* Lonmin has been rebounding from deadly 2012 strikes
* New CEO seen good fit, understands changed mining sector
* Lonmin is world's third-largest platinum producer
* Killing of 34 strikers by police at Marikana rocked nation
By Ed Stoddard
JOHANNESBURG, April 2 South African platinum
producer Lonmin PLC appointed Anglo American Platinum
(Amplats) executive Ben Magara as its new chief
executive on Tuesday as it strives to rebound from a wave of
deadly strikes which hammered it last year.
Magara, who will start in July, will be tasked with guiding
Lonmin's turnaround and improving industrial relations at the
company after illegal strikes last year triggered violence which
killed 46 people, including 34 strikers shot dead by police in a
single day at its Marikana mine.
A Zimbabwean national who ran Anglo America's South
African coal operations before taking over engineering and
capital projects at Amplats, Magara faces a militant labour
force which closed Marikana for a day last month, embarrassing
Lonmin as it hosted a media tour.
Industry sources say he has invaluable experience of South
Africa's highly-charged labour and political environment, in
which mining executives do not have just investors to please.
"He seems to get - more than almost anyone else - that the
mining game has changed and that your stakeholders are as
important as your shareholders," said a senior lawyer who has
worked with Magara.
"For a company like Lonmin, that doesn't seem to have that
institutional nous, this is a great hire," the lawyer said.
South Africa's mining landscape has been radically
transformed by the emergence of the militant Association of
Mineworkers and Construction Union, which has poached members
from the once dominant National Union of Mineworkers in a bloody
turf war that was at the root of last year's violence.
The government and the ruling African National Congress also
have the mining industry under a microscope and have lashed out
at plans by Lonmin rival Amplats, the world's biggest platinum
producer, to cut up to 14,000 jobs to restore profits.
Lonmin had been searching for a new chief executive since
the end of last year, when Ian Farmer officially stepped aside
due to illness.
The company has been recovering and in January said
production in the last three months of 2012 bounced back more
strongly than expected from crippling strikes.
Platinum, used in catalytic converters in cars, has come
under pressure since the global economic downturn.
The strikes, weak platinum prices and high costs forced
Lonmin to turn to investors in November to raise $817 million to
avoid breaching lending terms.
Lonmin said Simon Scott, who has been acting chief executive
since August 2012, will resume his role as chief financial
officer when Magara joins.
Lonmin's shares in London were down 0.5 percent at midday.