FRANCISTOWN: After a year as chief executive officer of Russian mining group, Norilsk Nickel International, Peter Breese has called it quits to pursue other interests.
The Zimbabwean-born 47-year-old Breese joined the mining concern about four years ago under the former owner and major shareholder LionOre International. This was before the 2007 acquisition of Tati Nickel by the Russian mining giant, Norilsk Nickel International from LionOre International.
Breese was the head of the Nickel Division outside Russia. His docket included Norilsk Nickel mining projects in Botswana, Rwanda, Finland, South Africa and Australia. Managing directors heading mining projects in the respective countries reported directly to him."When I took up my current portfolio over four years ago, the parent company then was LionOre International. I joined because I saw tremendous growth in Africa that also required a lot of optimisation. In other words, the challenge was to generate some requisite growth," said Breese.
"I have grown Tati Nickel mine to the level that it is one of the largest mining operations in Africa, just like I did with the Nkomati nickel mine in South Africa," he added. He is leaving what some call the comfort zone for new challenges.
"I am going to lead a company called GBS Gold, whose shares are traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange in Canada," he revealed. GBS Gold has the ambition of growing into a mining giant since it is currently a 'junior' company compared to the well-established mines where Breese previously worked. Breese, who has no training in either mining engineering or metallurgy, says he took over the reins when the Tati Nickel mine was producing about 8,500 tonnes of nickel ore per annum.The lifespan of the mine was estimated to end in 2012. Now, he proudly declares that he leaves at a time when the Tati Nickel mine's annual production has surged to about 25,000 tonnes of nickel in concentrate per annum with an increased life to about 2019. "Employment at the mine has also gone up by over 100 percent from about 1,200 workers when I took over to about 2,500 to date," he declared. He said he has achieved his targets at the company without any problems. "I completely leave a fulfilled man and I am hopeful I will be able to make it where I am going given that I will maintain the same spirit and vigour." Breese has an interesting story of how he landed a top job in the mining sector,
That was 15 years ago when the mine owners felt that "there were some people who were pilfering funds from the coffers of the mine frustrating the efforts for the mine to be profitable, that I was brought on board", he said. The bosses then roped in the young accountant and heaped the burden of turning the fortunes of the mine on Breese. He executed his duties well and this was the beginning of more opportunities for him in the mining sector.
"I was initially requested to go and see if I could run the project effectively and help in turning the fortunes of the platinum mine around, which I achieved with the help of the team I worked with," he said.
Like other previous challenges, Breese is confident he will succeed in Canada. He will be remembered as the man who broke the bad news about the indefinite postponement of the Activox Refinery project on June 4. This left nearly 1,000 jobless. "As to when the construction of the Activox would resume again, I have no answers now. But, it is dependent on a number of factors and most importantly, the project's economics," he says.Breese explains that his exit had been planned in advance and has nothing to do with the recent departure of the Tati Nickel mine general manager, Peet Kotze. Another man who resigned end of June is former mine manager, Thuso Dikgaka. He has started his own management and mine consultancy firm in Gaborone. He quit after seven years of service.
Peter Meswele, Tati Nickel divisional manager, Organisational Capability described Breese as a great leader who has grown the company from a point where it was very little known to a major player in the nickel mining industry. "He has developed people and equally grown the company to the giant that it is. He is one person who always has a finger on the pulse of the company although he lives far in Johannesburg," said Meswele.Breese will be replaced by Ralph Havenstein on September 1. Norilsk Nickel International website says the new boss has extensive executive experience in the oil, chemical and mining industries.