AS one of the founders of Atlatsa Resources, Kesler has been intimately involved in the complex funding arrangements between it and Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) – the aim of which has been to keep the assets in Bokoni Mines afloat. Despite the refinancing, however, Kesler bowed to the inevitable: the closure of the mine with the loss of 3,500 jobs. What’s clear is that Amplats no longer wants to be junior partner and banker for Bokoni. As a result, Kesler will play an active role in deciding Bokoni’s future, with Atlatsa possibly buying Amplats’ 49% stake and recapitalising the mine so it can focus on mining its UG2 shaft, targeting palladium, rhodium and chrome, instead of the higher cost Merensky Reef shaft. Whether investors will have the appetite for this remains to be seen because reputational damage has been incurred over the past decade. As part of a deal with Amplats, Atlatsa has sold its prospecting rights in exchange for a R4.2bn debt write-off and some R300m in working capital, and even a two-year care and maintenance programme at Bokoni. The likelihood of a third party buying Amplats’ minority stake in Bokoni and stumping up funds seems slim, but you never know. The third option is an outright sale by the partners of Bokoni. Whatever route is chosen, 2018 will be the defining year for Atlatsa.
LIFE OF JOEL
Joel Kesler has BCom and LLB degrees from the University of Cape Town – perfect training for his long-standing role as chief commercial officer of the struggling Atlatsa. Unfortunately, much of his time has been fighting the inevitable impact of a very low platinum price, which makes Bokoni Mines a marginal play. In his role he oversees corporate and business strategy, corporate finance and communications – the latter he conducts with inordinate patience considering the pressures.
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