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Anglo names first female CEO at Kumba Iron Ore

Anglo American Plc appointed a female chief executive officer to run its South African iron ore business for the first time as the mining giant reshuffles its top bulk commodities management.

Mpumi Zikalala, currently managing director of De Beers managed operations, will take over as CEO of Kumba Iron Ore Ltd. on Jan. 1, Anglo said Tuesday in a statement. She will replace Themba Mkhwanazi, who will take over as head of bulk commodities from Seamus French, who is leaving the company.

The changes come as mining remains male-dominated, despite efforts by companies including BHP Group to increase the presence of women in their executive leadership. Zikalala’s appointment comes after Anglo, the storied miner with its roots in South Africa, last year named Natascha Viljoen as CEO for its platinum-group metals business, Anglo American Platinum Ltd.

“I am also delighted that, together with Nolitha Fakude as chair of our management board in South Africa, and Natascha Viljoen as CEO of our PGMs business, we will have three women of such high calibre leading our extensive interests in South Africa,” Anglo CEO Mark Cutifani said in the statement.

The 42-year-old Zikalala was appointed to manage De Beers’s South African and Canadian operations in 2019. She has been with the diamond division since 2007.

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Despite her lack of experience in bulk commodities, Zikalala’s background within Anglo, extensive leadership experience and engineering qualifications “should offset any immediate concerns from investors,” said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Emmanuel Munjeri.

Chinese demand for Kumba’s high-grade iron ore has made it one of Anglo’s most profitable units. While the business benefited from surging prices in recent years, Zikalala faces the challenge of finding new deposits and extending the company’s giant Sishen open pit operation in South Africa’s Northern Cape province.

Kumba’s shares fell 2.1% in Johannesburg, extending this year’s decline to 23%.

Ruben Fernandes, CEO of base metals, will also take on accountability for the iron ore and the nickel operations in Brazil, Anglo said. He will oversee the company’s Quellaveco copper operation in Peru when it’s commissioned.

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