Friday, June 22, 2018
Clifford Elphick

Clifford Elphick

Gem Diamonds

IT’S been a stormy time for Gem Diamonds after the euphoria of its listing in London in 2007 when it was worth over $1bn, raising some £285m from investors. The shares surged initially on the hope that Elphick would bring a little of the De Beers magic – where he previously served – to Gem. But ten years later, Gem is down to only one productive asset: the Letseng mine in Lesotho, which it bought from JCI and Matodzi for R880m. Over the years exploration activities in Africa were unsuccessful and its Cempaka mine in Indonesia, and Ellendale in Australia proved disappointing. In 2011 work began on the controversial Ghaghoo mine in Botswana, which was built in a relatively pristine area, requiring the relocation of local communities. Ghaghoo also presented technical challenges because of ground instability, which claimed the lives of two employees when the ground at the entrance to the tunnel collapsed in 2012. Early in 2017, Gem said it would put the mine on care and maintenance, before it had reached full commercial production, because of unfavourable market conditions. The mine has been written down and Gem is trying to negotiate a sale – not without some setbacks. At least Elphick’s spirits will have been lifted by the discovery of the world’s fifth largest diamond in the last quarter which could fetch north of $40m.

LIFE OF CLIFFORD

He was Harry Oppenheimer’s personal assistant and became MD of E Oppenheimer & Son, the family’s investment company, before leaving to found Gem Diamonds. He is well known on the social circuit, partly as the owner of Kurland – the Plettenberg Bay hotel and polo estate.