The operating life of the mine, where De Beers is searching for diamonds among previously extracted rock, expires in 2018 and could be extended into the next decade under a new owner, the company said in a statement on Thursday. De Beers, 85% owned by London-based Anglo American Plc, will take expressions of interest and plans to complete a sale within months, it said.
“We are keen to offer the mine as a going concern to facilitate a greater degree of job security,” Phillip Barton, chief executive of De Beers’ South African unit, said in the statement. “We are engaging fully with employees, union representatives and with government at national and other levels.”
Kimberley produced 722,000 carats of diamonds last year, making it De Beers’ biggest source of the gems in South Africa after the Venetia site in Limpopo province. The precious stones were first discovered near the town in 1871, about a mile away from the De Beers farm that would give its name to the former monopoly. De Beers gained full control of the mine in 1888.
The producer will retain properties and operations in the town of Kimberley, about 480 kilometres southwest of Johannesburg. These include sorting, financial services and ecology operations, a spokeswoman for the company said.