JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – ASX-, LSE- and JSE-listed Aquarius Platinum (AQP) on Monday announced the resignation of Stuart Murray as its CEO and chairperson of its primary subsidiary Aquarius Platinum South Africa (AQPSA) with effect from October 5.
Murray also terminated his directorships in all other group companies with immediate effect. However, his employment with AQP and AQPSA would continue until the end of March 2013.
In the interim, AQPSA commercial director Jean Nel has been appointed as chief operating officer of Aquarius, while the company’s board considered a replacement for Murray. AQPSA nonexecutive director Zwelakhe Mankazana has been assigned the responsibilities of interim nonexecutive chairperson of the local subsidiary.
Murray is the third CEO of a platinum producer in South Africa to resign in the past year.
David Brown stepped down as CEO of world number-two platinum producer Impala Platinum (Implats) in June, followed by Neville Nicolau leaving Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) in September. Terence Goodlace is now the CEO of Implats, while former Kumba Iron Ore chief Chris Griffith is heading the world’s largest platinum producer.
In August, Lonmin appointed Roger Phillimore as acting CEO, standing in for Ian Farmer, who had been diagnosed with a serious illness.
“We believe the market will be quite shocked by his [Murray’s] departure, with the Aussie line of the stock down now 6%,” Liberum Capital analyst Ben Davis said in a note to clients on Monday morning.
AQP’s shares closed 4% down in Sydney and traded 9% weaker in London. In Johannesburg, the company shed nearly 8% of its value to trade at R6.14 apiece.
Davis noted that the company’s Mimosa mine, in Zimbabwe, and Kroondal mine, in South Africa's North West province, were operating normally and profitably under difficult circumstances and that the company’s finances were secure in the immediate future with $180-million cash at the end of June, compared with a convert of $300-million due in December 2015.
He said that the status of the Booysendal acquisition, which called for about $140-million of cash if and when the deal is approved by the Department of Mineral Resources, was a larger uncertainty.
In recent months, violent labour unrest and volatile prices have weighed heavily on South Africa’s mining, and specifically its platinum sector, with production being severely disrupted. Although some disputes have been resolved, others were still in full swing.
In September, AQP temporarily suspended operations at Kroondal for safety reasons as strikes were spreading in South Africa’s “platinum belt”.
Aquarius also placed its Everest mine, in Mpumalanga, and its 50:50 joint venture Marikana platinum mine, near Rustenburg, on care and maintenance earlier this year, citing industry pressures.
On Monday, discussions between trade unions and platinum producers, among them AQP, started to address the issues of the platinum sector by, among other, setting up a centralised bargaining council.
The parties would discuss five themes, namely the creation of a sustainable platinum industry, the replacement of the current decentralised company-level bargaining arrangement with permanent centralised bargaining, the fact that thousands of mineworkers were still on strike for higher pay, to restore stability and to deal with socioeconomic deficits in informal settlements within the platinum belt.
This followed a meeting on Friday between the industry players, including business, government and labour, under professional facilitators to launch the framework for the co-crafting of a new dispensation for the strife-torn sector.
Last week, Amplats dismissed 12 000 striking workers who took part in an unprotected strike, which had cost it R700-million in revenue.