Gemfields appoints former De Beers boss as board chair

Bruce Cleaver, chairperson, Gemfields

EMERALD and ruby miner Gemfields scored a coup with the appointment of former De Beers CEO Bruce Cleaver as its non-executive chairperson, effective July 1.

Cleaver, who led the diamond firm for six years, compared Gemfields’ recent development to De Beers’ founding role, adding that natural rubies produced by Gemfields had “transcended” laboratory-grown equivalents.

“Gemfields is a unique and extraordinary business, one that has taken a fragmented and fairly informal industry to considerable sophistication as the first consistent supplier of significant quantities of coloured gemstones in a responsible and transparent manner,” said Cleaver in a statement on Tuesday.

“The coloured gemstone market has long-transcended the arrival of their lab-grown counterparts, with lab-grown rubies having been around for more than 120 years,” he said. Some market observers say the natural diamond industry is existentially threatened by the popularisation of cheaper lab-grown gems.

Cleaver replaces Martin Tolcher who served on Gemfields’ board for 15 years of which five years were as chairperson.

Gemfields reported a 72% decline in its 2023 adjusted share earnings of 1.5 US cents and negative cash flow of $29m. At the basic earnings level it reported a taxed loss of $2.8m  for the year after accounting for a write-down on its 6% stake in Sedibelo Platinum Mines in South Africa.

Gemfields said it expected to be in net debt this year amid major $49m project to triple throughput at its Montepuez ruby mine in Mozambique. Of this project capex, $42m has been allocated to 2024.

Despite this pressure, the company intended to continue paying dividends. The board declared a $10m final dividend equal to 0.857 US cents a share, payable in June.