De Beers is selling the Kimberley mine, the century-old South African deposit that was one of the original building blocks of its empire.
The original “Big Hole” was discovered in 1871 and was considered the world’s richest mine for nearly a century. While De Beers no longer mines there, recovery from its tailings yield some 700,000 cts. a year, making it De Beers’ second largest producer in South Africa.
At one time owned by British businessman Barney Barnato, the mine was much coveted by De Beers founder Cecil Rhodes, leading to an intense rivalry that temporarily crashed the price of diamonds. After a series of deals, Kimberley came under De Beers control, and it has run operations at the mine ever since.
The current mine life goes until 2018 but could potentially be expanded to 2030, De Beers said.
In 2002, De Beers set up a tourist attraction at the mines, which relay its history and that of the diamond industry. That is not included in the deal.
The company hopes to conclude the sale in a matter of months, it said.