Jan. 5 (Bloomberg) -- AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Mark Cutifani is the leading contender to replace Cynthia Carroll at the helm of mining company Anglo American Plc, according to people familiar with the situation.
Cutifani has emerged at the top of a list of candidates that has included former BHP Billiton Ltd. CEO Chip Goodyear and Chris Griffith, the head of Anglo American’s platinum unit, said the people, who asked not to identified because the matter is private. The decision isn’t yet final on a replacement for Carroll, who said in October she would resign as CEO of the London-based miner after a $14 billion drop in market value.
Carroll’s successor may be announced within two weeks, the people said. The new CEO will face the challenge of increasing growth at Anglo American, which has struggled with cost overruns at projects, including the Minas-Rio iron ore mine in Brazil, and sparred with Chilean state mining company Codelco.
“Mark is a pretty energetic guy,” said Caesar Bryan, a portfolio manager at Gabelli & Co. in Rye, New York, which owns Anglo American and AngloGold shares. “He’s someone that’s very focused on return on invested capital and he seems to have an open mind to doing things differently.”
Carroll, 56, is the first woman, external hire and non-South African to lead Anglo American. She held the job for about five years before the search for a replacement, which was led by chairman John Parker.
Anglo American and AngloGold officials declined to comment.
Cutifani, an Australian, became CEO of AngloGold in 2007, replacing Bobby Godsell. He was previously chief operating officer of Vale SA’s nickel-mining operations, and was managing director of Australian gold and tantalum miner Sons of Gwalia Ltd. until 2003. A mining engineer by training, Cutifani is also president of South Africa’s Chamber of Mines group.
At AngloGold, he’s led efforts to increase production capacity to benefit from record prices for the precious metal. Cutifani has also been an advocate for economic reform in South Africa, where AngloGold is based and Anglo American has its own roots and many of its operations.
Anglo American’s platinum, iron ore, and diamond mines in South Africa were among those idled last year by a wave of sometimes violent strikes that followed a six-week protest at mines owned by Lonmin Plc. Workers demanded higher wages and complained of poor living conditions and bad labor union representation.
Anglo American, founded in 1917 to mine gold in the East Rand region, generated more than half of its 2011 operating profit in the country. Carroll said in December the company is committed to its presence there.
In contrast, Johannesburg-based Gold Fields Ltd. is planning to split its international operations from most of its mines in South Africa, where the National Treasury estimates the strikes will cut 2012 economic growth by about 0.5 percent.
AngloGold in November halved its dividend and reduced planned spending by $200 million after all of its South African mines were shut down. It also operates in countries including Mali and Australia.
AngloGold was spun off from Anglo American after the latter said in 2005 it would give up control of the gold business that helped build up the fortune of South Africa’s Oppenheimer family. Anglo American sold its final 11 percent stake in 2009 for $1.28 billion to billionaire hedge-fund manager John Paulson’s investment firm. Paulson & Co. is still the gold company’s largest shareholder, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Shares of AngloGold have declined 28 percent over the past year in Johannesburg. Anglo American has dropped 19 percent in London. The Bloomberg World Mining Index is little changed over the period.