The top 20 most influential people (Mining Journal – December 19, 2016)

The inclusion of those at the top of this year’s hierarchy of mining’s most influential was not debated within the Mining Journal offices but their positioning was the subject of vigorous discussion. Meanwhile, it was the activity at the margin – where individuals are included or omitted – that generated the most heated arguments.

1. Xi Jinping, president of the People’s Republic of China: We use Xi (pictured right, second from left) as a proxy for Chinese economic policy. That being the case, it is difficult to imagine the Chinese state being usurped as the biggest influence on the mining sector for several years.

The numbers clearly back up this selection, with China consuming more than 40% of the world’s copper, about half the world’s nickel, aluminium, and coal, and more than 70% of seaborne iron ore.

As if China’s importance needed further practical evidence, 2016 has provided plenty of supporting data. All was already lost when we slumped into the start of this year, but another collapse of Chinese stock markets sent miners further south. However, Chinese stimulus/infrastructure spending, steel policy, and domestic coal strategy have underpinned an uptick in the cycle this year and surprisingly exceptional performances from two supposed outcasts, iron ore and coal.

We also like Xi because he has a scientific background with an undergraduate in chemical engineering. His political grounding in the Chinese system also gives him a typically long-term view, implying decisions made today are likely to affect commodity economics for years to come.

2. Mark Bristow, Randgold Resources CEO: Nothing new here, either.

Bristow’s (pictured above, far right) performance as head of Randgold is the most regularly cited example of how to run a mining company. Randgold produced more than 1 million ounces for the first time in 2014, having followed a disciplined growth path that included both organic and corporate activities. This has been combined with strict cost controls that give the company its iconic 20% margin on a $1,000 per ounce gold price.

Beyond the example he sets, Bristow has been an outspoken ambassador for African mining both in his acclaim for those embracing a mutually beneficial relationship with the sector as well as in his criticism of African economies that bend to short-term, nationalistic policy and risk squandering the opportunity granted by extractive industries. His business policy is tightly integrated with corporate social responsibility and was so long before CSR became a buzz word.

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