No comment from Solid Energy boss

MARTA STEEMAN
Last updated 05:00 12/03/2014

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Solid Energy's new chief executive hails from one of the world's mining giants GlencoreXstrata.

Dan Clifford, 42, was announced yesterday as the new chief executive of the unprofitable New Zealand state-owned coal miner after a year long search.

Clifford was not prepared to comment when asked about the attractiveness of the job at Solid Energy and its recent financial troubles.

Ten days ago Solid Energy posted a $41 million loss for the half year to December 31, 2013.

Garry Diack, the interim chief executive, said then he reckoned Solid Energy could manage to ride out the ups and downs of the international coal market after slashing its staffing by half in the past 18 months, to 867 at the end of last year, and cutting operations.

"At this stage it is no comment from me until I can get myself established," Clifford said from the Ulan Complex in the western coalfields of New South Wales where he is general manager.

Ulan is one of the mining operations of GlencoreXstrata, a global giant which was formed from the US$29 billion (NZ$34.13b) merger of Glencore and Xstrata last May.

Clifford is a mining engineer with 20 years in the industry in Australia and South Africa.

The huge company of which he is a part wrote down the value of the merger deal by US$7.5b mainly because of the fall in value of Xstrata's mining businesses.

Solid Energy's acting chair, Pip Dunphy, was not prepared to comment on the selection process that has resulted in Clifford's appointment following the resignation in February last year of controversial chief executive Don Elder.

Dunphy said, in a prepared statement: "Dan has successfully restructured mining operations to be more efficient and economic and leaves behind at Ulan a significantly improved health and safety performance across that operation, which produces 11 million tonnes of coal a year with a work force of about 900 people."

Solid Energy produces about 4 million tonnes of coal a year.

Dunphy said the Solid Energy board was pleased to have secured an industry executive with extensive opencast and underground mine experience.

She said Clifford had a degree in mining engineering, a first-class certificate of competency for underground coalmines, was a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and had had directorship roles within Glencore's businesses.

Clifford takes the reins in early May.

Dunphy thanked Diack for leading the company over a difficult year.

She said he had helped refocus the company on its core coalmining and marketing roles and restructure it to give it the best chance of returning to profitability.

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"Under Garry's leadership, the company has made very good progress in responding to the fall in international coal prices, reducing costs and focusing on cash generation."

- BusinessDay

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