Mining giant Lonmin on hunt for boss as Ian Farmer steps aside

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LOMNIN, the embattled mining group, has begun the search for a new chief executive after confirming that its boss of four years has stepped down due to ill health.

The London-listed firm, which has been hit by financial pressures, weak platinum prices and a wave of deadly strikes at South African mines, said it had drafted in headhunters to help find a successor to Ian Farmer.

The absence of a permanent chief executive has been a major concern cited by investors seeking a clear strategy from the company.

Farmer was admitted to hospital in August, coinciding with a wave of unrest at the group’s Marikana mine that left more than 40 people dead and paralysed operations.

Chief financial officer Simon Scott has been leading the group since the summer but has ruled himself out of the top job on a permanent basis. He will continue to fill the role until a replacement is found, the group said yesterday.

Lonmin was forced to turn to investors recently for emergency cash to plug a widening hole in its balance sheet. The firm’s biggest shareholder, fellow miner Xstrata, which holds a 25 per cent stake, supported the rights issue but said it was seeking management changes.

The closure of the Marikana mine during the strikes put enormous strain on Lonmin’s income, with the site accounting for some 90 per cent of the group’s output.

The company was already under pressure after platinum prices slumped in the past year as demand for the metal dropped from car-makers in the crisis-hit eurozone.

Lonmin has since agreed wage increases to restore calm in the Marikana mine, but has seen its shares battered due to worries over the group – down by some 45 per cent over the past year.

Roger Phillimore, chairman of Lonmin, said Farmer – who is being treated for a serious illness – was a “valued colleague and friend”.

He added: “We will greatly miss Ian’s ability, commitment and drive which he has devoted to the company over a career spanning more than 26 years.”

Shares in the group fell 2.6 per cent to close at 278p.