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May 2005

The pressure continues to stay on De Beers to add more to the South African economy. The company says that it is searching for what is called a “black economic empowerment” partner, and more than 100 parties have identified themselves as prospective partners.

Managing director Gary Ralfe says there will be an empowerment deal by the end of this year “of which we and government and other stakeholders will be proud.”

He noted that five out of De Beers’ seven South African mines are currently losing money, mostly due to the dollar’s weakness against the Rand. He said that, if the dollar continues to strengthen, that would help things turnaround. However, the group of South African mines as a whole remains profitable.

The mines are being restructured by the head of De Beers’ South African operations, Jonathan Oppenheimer, son of the company’s chairman Nicky.

Ralfe claims for the categories of diamonds that are viable for the local industry, De Beers imports 127% more stones than it exports. He says De Beers is moving some sorting jobs from the Diamond Trading Company headquarters in London to South Africa.

But he also noted that De Beers sometimes clashes with the government over its business policies and says “it is something we are trying to resolve.”

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