JOHAN Dippenaar is protective of Petra Diamonds’ legacy. The bristly response when once asked what he planned next for the group was simply to point to progress so far: annual production of nearly five million carats from 175,000 carats in 10 years ago – a quantum leap involving investment of $1bn. Dippenaar’s tactic has been to buy the cast off De Beers mines. For instance, he last year joined with Ekapa Mining to buy De Beers’ tailings operations in Kimberley which will be combined with the old underground mines. Still, there are challenges. After years of production build-up, shareholders will want positive cash flow – expected to materialise in the second half of 2017 – and a subsequent reduction in debt which reached its apogee of $464m in 2016. Dippenaar says Petra can handle the load. Dippenaar is a man of inexorable progress; never flashy, but effective. Petra’s steady climb to prominence sees it the sixth largest diamond producer, securing Dippenaar a seat of the Diamond Producers’ Association board. But it hasn’t been easy. One of the drums Dippenaar is fond of beating is the increasingly difficult, almost hostile, regulatory environment for mining companies in South Africa, where it has four of its five mines. In fact, he has publicly doubted a company with Petra’s ambitions could progress today given the current regulatory environment.
LIFE OF JOHAN
With more than 11 years at Petra, Dippenaar has overseen the growth of the company into a significant global diamond producer. He is a member of the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants. He founded Crown Diamonds with his technical director Jim Davidson in 1990 which was then merged with Petra in 2005.
“I hope we can avoid going to full destruction in South Africa.”
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