Tuesday, November 20, 2018
David Brown

David Brown

Coal of Africa

LIFE OF DAVID

He’s a personable, smooth-spoken accountant who matriculated at Bishops in Cape Town and learnt his trade at the University of Cape Town and Ernst & Young. He was in the IT industry before joining Impala Platinum in 1999 as CFO. He became the platinum firm’s CEO in 2006.

WHEN David Brown joined Coal of Africa (CoAL) as chairman in 2012, and later took on the role of CEO, it was rather like a whale making its home in a garden pond. As leader of the world’s second biggest platinum miner, Impala Platinum (Implats), he was responsible for over 30,000 employees and had to tackle issues with national resonance. He also faced political pressure from the Zimbabwean government which had been agitating for Implats to comply with its local empowerment policy known as ‘indigenisation’. CoAL’s problems – environmental transgressions, lack of funds, and securing future growth options – pale in comparison. Yet Brown has amply demonstrated he wasn’t just a ‘suit’ at Implats. In three years at CoAL, he’s managed to dispose of loss-making assets as well as recapitalise the balance sheet. He also deferred production from CoAL’s remaining mine, Vele, whilst accelerating the development of the Makhado prospect in South Africa’s Limpopo province. Most recently, he has launched a bid for Universal Coal, an audacious move given CoAL’s lean purse. If he can pull it off, CoAL might become a serious player in the consolidation of South Africa’s coal industry.