Sunday, December 17, 2017
David Brown

David Brown

Coal of Africa

THE word frustration does not feature anywhere in David Brown’s commentaries, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it did. He spent much of 2016 tackling fresh setbacks to a strategy he has pursued since he joined the junior coal miner, first as chairman and then as CEO. He started by resolving legacy litigation and successfully raised new funding. But it has proven very difficult to sell the firm’s non-core asset, the Mooiplaats colliery, while a tightly fought takeover battle for Universal Coal, in which Brown pipped rival suitor IchorCoal, fell through on technical grounds in July (2016). That leaves Brown looking for another cash-generating asset so it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume Coal of Africa (CoAL) is likely to be one of the suitors that Keaton Energy was referring to when it said it had received takeover approaches. Meanwhile, CoAL’s flagship Makhado project is still unable to proceed. An appeal against its environmental authorisation was dismissed, but local communities have also appealed its integrated water use licence. For the former CEO of Impala Platinum, who had to face some serious bullying by the Zimbabwean government over indigenisation, this is minor stuff. Still, it’s not good for the share options, though. CoAL’s shares are now about a quarter of their level when he joined. Frustrating.


A chartered accountant, he spent 14 years at Impala Platinum, first as CFO and then as CEO, before making the surprising move to join a junior coal miner which had established a gung-ho reputation for its first project, Vele. David was born in Llandudno in Wales and lists scuba diving amongst his hobbies.

“One of our key values is to ensure all activities are completed ‘by the book’.”