rare moment to caress the gems with obviously envious eyes.
To an uninitiated eye - the gems are professionally placed among other pieces of rock - the slightly yellowish gems may be passed off for any other stone, while they are in this yet unpolished, uncut state and experts are on hand to point them out.
Only two polished glittering diamonds on a black piece of velvety material, whose cost could easily dent even the thickest of wallets, are also being showcased at the Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre where there is also a competition in which the fortunate ones will win the two diamonds that form two of the three prizes on offer.
The well-organised once in a lifetime exhibition forms part of a host of other festivities that have been lined up as part of NamDeb's 10th Anniversary.
The Minister of Mines and Energy, Dr Nickey Iyambo this week officially opened the "Village of Learning Exhibition" at the Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre.
Pupils from Delta Primary School in Windhoek are among thousands others who have so far attended the week-long exhibition where publications detailing information about NamDeb's activities are being handed out.
One source close to the exhibition said it has been organised "to bring people closer to the operations of NamDeb," that mines mainly gem-quality stones at NamDeb Mining Area One near Oranjemund, the Orange River Mine along the Orange River, and the Elizabeth Bay Mine near LÃƒÆ'Ã†'Ãƒâ€ 'ÃƒÆ''Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¼deritz. DeBeers Marine also extracts diamonds from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean on behalf of NamDeb.
A NamDeb Diamond Convention that will bring together various stakeholders from mining companies to downstream manufacturers is expected to take place tonight.
Among the major players in the global diamond market who are expected to give presentations on the diamond industry is Gary Ralfe, the managing director of De Beers Group.
NamDeb sold 810 000 carats by June 30, 2004, representing an increase of 25 percent when compared to the first six months of the previous year. This is apparently a "milestone achievement" considering that NamDeb's land reserves are nearing depletion.
The mining concern says "only innovative mining techniques and the commitment of its employees made this achievement possible."
Another important contributing factor to NamDeb's remarkable results is the outstanding performance of De Beers Marine Namibia that mines in NamDeb's off-shore licence area, Atlantic One, and produces almost half of NamDeb's current production. Diamond revenue for the same period amounted to N$1,7 billion, and that translates into 16 percent more than the first six months of 2003.
The mining company says this change in fortune is largely due to increased carat sales as well as a more favourable US$ exchange rate which offset the negative impact of the strengthening Namibia dollar.
Total payments to shareholders consisting of royalties, provisional tax, non-residents' shareholders tax and an interim dividend amounted to N$366 million, which is the same as the corresponding period last year.
By comparison, for the full financial year from January to December 2003, NamDeb sold 1,3 million carats, while its diamond revenue amounted to N$2,9 billion and the distributable amount that was paid to shareholders came up to N$590 million.
Consumer markets reported growth in retail sales of diamond jewellery compared to the same period last year that was affected by the war in the Middle East and the SARS virus. The US$ value of global diamond jewellery sales is anticipated to be 7 percent to 8 percent higher during this period. With positive macro-economic indicators and increased levels of confidence, the trade is optimistic that the strong consumer demand will continue through the second half and expectations are that retail sales for the year as a whole will be comfortably ahead of 2003.
Since the end of 2003, polished stocks in the cutting centres have declined and in most categories prices have risen.
Against that background, there was consistent demand for rough diamonds throughout the period and sales by the Diamond Trading Company (DTC) for the first six months of 2004 totalled US$2,9 billion, or 2,216 percent higher than the corresponding period last year. The DTC raised its rough diamond prices on two occasions during the six months. The cumulative effect of those increases and those previously announced in 2003, means that the DTC's rough prices for the first half of 2004 were on average 14 percent higher than for the first half of 2003. In August DTC announced a further five percent increase in prices of rough diamonds, says NamDeb.
It added that it has invested substantial capital on an annual basis to find new reserves and to discover ways of economically mining previously uneconomic reserves thus extending the life of the land reserves.