Gold Fields names Mike Fraser as CEO, says not changing strategy

By Nelson Banya and Felix Njini

(Reuters) -South Africa’s Gold Fields has appointed Michael Fraser as CEO from January, saying it expects no change in its strategy to find new gold deposits, build mines outside its home country and grow the company in the Americas region.

Fraser, a South African, left his role as CEO of AIM-listed Chaarat Gold Holdings on Monday. He has previously served as chief operating officer of South32’s aluminium, nickel, manganese and energy coal businesses.

“He brings a rich and unique mix of global operational and corporate experience and his track record of collaboration in delivering superior results…ideally places him to lead our management team in taking our business forward,” Gold Fields board chairman Yunus Suleman said in a statement.

In a call later on Monday, Suleman said “as far as the strategy is concerned…there’s no plan to change that”.

During the same call Fraser, who will lead the Johannesburg-based gold company’s expansion in the Americas region where it is investing in new mines in Chile and Canada, said Gold Fields would “develop a very strong pipeline of opportunities” under his leadership.

Analysts at BMO Capital Markets said some investors might have preferred Gold Fields’ interim CEO Martin Preece being made permanent, as his technical background would have been useful in the ramp up of the Salares Norte project in Chile.

“Despite Mr. Fraser’s prior experience in mining, it is our opinion that he is relatively unknown amongst gold and mining investors, and the market might take a wait and see approach,” the analysts wrote in a note.

Gold Fields is racing to start bullion production at Salares Norte later this year, after challenges related to Covid-19 and adverse weather conditions.

The project is key for Gold Fields to boost output to about 2.8 million ounces by 2025 from about 2.3 million currently. The miner’s joint project in Canada with Osisko Mining could start producing gold in 2026.

Gold Fields, founded by Cecil John Rhodes in 1887, has shifted its focus to lucrative deposits in Ghana, Australia and the Americas given the geological challenges to digging for the metal in some of the world’s deepest mines in its home country.

Preece will remain as Gold Fields’ acting CEO until the end of the year after his predecessor resigned over a failed bid to acquire Canada’s Yamana Gold, and then continue in an executive role, the company said.

(Reporting by Nelson Banya and Felix NjiniEditing by Louise Heavens, Kirsten Donovan and Christina Fincher)