David Brown, the former Impala Platinum and Kuvimba Mining House CEO, has died of a reported heart attack in South Africa.
Brown, who was 59, served as CFO and then CEO of Implats from 1999 to 2012, before heading MC Mining, formerly known as Coal of Africa. He then skipped retirement with the hopes of leading Zimbabwe’s biggest platinum project.
At Implats, Brown had led the company into one of its biggest investments, Zimplats. Two years ago, he was heading into retirement. But Brown decided instead to take a shot at repeating his Zimplats success by accepting an offer to chair Great Dyke Investments, which was developing a platinum mine at Darwendale, which was to be even larger than Zimplats.
The arrival of Brown gave the project more weight, given his credibility in the industry. He was also appointed CEO of Kuvimba Mining House, which was on a takeover spree of major mines.
But there was to be frustrating for the mining veteran.
First, Brown had to deal with controversy over the shareholding of Kuvimba. Brown found himself having to frequently fight off claims that the company was controlled by Kuda Tagwirei, the controversial businessman under Western sanctions for alleged corruption.
“He is absolutely not connected with us,” insisted Brown, despite leaks by a former Tagwirei associate suggesting otherwise.
Under his brief tenure, Kuvimba turned around the fortunes of two of its key acquisitions. The idled Shamva Mine, bought from Metallon, went back into production, while output accelerated at Freda Rebecca.
But Brown struggled to raise capital for the Darwendale project. It was supposed to be the biggest mining operation in the country, producing a projected 860,000 ounces of platinum a year.
“That’s quite chunky money,” said Brown of the capital required to build the mine at the time. COVID-19 disrupted fund-raising. “Lenders like to get out to site visits but COVID-19 has made it incredibly difficult…But we’ve got sufficient funding at present.”
Last year, Brown announced that he was leaving his executive post at Kuvimba. He stayed on as a board member of Bindura Nickel Corporation, another Kuvimba company. This had always been his plan from the start, he said.
He said then: “It has always been my intention to transition from executive roles to non-executive roles. When I joined it was always understood that this was the process I wanted to follow.”
Speaking to Miningmx recently, Brown said Zimbabwe held great potential, but it had been frustrating as “people were not listening when they should”.
Implats said on Monday it was “honoured to have benefited from David’s visionary and charismatic leadership”.
Brown sat on the Vodacom board and had been expected to retire this July.
He was also on the board of Northam Platinum, which is battling with rival Implats, Brown’s former employer, for the takeover of Royal Bafokeng Platinum.