Transport boss takes chief exec role at De Beers

DIAMOND miner De Beers has hired French transport industry boss Philippe Mellier (see left) to replace former chief executive Gareth Penny, the first time the South-African based firm has looked externally to fill its top role.

Analysts say the appointment of a non-mining specialist is indicative of a broader problem for the industry, as it comes up against a shortfall in talent during a boom in the sector.

“It is quite revealing about the industry as a whole that they have struggled for a long time to find someone to fit that CEO role, and then they have come up with someone from completely outside the industry,” analyst Andy Davidson at Numis Securities said.

In its 2011 outlook for the sector, professional services firm Deloitte cited a talent deficit as one of the top challenges facing mining firms.

The average age of mining professionals in South Africa has reached 50-55, and though plenty of graduate workers are entering the industry, a gap remains in the coveted group of 30-50 year olds that would usually be groomed for an executive role.

Major shareholder Oppenheimer said De Beers had focused on finding an executive with a track record of delivering on large projects.