Morne du Plessis has been appointed as CEO

Morne du Plessis has been appointed as CEO

Africa / Energy

Minergy – growing, training and ensuring Botswana has viable coal industry

Back in April 2017 Minergy Limited listed on the main board of the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) with the objective of utilising its 100 per cent owned 390-million tonne Masama Coal Project in the Mmambula Coalfield to become a preeminent coal mining and trading company in southern Africa. 

As the Company’s Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) Andre Bojé successfully steered the Company through its listing and mine development after having conceived a company strategy that has positioned the Company to achieve its objective of becoming a significant player in southern African coal mining and trading. On 14 May 2019, Minergy announced that Bojé would be retiring but importantly that he would remain involved in the company to retain oversight and strategic responsibility for group coal marketing and sales for a period of 12 months. He will also remain part of the team tasked with ensuring the successful listing of Minergy on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) of the London Stock Exchange.

Boje said “The project is at a stage where it needs hands on executive attention so it’s the right time to step back” and added that “there is an excellent team in place to progress Masama to where we have consistently believed it should be, one of the leading coal suppliers in the southern African region”.

Mokwena Morulane, Non-Executive Chairperson of Minergy, said that Bojé had been the driving force behind taking the project through a multitude of steps, both regulatory and physical, including the listing on the BSE. “Thanks to this, it is now a viable operating coal mine. Andre’s outstanding management, deep understanding of the coal industry and his tenacity are the reasons why we have a workable project today.” He added that retaining Bojé’s expertise in the business for a period of time will allow a smooth transition and cement the establishment of the Masama Coal Project and CEO succession.

Following this, the Minergy Board notes it is pleased to announce that Morne du Plessis has been appointed as CEO designate and will step into the position of CEO on 1 August 2019.

An extensive candidate selection process, led by Minergy’s Remuneration and Nomination Committee, included both internal and external candidates, ensuring that the Board was in a position to appoint the most qualified and experienced person to fill the role previously held by Boje.

Mr. du Plessis, currently the Chief Financial Officer (“CFO”) has extensive experience in southern African coal mining and trading sector, particularly in South Africa. He is a chartered accountant with an MBA from Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland and has held top management positions for several coal mining and trading groups, including contract mining and beneficiation service provider Genet SA, junior coal miner Umcebo Mining Group, and Johannesburg Stock Exchange listed junior coal miner and trader, Wescoal Holdings Limited. Du Plessis has been a Director on the Board of the Minergy since January 2017 and has been an integral part of the operational team that developed the Masama project.

Commenting on the new appointment, Morulane said that du Plessis’ extensive experience in coal mining and trading, particularly in southern African but also internationally, and his significant listed public company director experience was a significant factor in the Board’s decision to appoint him as CEO.

“He also has a deep and practical understanding of the requirements to implement a modern mining project, with his tenure as Minergy’s CFO giving him in-depth knowledge of Minergy’s flagship Masama Project, in order to bring it into full production over the coming months.”

The commitment to growth within Minergy is further underpinned with several additional appointments having been made recently, including those of Financial Manager Julius Ayo, General Manager of Mining Siyani Makwakwago, and SHE Manager Herbert Kebafetotse.

“I am extremely proud of these appointments for a number of reasons,” said du Plessis, adding that these senior managers are highly skilled, knowledgeable and embrace the Minergy culture of ensuring training across the organisation in order to fulfil the company’s mandate of ensuring a viable coal sector in Botswana.”

“Work is demanding and at the same time very rewarding. I feel that I am part of something big which will create opportunities and transform the lives of many Batswana,” said Ayo. He went on to indicate that that a goal for the finance team is “to ensure the mine remains financially sustainable through effective cost management, disciplined adherence to financial systems, and prudent revenue optimisation”.

New colleague Siyani Makwakwago added to this, saying he believes that the Minergy culture allows people to express their views openly, thereby promoting a diverse approach to resolving any potential issues. “Minergy has afforded me an opportunity to explore my capabilities to the fullest in dealing with varied experiences in a brown field project. Every day is different, interesting and challenging, and I always looking forward to the next day.”

He and the team are looking forward to the day they start feeding coal sustainably and safely through the washing plant and have quality product out through the mine gate onward to customers.

SHE Manager Herbert Kebafetotse believes that employees at Minergy have a once in a lifetime opportunity in terms of being part of the construction, commissioning and operation of a potential giant in Botswana’s coal mining history. “The euphoria created by the prospects of bringing an open pit coal mine to its full potential has created a culture of togetherness and team work that will collectively ensure the commissioning and operation of the mine is successful.”

Kebafetotse added that, from a personal perspective, being part of a new operation, with the excitement of starting things from scratch came with a lot of pressure to do so successfully, was what he enjoys most. “From a SHE team perspective, we intend making this the model mine in Botswana by achieving an LTIFR of zero in our first year and thereafter improving on this performance to go beyond the philosophy of ‘zero harm’. To achieve this, we need commitment from all employees, supervisors and managers, and the team is eager to provide a framework for managers to lead the way towards a safe culture at the mine.”

Above and beyond these senior appointments, Martin Bartle, the Managing Director of Minergy Coal (Pty) Ltd has responsibility for the overall performance of the company embracing profitability, mining operations, processing and safety.

Minergy has furthermore opened local offices in the villages of Medie and Lentsweletau primarily to ensure that detailed skills audits are conducted and also provide a contact point for various communities to interact with the project. At the moment, of the 246 employees on the mine site, 236 or 96% are Batswana.

Training at the mine site is taking place, mainly through subcontractors, and primarily involving machine operation. “As we transition from the project phase to full production, a vast amount of training will continue to take place and, in this phase, we will really be building coal expertise within Botswana,” du Plessis assured.

Bojé said that the company and the mining operation is in good standing and that executive management, as well as mine and technical management, are well equipped to take the project forward successfully. “I am confident that the operation is in good hands,” he said.

In conclusion, du Plessis reiterated Minergy’s ongoing commitment to foster skills development in Botswana, coupled with ensuring the company’s social conscience is directed at uplifting the surrounding villages, such as the recent connection of the local Medie village to the Botswana Power Corporation electrification grid and other planned projects.  “This is the right thing to do and we will ensure that we are remembered for our care as well as our knowledge of the coal sector, which we want to ensure remains a skill set that can be sustained in Botswana.”

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