Amplats CEO Natascha Viljoen to move to top gold producer Newmont as COO
Natascha Viljoen, the well-regarded CEO of Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), who has helped steer the company to record profits, will step down within 12 months to take on the role of Chief Operating Officer at US-based miner Newmont, the world’s largest gold producer.
Natascha Viljoen assumed the helm of Amplats in April 2020 and steered the Anglo American unit to record earnings along a road initially paved by her predecessor, Chris Griffith, who oversaw the company’s profitable pivot to mechanisation in the wake of an explosion of labour turbulence.
“Natascha will continue to serve as CEO of Anglo American Platinum until the completion of her notice period of up to 12 months, following which she will join Newmont Corporation, the US-based mining company, as its Chief Operating Officer,” Amplats said in a statement on Wednesday.
That is a long notice period and gives Amplats plenty of time to choose a successor, possibly with Viljoen showing the incoming CEO the ropes.
But it also perhaps signals that the company is not going to pursue any big deals or strategic shifts over the next year, which would typically involve a CEO in place for the long haul. Having said that, M&A opportunities in the platinum group metals (PGM) space are limited these days.
Viljoen’s departure is certainly a surprise on some fronts.
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Amplats has flagged that it expects its full-year 2022 earnings – which will be unveiled next week – to fall as much as 52% on lower sales volumes linked to the planned rebuilding of its Polokwane smelter, as well as to inflationary pressures that raised mining costs.
But the company is still making plenty of money and is well-placed to benefit from any rise in sales or PGM prices.
Viljoen is widely regarded as extremely competent with a technical cast of mind and a firm grasp on the changing PGM landscape, which includes the emerging hydrogen economy. And she is one of a handful of women at the top of South Africa’s mining corporate ladder.
With that in mind, her looming departure is not such a shocker – good miners are in demand at a time when they are becoming rarer as a species, and South Africa has long produced top-rated miners.
Glencore’s CEO, Gary Nagle, is South African, as is Barrick Gold’s CEO, Mark Bristow, to name but just a couple of examples. Indeed, South Africa’s mining sector has long suffered from a drainage of brains and skills, and Viljoen will be taking plenty of both with her.
Newmont will certainly present Viljoen with new challenges and opportunities. Already the world’s top gold producer with copper, zinc and lead assets, the company is in the process of attempting to pull off a $17-billion bid for Australia’s Newcrest, which would result in a bullion colossus.
The COO is typically responsible for the daily operations of the company, and this will be a massive job that will be even bigger if the Newcrest bid is successful.
Meanwhile, another C-suite abroad will have a South African accent at its meetings – in this case, an Afrikaans one rooted in the mining and farming town of Klerksdorp in North West.
The Platteland continues to produce highly sought-after mining executives. DM/BM