Brenda Berlin springs surprise by stepping down as acting CEO of coal firm, MC Mining

Brenda Berlin, acting CEO, MC Mining

BRENDA Berlin has resigned as acting CEO of MC Mining, the London- and Johannesburg-listed coal development firm.

Berlin gave no reason for her departure, which will be effective February 15. Her resignation is a surprise given she told Miningmx in September she intended to take up the role on a permanent basis.

Her departure also comes before full funding of the $32m Makhado coking and thermal coal project in South Africa’s Limpopo province is fully nailed down.

MC Mining said an executive search was “in progress” and that it expected to appoint a permanent CEO “within sufficient time to allow for an orderly handover.

Berlin joined MC Mining in April 2018 after serving as executive director and CFO. She was appointed acting CEO in February. She was previously CFO of Impala Platinum.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has made the past year incredibly challenging and Ms Berlin has been instrumental in navigating the company through these turbulent times and in securing the majority of the funds required for Phase 1 of the Makhado Project,” said Bernard Pryor, MC Mining chairman in a statement.

Makhado phase 1 has a nine-year life-of-mine and is forecast to produce 540,000 tons of hard coking coal annually as well as 570,000 tons of an export quality thermal coal by-product. ArcelorMittal South Africa, the country’s largest steelmaker, has signed an off-take agreement for about 85% of first phase coking coal from Makhado.

Financing coal projects in South Africa has become increasingly difficult, but MC Mining had concluded most of the funding required.

On November, South Africa’s Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) said it remained supportive of the project.

The IDC provided a R240m loan to MC Mining for Makhado’s pre-project development in 2017 of which R160m was drawn down in two instalments of R120m and R40m. The IDC became a 6.7% shareholder in Makhado. The balance of the loan was then cancelled, but the drawn instalments were due for repayment today (November 30).

MC Mining said negotiations turned on linking the repayment of the first instalment of R120m to Makhado’s cash flow whilst the balance would be settled in the raising of project finance of some R575m.

Of this amount, the IDC would provide R245m whilst a further R200m had been agreed with “various other parties”, said MC Mining. The rest would be settled in the issue of new MC Mining shares with discussions due to be finalised in the first quarter of 2021.