With more than 100m ounces of gold in the ground, worth $158bn, Palmer’s technical team is sitting on the world’s largest gold reserve
Palmer spent 20 years at Rio Tinto, maxing-out productivity gains in its iron ore division; at Newmont he is testing the same ideas in gold
Thomas Palmer was already managing 85 per cent of Newmont’s workforce when the board announced he would become its next CEO. True to Newmont's conservative culture, he has maintained a low profile inside its American headquarters, reversing a decline in production as chief operating officer at the world’s largest gold company. Managing investors is a different task.
In Australian mining circles, Palmer is well known: his father was one of the best-respected executives at Rio Tinto, where the younger Palmer spent 20 years, ironing out bottlenecks in its iron ore division, only leaving when prices tanked in 2013.
Palmer took on the brief of running Newmont's Asia Pacific business, including Boddington and the Super Pit, two of Australia's biggest gold operations. By squeezing downtime, gold output rose 20 per cent in his first year at the group and copper production more than doubled.
Establishing himself as an indispensable
lieutenant to Newmont’s polished CEO Gary Goldberg, Palmer has been rolling-out the same approach across Newmont’s largest mines, from Ghana to Suriname. He also led a team of 50 on two due diligence missions, scouting-out Goldcorp's mines in Mexico and Argentina, before buying the group for $10bn.
With Goldberg due to leave before the end of 2019, the deal’s success now firmly rests on Palmer’s shoulders.
Newmont’s technical teams are sitting on more than 100m-ounces of gold, plus a “prolific portfolio” of mines, Palmer says. But Goldcorp's flagship Penasquito operation in Mexico has been blockaded almost every day since the deal closed, losing 50m pesos per day.
With rival Barrick under the leadership of boisterous Mark Bristow (much loved by the investment community), if Palmer looks untested, that might not be the case for long.