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With international air travel reduced to a bare minimum as a result of the COVID-19 coronavirus, and an increasing number of countries allowing entry only to citizens and other legal residents, rough diamond mining companies are being forced to consider new alternative operating procedures in a sector where typically buyers have traveled in to  examine good visually before purchasing them.

According to statement released earlier this week by Russian diamond producer Alrosa, the company is considering options for online trade. Fortunately, it had already tested a system of digital tenders last October,  and reported at the time that clients were interested in such a format.  

“We are in constant contact with our clients from different countries, considering the possibility of providing them with measures of support over the next months, exploring the possibility of remote trade, which does not involve the traditional visit of an expert to study the stones,” it said.

Nonetheless, Alrosa said that there has only been a minimal direct effect on trade, because it sells most of its diamonds to long-term clients.


For its part, De Beers said that it is moving forward with its next sight in Botswana, which is due to begin March 30.

This, it said, is despite travel bans on nationals from China, India and Belgium.

“Our intention remains to hold the sight, in line with the desire for it go ahead expressed by customers, but we are developing a suite of contingency plans in the event that it is not possible to hold the sight in the usual manner,” the company stated.

 Reportedly, the plans could include having local representatives of buyers attend the sight or by holding a “blind sight,” which means buyers will not see the goods they are buying.

Preparing rough diamond for sale at Alrosa.

In a letter sent this past week to clients, De Beers CEO Bruce Cleaver wrote the “despite the challenged experienced by most businesses, our team will be working with each of you to meet your supply needs and provide maximum flexibility – for those who require rough diamonds and those who don’t.”

Cleaver added that where De Beers has closed its offices, its representatives are equipped to work remotely. Mining and sorting operations continue unabated, he added.


UK-based gem Diamonds, which owns the Letšeng Diamond mine in Lesotho and the Ghaghoo mine in Botswana, has reported that has replaced a tender for its large diamonds with a “flexible direct sale process.” 

This move comes after the company was forced to cancel a tender involving large diamonds from Letšeng, which was was due to have closed on March 25. The company said that 
viewings for the sale had been “significant,” and the unsold diamonds would be held over to the next tender.

Nonetheless, noted Clifford Elphick, Gem Diamonds’ CEO, “The results of the Letseng small diamond tender are resilient given the difficult circumstances under which the tender was held caused by the ongoing COVID-19 situation.”

To provide support for the Israeli and Belgian diamond sectors, IDI and AWDC are jointly organizing an online diamond trade show. 

Elphick added that the Letšeng remained “in full production.” There had been no reported cases of COVID-19 at any of the company’s facilities, he added.