‘I took a meander through junior gold mining, which brought rich experience’
GOLD Fields management has been in upheaval ever since the departure of Nick Holland in 2020, so shareholders are hoping that Mike Fraser will bring stability. Since 2020, almost the entire executive committee has changed including CFO Paul Schmidt who is to leave this year. Interim CEO Martin Preece, credited with transforming the South African problem asset South Deep into a profitable mine, did a fine job but the board seems to have preferred Fraser's international experience.
Gold Fields needs to expand globally to maintain long-term production, but the failed bid for Yamana Gold, which ended with former CEO Chris Griffith’s departure, shows the board has little appetite for risk. Preece has already taken Gold Fields into two JV agreements which have been cautiously welcomed by the market: one with AngloGold in Ghana (yet to be approved by the Ghanaians) and another with Osisko Mining in Canada. Fraser must also focus on bringing the $1bn Salares Norte mine in Chile into full production, with no further cost overruns or production delays. The group is currently tightening the screws on the project after saying in December it would not produce gold until April, resulting in half the production in 2024 it first promised.
Fraser has said he intends to take Gold Fields “to the next level”, with a focus on growing cash flows. He will be revisiting capital allocations, optimising existing assets, and, after that, looking for growth prospects. Fraser’s background in human resources and organisational transformation at BHP and South32 may help to stop executive leakage and should also help in dealing with findings of an embarrassing independent survey showing that bullying, harassment and sexism is widespread in Gold Fields.
LIFE OF MIKE
Mike Fraser was previously at BHP for about six years where he headed human resources before leaving for South32. He managed South32’s thermal coal mines through their transition to current owner Seriti Resources and played a key role in negotiations with Eskom to secure a new power agreement for the Hillside Aluminium smelter. When he left South32, for AIM-listed gold miner Chaarat Gold, he was the group’s vice-president and COO for global metals. He holds a BCom and an MBA.