Barrick Gold Corp.’s proposed new chief executive officer, Mark Bristow, is a larger-than-life character: a former conscript soldier in South Africa’s apartheid army whose hobby is riding motorcycles across the most dangerous and remote corners of the African continent.
Mr. Bristow has a long record of success in some of Africa’s toughest mining regions, but he could be an odd fit in Barrick’s buttoned-down corporate environment. He is notoriously outspoken, often making blunt pronouncements on the perceived errors of investors, politicians and other mining companies.
The 59-year-old miner has manoeuvred shrewdly through Africa’s challenges, building his Randgold Resources Ltd. into a multibillion-dollar empire with major projects in Mali, Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
But when the Congolese government announced a plan to hike mining taxes this year, he lashed out furiously at the plan. “It seems to be based on the entirely irrational premise that the state is somehow entitled to the entire cash flow from the mines,” he told a mining conference in Cape Town.
He called it an “abuse of the partnership concept,” and an attempt to “kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.” And when investors nervously sold off Randgold stock in response to the Congo tax dispute, he lashed out at them, too, criticizing the market reaction as “pathetic” and panicky.
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