Mongolian mine boss finds himself in midst of ugly Bumi debacle

BROCK Gill is frustratingly un-Googleable. Type his name into any search engine and you’re instead presented with links to an American illusionist with the same name. This Brock Gill is a miner, but it might take some smoke and mirrors for what he wants to pull off.

The 32-year-old Canadian has found himself in quite a situation. Following seven years in the Gobi desert, he received a phone call that threw his career down a very different path. The voice at the end of the line was Nat Rothschild, Bumi co-founder and billionaire financier, asking him to lead the miner if his board changes are voted through at next Thursday’s highly-charged shareholder meeting.

“I was actually shopping for a steak at the time when I got a message from this person called Nat Rothschild,” says Gill, having never heard of the financier or the company until December.

But Gill is an enthusiastic Rothschild cheerleader now. “It takes a lot of personal drive and motivation to affect this kind of change, to publicly admit there had been mistakes. He wants to believe in the future of the company,” he tells City A.M.

Gill – other than by dint of his youth – is very different from his Bumi counterpart Nick von Schirnding, in that he is a dyed-in-the-wool miner.

“It’s what my parents do, my stepfathers do, my aunts and uncles do. My childhood was spent within four miles of a mine site,” he says.

He started off in insurance, but soon slipped back into the family business, and by 2006 was stationed in Mongolia working for Ivanhoe Mines on the huge Oyu Tolgoi copper project, eventually working up to deputy director level.

His plan for Bumi, if Rothschild’s proposals are voted through, is to shift the centre of gravity of the company from London to Indonesia, where subsidiary Berau operates. This will include him essentially moving to the mine site to run day-to-day operations.

“We need miners to run the company. The issue is that it has been very London-focused. Bumi is nothing but a mining company, and you need miners to run it,” he says.

Despite his lofty ambitions, it’s not as simple as being shipped off to Kalimantan and digging stuff out of the ground. If – and it’s a big if – Rothschild succeeds in bulldozing through his board changes, Gill will have to separate Bumi Resources from its London-listed parent. This will be a huge stumbling block due to the relationship agreement that allows Indonesian investors the Bakrie family to nominate key company executives.

But Gill is forever optimistic. “Of course we can deal with them. The Bakries are pragmatic people. After all, we’re dealing with a lot of money here,” he says.

When asked about the much-anticipated vote next Thursday, Brock says he is “optimistic” that Rothschild can flatten the incumbent Bumi board.

“I’m looking forward to it. I’m excited about the future of the company – there’s a tremendous amount of upside. Nat’s sole goal is to increase the shareholder value of this company, and he wants a team around him that ensures it’s going to be done.”