Johannesburg — BUSINESSWOMAN, academic and social activist Mamphela Ramphele will become the first black chairwoman of a major international mining house in November when she takes the chair at Gold Fields .
Dr Ramphele, who founded the Black Consciousness Movement with Steve Biko and is a former MD of the World Bank, succeeds Alan Wright, who was chairman since 2005.
Gold Fields CEO Nick Holland said Mr Wright's "wealth of experience, as well as commitment to the company, will be missed by all employees. (But) as we advance on our path to becoming the world's leading sustainable gold producer, I can think of few better candidates than Dr Ramphele to lead us there."
Dr Ramphele is a director of Gold Fields' rival Anglo American, as well as of Medi-Clinic and investment group Remgro .
Unlike Mr Wright, who joined Gold Fields in 1969, she has no operational experience in the mining industry.
But Peter Major, a mining analyst at Cadiz , said her appointment was a canny move by Gold Fields. "Alan Wright's tenure was in a difficult time for the industry, so it's hard to judge his performance -- but he was associated with the old school.
"Mamphela is much more connected with the government and the unions. She's also highly esteemed internationally, and can probably open a lot more doors for them than Wright could."
Anglo American was criticised by the government last year when it appointed Sir John Parker as chairman a day after Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu said the state wanted to see a black South African appointed. By contrast, Dr Ramphele's appointment would win Gold Fields "brownie points", Mr Major said.
Dr Ramphele said she was "delighted" to be part of a company with a strong South African base that was "committed to sustainable mining and the responsible exploitation of resources".
Gold Fields' share price rose 3,1% after the announcement to close at R107,74.