De Beers is to start diamond exploration in Angola later this year after signing two mineral investment contracts with the Angolan government but the secretive group is giving little away on the details of the agreements.
De Beers announced today that the two licences covering prospects in the north-east of the country are for the “award and exercise of mineral rights covering all stages of diamond resource development from exploration to mining and span a period of 35 years.”
But the group does not specify its shareholding in the new developments which are joint ventures with Endiama – the Angolan government’s state-owned diamond company.
In a statement De Beers said only that “De Beers Group will hold a substantial majority in the new companies, with Endiama having the ability to incrementally increase its equity share over time in line with certain conditions outlined in the shareholder agreements, albeit with De Beers Group maintaining a substantial majority.”
By contrast, when Rio Tinto announced it was returning to Angola in October last year it specified that it would hold a 75% stake in the first phase of any mine developed with Endiama holding 25% but that the contract left open the possibility of Endiama increasing its holding to 49%.
De Beers’ return to Angola represents a breakthrough for the country following the regulatory and policy changes made by the government of President Joao Lourenco who replaced former president Jose Eduardo dos Santos in 2017.
Angola is arguably the most prospective country in the world in which to look for a major new diamond deposit but De Beers and most other diamond explorers left the country in the early 2000’s.
That was because of the repressive business conditions imposed by Dos Santos. These included a ban on any foreign company owning a majority interest in the diamond projects it was developing.
De Beers CEO Bruce Cleaver commented that, “Angola has worked hard in recent years to create a stable and attractive investment environment and we are pleased to be returning to active exploration in the country.
“Angola remains highly prospective and we look forward to being part of this next stage in the development of Angola’s diamond sector.”