Sean Gilbertson
Rainmakers & Potstirrers

Sean  Gilbertson

CEO: Gemfields Group

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With the mines back in full swing, a much-improved cash position and the step change in market demand, we are palpably excited.

GEMFIELDS’ emerald and ruby mines were shut through most of 2020 as SARS-CoV-2 touched down in societies the world over. Therefore, 2021 was a period of wound-licking and recovery for Sean Gilbertson & Gang. Gemstone auctions, which unlike diamonds sales must be in persona, only resumed in March and April last year, and even then, under strictly controlled conditions. But at least cash flow was resumed.

Gemfields’ cause was also assisted by a heavily squeezed market, which led to record emerald prices by the time year-end auctions rolled around. Gilbertson is keen to iron out the legacy issues from when Gemfields was a foot in the tripod of Pallinghurst Resources - the now dissolved Johannesburg-listed investment trust. One of these is Gemfields’ 6.5% stake in Sedibelo Platinum Mines (SPM). In early January, Gemfields said it had simplified its holding structure in SPM, enabling it to accelerate the disposal of the stake (and giving impetus to SPM’s listing, as seems to be the desire of its backers). For 2022, Gilbertson has given priority to Gemfields’ Zambia and Mozambique social footprint.

This was prefigured in the mid-2021 launch of Gemfields’ ‘G-Factor for Natural Resources’ - an initiative intended to improve transparency of host government benefits from mining. Annus horribilis completed for Gemfields? Assore International seems to think so: the bulk mining investment firm took a 26.64% beachhead in Gemfields last year, becoming its largest single shareholder – a move that’s beginning to look shrewd.


Gilbertson, the son of well-known mining executive Brian Gilbertson, studied mining engineering at Wits University and has worked in South Africa’s gold and platinum mines, as well as in project finance at Deutsche Bank. He was a co-founder of globalCOAL, which participated in the commoditisation of thermal coal, and of Spectron eMetals, a trading platform for category 1 and 11 members of the London Metal Exchange. He was appointed CEO of Gemfields in 2017. In his spare time, Gilbertson is a keen cyclist.

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