DAVID Brown, chairman of Northam Platinum, passed away on Sunday from a heart attack, according to industry sources. He was 59.
Brown, who was also a non-executive director of Vodacom, the South African telecommunications company, was previously CEO of Impala Platinum (Implats) from 1999 to 2012. He was employed at Implats for 13 years.
During that time he led the firm’s investment in Zimbabwe through its 85% owned Zimplats. He since reprised his involvement in the southern African country heading up the state-owned firm Kuvimba Mining House until his resignation last year.
He had planned to drive the development of the 860,000 ounce a year Darwendale platinum group metal (PGM) project as well as revive some of the country’s ailing gold mines which he intended to list.
Speaking to Miningmx last week, Brown said Zimbabwe held enormous potential but it had proven a frustrating experience as “people were not listening when they should”.
In his role at Northam for the last four years Brown assisted in a strategy to more than double the company’s PGM production to about one million ounces annually.
The firm’s latest corporate manouevre has been to take a 34.7% stake in Royal Bafokeng Platinum (RBPlat). However, Northam’s plans in respect to RBPlat, which is the subject of a takeover offer from Implats, is yet to be rolled out fully.
“We hope to provide more column centimetres on the matter,” Brown told Miningmx recently in respect of Northam’s shareholding in RBPlat.
Tributes were paid by former employers and colleagues.
“I am shocked and saddened at the sudden passing of David, a stalwart of the Southern African mining industry,” said Paul Dunne, CEO of Northam Platinum. “He was not only chairman of Northam’s board but a friend and colleague.”
Northam said Temba Mvusi, Northam Holdings’ current lead independent director, had been appointed as the new chairman of the company’s board with immediate effect.
Implats said it was “saddened” by the passing of Brown, adding that it had been “honoured to have benefited from David’s visionary and charismatic leadership”.
“David was highly regarded and widely respected by his fellow board members,” said Vodacom. “Over a period of more than ten years, David made a significant contribution to the board having served Vodacom with impeccable measure and sound judgement,” it said.
Niall Carroll, a former CEO of Royal Bafokeng Holdings, acknowledged Brown who had “the courage to reset the relationship” between the company and Implats (see comments below for the full acknowledgement submitted by Carroll). “He deserves tremendous credit for advocating this alignment of interests,” said Carroll.
In addition to his participation in the southern African PGM industry, Brown ran coal producer Coal of Africa which he re-branded MC Mining as part of a complete overhaul of the company.
Under Brown’s watch, the company was recapitalised after clearing out a lot of his unprofitable coal mining operations. He then set about financing the Makhado metallurgical and thermal coal project. He stepped down from MC Mining in January 2020.
He said his time in charge of MC Mining made him a better CEO. Not until you’ve done the sitting in the Department of Mineral Resources waiting for an appointment do you really know what it takes to run a mining company, Brown said in 2019. “It wasn’t much fun. But it was necessary,” he said.