‘We can’t be blind to the market. It is telling us that the immediately available metal is clearly excess to requirements’
PAUL Dunne lost the battle for control of Royal Bafokeng Platinum (RBPlat) with rival Impala Platinum (Implats), but may yet win the longer-term race for profits and production. Under Dunne’s guidance, Northam is growing production at its mechanised Booysendal mine on the eastern limb of the platinum belt and analysts say it is better positioned than its peers to weather the slump in platinum group metals (PGM) prices.
Booysendal is the jewel in Northam’s crown, a mechanised and shallow asset that can keep boosting production while remaining profitable at relatively low prices. Community unrest around Booysendal – often linked to procurement mafias seeking a slice of contracts from the mining sector – has declined significantly, thanks to a collaborative effort between Northam and its regional peers as well as the South African Police Service. This may serve as a template for wider initiatives between business and government to tackle the scourge of crime. An affable executive with a deep understanding of the sector, Dunne has signalled he won’t be pursuing M&A anytime soon after the failure to secure RBPlat.
Throwing in the towel in July of 2023 with the sale of its 34.5% stake in RBPlat to Implats for R13.1bn shored up Northam’s balance sheet at a critical time for PGM producers. Maintaining and building on that balance sheet at a time when the market is not screaming for PGMs is Dunne’s current focus. But he has a long view and maintains that the internal combustion engine, which requires PGMs in its autocatalysts, is likely to be around far longer than many in the market anticipate.
LIFE OF PAUL
Hailing from the UK, Dunne is a keen chess player, a passion that probably informs his strategic approach and eye on the long term. He also dabbles in other pursuits such as fly fishing. Work hard and play hard seems to be his motto: with a glint in his eye, he enjoys a pint and good conversation. A former senior Implats executive, he is also vice president at the Minerals Council SA. He has a BSc Honours in electrical engineering and an MBA.