Sunday, December 16, 2018
Niël Pretorius

Niël Pretorius


NIËL Pretorius acknowledged a touch of complacency had crept into the company’s practices in the past leading to hiccoughs in attempting to commission some R650m worth of flotation fine grind (FFG) technology at its Ergo gold retreatment plant in Johannesburg’s Brakpan district. Pretorius now seems to have put those issues behind him. The last year has been about taking a modular approach to the commissioning process; in short, being more careful about integrating the FFG with the carbon-in-leach technology already at the plant. The company subsequently paid a 10c/share dividend at its year-end and raised the prospect of buying back shares, although an impressive rally in the last quarter of 2015 may force a rethink: DRDGold ended the year the best performing South African gold share. The question for Pretorius and DRDGold, however, is keeping recovery grades at Ergo consistent. These are fine, fine margins. A recovery rate of 0.29 grammes of gold per tonne of rock from 0.18g/t increases the company’s reserves by five years to 15 years and removes the need to buy fresh sources of gold dumps. Consistency will also win back value shareholders. There’s also talk DRDGold could diversify into platinum or copper retreatment activities.


Pretorius was DRDGold’s legal eagle in 2003 before becoming GM of corporate services in 2005 and then CEO of DRDGold in January 2009. Since then, he has brought sanity back to the organisation. As if the gold business is not perilous enough, however, Pretorius is now a qualified helicopter pilot. There’s talk of him practising as a lawyer again but a new three-year contract ties him to the gold business for a touch longer.