Sunday Times E-Edition

Baxter extends tenure at Minerals Council


● The Minerals Council South Africa, the country’s biggest mining lobby, has delayed the departure of is outgoing CEO, Roger Baxter, as the search for his successor continues.

Council spokesperson Allan Seccombe told Business Times this week that Baxter had, in agreement with the board, extended his tenure until the end of June.

“The process to find a new CEO is led by the Minerals Council’s nominations committee and it is making progress,” said Seccombe.

In October, the council announced Baxter would step down when his contract expired at the end of April, marking the end of almost nine years at the helm. The council also said office bearers had embarked on a search for Baxter’s successor, who would support him until the end of his contract.

Mining industry experts said the next incumbent would likely be someone from within the industry who had experienced the complexities of the sector.

Bernard Swanepoel, Joburg Indaba chair and former Harmony Gold Mining Company CEO, said Baxter had been the right man at the time, but times were different now.

“We are not looking for another Roger, but for someone who can be the ‘chief lobbyist’ in a very critical time of recalibrating relationships between stakeholders. I believe there are many suitable candidates within the industry, but the remuneration structures of the council may need to be modernised to attract the right person. The mining industry functions in a highly complex environment, therefore many people in the industry have the skills required for such a role,” he said.

Swanepoel added that the CEO of an industry advocacy body should be a person of integrity.

“He or she should ideally be from the industry, with established credibility as someone who understands and loves the industry. The person should know that there is a difference between being liked and being respected, and be comfortable with that,” he said.

Under Baxter’s leadership, the 132-year-old council, which represents 78 members, accounting for 90% of South Africa’s mineral production by value, was rebranded and renamed in 2018 from the Chamber of Mines.

Swanepoel said Baxter’s legacy would be that he was respected by all stakeholders as an unashamed advocate for the South African mining industry.

“He repositioned the profile of the role of CEO of the Minerals Council, for better or for worse, in that it is now hard to contemplate the mining industry without his clear voice as part of it,” Swanepoel said.

Sibanye-Stillwater’s chief regional officer for Southern Africa, Richard Stewart, said the council played a crucial role in representing the mining industry’s interests and challenges to government and business organisations.

“With the challenges we face in the country [energy, crime, transport and logistics deterioration, and which will likely include water soon], the private sector will increasingly need to play a role in addressing these substantial issues whether through direct interventions or through private/public partnerships, or by ensuring government is accountable for delivering on its basic responsibilities,” said Stewart.

Makhosi Nyamela, an equity research analyst at FNB Wealth and Investments, said diplomacy was key for the incumbent.

“The role is about diplomacy, considering where we are now in history, where key infrastructure for the mining industry is basically at its worst in our generation. We have 30-year lows and 50-year lows when you think of the availability of freight and electricity,” said Nyamela.

South Africa was named one of the world’s 10 worst countries for mining investment in the Fraser Institute’s Annual Survey of Mining Companies, released earlier this month, due to concerns about poor infrastructure and the availability of labour skills.

Nyamela said the role of a council CEO was probably more critical now than it ever was.

“When Baxter took over we had a normal, fully functioning infrastructure. The mining sector was not constrained by infrastructure and there was no talk of whether we had enough infrastructure to get minerals to the ports.

“It was a question of maybe we need to consider growing the infrastructure or developing it. But now we are at a point where it is a constraint. The council cannot alone build this infrastructure; it has to co-operate with the government. The government cannot do it alone because it does not have money,” he said.

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