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Christo Wiese Dives Back Into Diamond Mining Adventure

South Africa's Retail Mogul Returns to First Love: Diamonds

by Ikeoluwa Ogungbangbe
Christo Wiese Diamond Mining

At the age of 82, Christo Wiese, a self-made billionaire and a towering figure in South Africa’s retail landscape, is embarking on a journey that traces back to his entrepreneurial roots: diamond mining. This venture symbolizes a full-circle moment for Wiese, whose illustrious career began nearly five decades ago in the very same field. Speaking from the picturesque Beau Constantia wine farm in Cape Town, Wiese shared his enduring fascination with diamonds, a sector known for its promise of life-changing discoveries.

Wiese’s mining pursuits are concentrated along the southwestern coast of Africa, a region renowned for yielding some of the world’s most exquisite diamonds. This area, enriched by the ancient geological activities of the Kaapvaal Craton and the Orange River’s sedimentary deposits, has captivated Wiese with the potential of uncovering a gem that could redefine his already successful career. His mining business, which has seen significant involvement over the years, has recently unearthed a remarkable $10-million pink diamond, reaffirming his belief in the venture’s potential.

The Trans Hex Group, a mining entity under Wiese’s leadership, is not only focused on diamonds but also on exploring a variety of minerals and metals, including phosphate, lithium, gold, and platinum. This ambition is supported by an impressive fleet of four large ships equipped with advanced technology capable of extracting precious resources from the ocean floor. The investment in such sophisticated equipment underscores the significant financial commitment required to compete in the high-stakes world of marine diamond mining.

Despite experiencing a dramatic decrease in net worth from $7 billion to $1.2 billion following the Steinhoff International Holdings debacle in 2017, Wiese’s entrepreneurial spirit remains unshaken. His initial foray into the diamond mining sector in 1976 established him as a significant player behind only the industry giant De Beers. However, his decision to sell the mine to fund the acquisition of the Pepkor clothing chain marked the beginning of his venture into retail, which would become his largest asset.

Wiese’s career in retail is nothing short of legendary, having transformed Pepkor into a powerhouse with a footprint across Africa and Europe and expanded Shoprite Holdings into the continent’s premier grocery retailer. Yet, his return to diamond mining reflects not just a nod to his beginnings but also his willingness to embrace risk and adventure, traits that have defined his business ethos.

The challenges of South African mining, coupled with the unpredictable nature of diamond yields, present a risky endeavor that requires not just financial investment but a deep understanding of the industry’s intricacies. However, for a veteran like Wiese, whose life’s work spans various sectors, this latest venture is another chapter in a storied career characterized by bold moves and a relentless pursuit of opportunity.

Beyond his business interests, Wiese is deeply engaged in a range of activities, from advocating land ownership in South Africa to exploring digital innovations in retail. His involvement in the marine diamond mining business adds another layer of diversity to his portfolio, despite the environmental concerns and operational challenges associated with the industry.

As South Africa braces for a pivotal election year, Wiese’s investments and his outlook on the country’s future reflect a blend of optimism and realism. His commitment to staying active and engaged, underscored by his resolutions to visit his wine estate and wildlife reserve more frequently, speaks to a life philosophy that values participation and contribution over retirement.

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