When Natascha Viljoen takes over as chief executive officer of Anglo American Platinum Ltd. in April, she will be the only woman running a major precious-metals mining company.
Mining remains male-dominated, despite efforts by companies including BHP Group to increase the presence of women in their executive leadership. Cynthia Carroll, the first female CEO of Amplats’s parent Anglo American Plc before she quit in 2012, said last year that miners should do more to push gender diversity.
Viljoen, currently head of processing at Anglo, will take over from Chris Griffith when he leaves on April 16. The 49-year-old metallurgical engineer will report to a board that includes Anglo CEO Mark Cutifani. Viljoen’s 28-year career, including a stint at platinum producer Lonmin Plc, makes her ideally placed to take Amplats forward.
“From a technical and leadership perspective, I think she has got all the credentials,” said Arnold Van Graan, an analyst at Nedcor Securities Ltd. “She has demonstrated her ability to deliver business improvements and drive efficiency out of existing assets, which is in line with Amplats’ strategy.”
Viljoen steps in as the South African platinum industry is reaping the benefits of a surge in palladium and rhodium prices. Under Griffith, Amplats closed and sold higher-cost mines, paving the way for the company to boost profits and dividends last year.
“I am fortunate to inherit a business in such a strong position,” Viljoen said in a statement. “Chris Griffith has reshaped our PGMs portfolio to be fit for the future and I believe we now have an opportunity to re-imagine how we operate.”
Viljoen has also worked for AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. and for BHP’s chrome and coal businesses, including managing a colliery in South Africa. Her career began in 1991 as a trainee engineer at steelmaker Iscor.
Amplats shares dropped 2.8% in Johannesburg, paring their gains over the past 12 months to 82%.
(By Felix Njini, with assistance from Thomas Biesheuvel)