Lihir Gold searching world for a leader

Feb 2010

A global search continues for a new CEO at Lihir Gold Limited (LGL), following the resignation of Arthur Hood with $3.5 million plus share rights.

While Arthur Hood’s contract was due to expire in September, Lihir chairman Ross Garnaut says now is the time for a new leader as the company seeks to maximise value in West Africa.

“Different characteristics of leadership would be important in the next phase of growth – better to make those changes now rather than having an extended period of uncertainty,” says Garnaut.

Garnaut applauded Hood for boosting the company’s operations since his appointment in 2005, having raised market cap to around $8 billion.

“Arthur has successfully led LGL through a major growth phase which has seen production increase from around 600,000 ounces per year in 2005 to more than 1.1 million ounces in 2009, with diversified operations in Papua New Guinea, Australia and West Africa,” he says.

Former CFO Phil Baker will step in as acting CEO and Garnaut is adamant that the search for a new CEO will be a global one.

“We were looking for someone with a focus that wasn’t as much on operations, but getting full value from assets,” says Baker.

Baker doesn’t foresee any sudden changes in strategy and the company has got very good value in its portfolio in Queensland, PNG and increasingly in West Africa through the acquisition of Equigold in 2008.

As for the sale of the Ballarat Mine, Garnaut says the bids from Australia and abroad have been ‘modest’, but should be able to bring a sale to fruition within a reasonable time frame.

The company has forecast a 1.3 million ounce uptick in production by 2012 as expansion projects continue abroad.

Production for 2009 was up 27 per cent, totalling 1.12 million ounces. Output rose to 278,000 ounces in the final quarter, an increase of 19 per cent over the preceding three month period.

In 2010, output from LGL’s three producing operations is expected to be in the range of 960,000 to 1.06 million ounces.

Baker says the full year production result had advanced LGL into the elite ranks of gold miners producing more than one million ounces of gold per year.

“Operationally the company performed very strongly in 2009, enabling us to meet market guidance for both gold production and unit cash costs,” he says.

“Going forward we aim to achieve consistent and reliable performance at all our operations, delivering on our guidance and keeping expansion projects on track.

“The strong result from Lihir Island confirms the enhanced reliability of the operation following the various improvements we’ve implemented over recent years.”

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