Saturday, June 24, 2017
Nico Muller

Nico Muller

Impala Platinum

ONE (unfair?) criticism of Nico Muller’s impending move to Impala Platinum (Implats) in April is that he will be out of his depth. Certainly all eyes will be on Gold Fields in February when it serves up the fruits of an extensive review of its South Deep mine which Muller led. If, as suggested by Gold Fields’ expansionary efforts elsewhere on the globe, there is a profound downgrade to South Deep’s production plan, then we can’t fault Muller for lacking decisiveness. The rescoping of South Deep might also be a useful experience for Muller if he disagrees with his Implats predecessor, Terence Goodlace, that the firm’s flagship Rustenburg mine is not, in fact, a 750,000 ounce to 800,000 oz per year operation. Muller will also have to get his executive team to play for him in improving the safety performance of the Rustenberg mine. Safety is a group effort and the R1bn spent on recent initiatives so far seem to have been in vain. Other issues facing Muller is refinancing R2.5bn in corporate bonds which fall due in 2018 – over to you, Implats CFO, Brenda Berlin – as well as the ever-changing regulatory environment in Zimbabwe where Implats operates. Implats may have been the subject of a takeover bid by Sibanye Gold suggesting there’s a perception it’s a company in need of impetus. But the fact Implats chose Muller’s technical skills suggests exactly where its board thinks the challenges lie.

LIFE OF NICO

Muller holds at BSc. in mining engineering from Pretoria University before taking his first job at De Beers in Namibia and then Finsch Mine. He was part of Anglovaal Mining’s demerged gold company, Avgold but took his first senior position as COO of Royal Bafokeng Platinum in 2009, a position he held for five years. He joined Gold Fields in 2014 looking at its South African operations before making the leap to Implats.

“Muller will have to get his executive team to play for him.”