Mountain Province’s first diamond sale of 2021 shows 8% price rise

Mountain Province Diamonds’ Polaris diamond. Credit: Mountain Province Diamonds

After a devastating 2020 which saw a near collapse in the global diamond trade, Mountain Province Diamonds‘ latest sales figures show the sparkle may be starting to return to the diamond sector.

The 49%-owner of the Gahcho Kué mine in the Northwest Territories, operated by 51% owner De Beers, sold 241,827 carats of diamonds for US$21.8 million or US$90 per carat in the sale, which closed on Jan. 22 in Antwerp. That represents an encouraging increase from an average sales price of US$64 per carat in the final quarter of 2020 and US$37 per carat in the third quarter.

“The first sale of the year was excellent, the growing confidence amongst rough diamond buyers translated into a healthy price improvement of 8% on a like for like basis when compared to our record high volume December sale,” said Mountain Province president and CEO, Stuart Brown, in a release. “We expect to see a continuation of the positive trend as rough and polished markets continue to strengthen post a successful retail season.”

The company’s next sale, in February, will include the 157-carat “Polaris” gem diamond, recovered in the fourth quarter. Named after the North Star, the stone appears colourless in daylight, but under ultraviolet light “exhibits a rare natural blue fluorescence that echoes its Arctic origins.”

Mountain Province recently released its production and sales results for the fourth quarter. Two confirmed cases of Covid-19 during the quarter affected production as existing health and safety precautions were further enhanced. For the quarter, the operation saw a 12% decrease in total tonnes mined (ore and waste), a 21% decrease in tonnes treated (to 736,140 tonnes), and a 23% decline in carats recovered (to 1.5 million carats).

Mountain Province’s share of fourth-quarter production was nearly 745,600 carats.

For the year, the company recorded total sales of 3.3 million diamonds at an average price of US$51 per carat for $227 million (US$171.3 million) in revenue.

“Under very difficult circumstances, all driven by COVID-19, the Gahcho Kué mine has performed well in being able to maintain production, albeit at a reduced level, and came very close to the revised guidance in tonnes mined and treated and exceeded the revised guidance target for carats recovered,” Brown said earlier this month on the release of the production figures. He added that the carat recovery was “particularly pleasing under the circumstances” and positioned the company for positive sales numbers in the first quarter of 2021.

Brown said that the last quarter of the year saw a “strong recovery” in the diamond market. In addition, the late 2020 closure of Rio Tinto‘s high-volume Argyle mine in Australia is expected to help establish a “more balanced” supply and demand equilibrium.

“The diamond market came under unprecedented pressure from early March to early September and although this pressure remains, we did see a strong recovery with respect to rough diamond demand in the last quarter of the year,” Brown said. “The two sales during the last quarter saw significant price recovery across all categories of diamonds sold. Early diamond jewelry retail sales reports are encouraging, and we expect to see steady demand for rough diamonds in the first quarter of 2021. There will no doubt still be challenges ahead but we are certainly more positive in our outlook as we start 2021 compared to the middle of 2020.”

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