Rough diamond producer De Beers put its Voorspoed mine in the Free State up for sale after talking about closing its second-last operation in SA.

De Beers, which is 85% owned by Anglo American and is the world’s largest diamond producer by value, said it was looking for buyers of the opencast mine near Kroonstad.

"After evaluating a range of options, the decision to place Voorspoed mine on the market has been taken to provide the opportunity for responsible lower-cost operators to employ a different operating model that could potentially extend the mine’s operating life beyond 2020, thereby contributing to the host community through continued employment opportunities and economic activity," the company said.

De Beers has the Venetia mine in Limpopo where it is spending $2bn developing an underground mine at its open pit operation. This will be its last mine in SA, the home of the company that dominated the local diamond industry.

One of the main beneficiaries of De Beers’ sales has been London-listed Petra Diamonds, which is aiming for 5-million carats of production in 2019 from its mines in SA and its single mine in Tanzania.

"Based on our experience with other operations, we believe the most responsible course of action is to give other lower-cost operators the opportunity to purchase the mine and potentially extend its life, as this will maximise the benefit for the community and the mine’s workers," said Phillip Barton, CEO of De Beers Consolidated Mines, the South African division of De Beers.

Standard Bank is the financial adviser to De Beers.

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