Natascha Viljoen. Picture: SUPPLIED
Natascha Viljoen. Picture: SUPPLIED

Natascha Viljoen, the head of global processing for Anglo American, is the new CEO of the group’s platinum division.

Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) CEO Chris Griffith quit unexpectedly on February 17 when the company released record annual results and a dividend bonanza for shareholders on the back of high metal prices.

Viljoen headed the processing division at Lonmin, then the world’s third-largest platinum miner, before leaving to join Anglo where she has been since 2014. Anglo is the 80% owner of Amplats, the world's second-largest PGM miner.

“Natascha is a seasoned senior executive, bringing 28 years of operational experience from across our mining industry, spanning many different countries, metals and minerals, including, of course, the PGMs,” said Amplats chair Norman Mbazima.

Viljoen acknowledged the work Griffith has done over the past seven years in restructuring Amplats into a low-cost, mechanised mining operation with an enviable suite of mines, concentrators and refineries. Amplats also plays a critical role in stimulating demand for the metal in industrial applications, fuel cells, jewellery and investment.

“Chris Griffith has reshaped our PGMs portfolio to be fit for the future and I believe we now have an opportunity to reimagine how we operate — in our mines and our host communities,” Viljoen said in a statement.

“It is also our responsibility to build upon the wide variety of applications for our platinum group metals that already play a critical role in so many areas of modern life, from clean transport and energy, to health and jewellery, of course.”

During his final presentation of the company's stellar results on Monday, Griffith made mention of the new technologies developed within Anglo that could be rolled out in Amplats to reduce water and electricity consumption as well as deliver a higher quality of ore to the concentrators.

The two technologies are bulk sorting, which extracts barren rock from the ore stream going into the mills and concentrator circuits, and coarse particle recovery.

During her time as head of processing, Viljoen and "her team are recognised for their work in developing coarse particle recovery technology which enables the separation of metals from rock using a fraction of the energy and water of traditional methods, while increasing throughput and productivity," Mbazima said.

These two technologies are being tested at Anglo's El Soldado copper operation in Chile and will be rolled out through the copper division and the PGMs business. 

Another areas of focus for Viljoen will be the finalisation of studies into the expansion of the Mogalakwena PGM mine in Limpopo where a decision will be made on whether to build a new concentrator of up to 12-million tonnes per annum to cope with expanded opencast mining or to reconfigure the existing concentrators for underground mining.

The plan at Mogalakwena is to add another 500,000oz of PGM output a year to the world's most profitable platinum mine. 

In the statement, it was noted that Viljoen, an engineer, began her career as an engineer at Iscor, an iron ore and steel business. She worked at AngloGold and was the GM of BHP’s Klipspruit Colliery before joining Lonmin in 2008.

seccombea@businesslive.co.za