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Bosses' pay under radar as mining boom busts

Editorial
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Executive salaries are under scrutiny as the mining industry implements belt-tightening measures across its companies.

Resource-rich countries like Australia and Brazil are looking at wages of company directors and management.

When the mining boom was at its peak, some truck drivers were earning as much as $US200 000 a year.

A survey recently revealed chief coal mine managers' pay packets were about the same as Federal Opposition leader Tony Abbot.

The survey revealed executives were taking home huge pay packets despite the mining slump.

But this is under review as demand slows from China; companies are also cutting jobs, downgrading profit forecasts, slashing spending for new mineral deposit exploration and even cutting free coffee machines and barbeques for staff.

Companies like UGL, WorleyParsons, Boart Longyear and Transfield have all downgraded profit outlook or slashed jobs.

“Like a lot of businesses, we hot a bit fat, dumb and happy,” managing director of Panoramic Resources Peter Harold said.

The Australian reported Panoramic Resources has slashed salaries of its top executives and board members by 10 per cent, bridging the gap with employees and contractors who were suffering under cost cutting measures across the business.

Falling demand from China sent nickel prices to four-year lows.

“You can’t ask suppliers to make cuts if you, at the top level, aren’t willing to take some pain yourself,” Harold said.

Mining companies have taken steps to save billions of dollars in costs from their companies as China looks to control property conjecture and calm its economy.

Rio Tinto is looking to cut $US5 billion in costs by the end of 2014.

BHP Billiton’s boss Andrew Mackenzie took a 25 per cent cut to his salary from former CEO Marius Kloppers and agreed to a thinner bonus package. These measures were unheard of at the peak of the mining boom.

Australian Mining recently reported BHP Billiton's chief was taking home pay that was 200 times the average Australian.

Toronto’s Troy Resources recently said its CEO Paul Benson will also take a 25 per cent cut in his base salary in the fiscal year from July 1.

Other senior executives and directors took a 10 per cent cut. Incentives will be given in equity instead of cash.

“When the gold price took a large drop in early April, we started thinking about how we would react to that changing environment,” Benson said.

“I had a strong view on this and felt I had to show leadership to illustrate how serious this is,” he said.

Finding executives who gave returns to shareholders were as hard to come by as the commodities they were searching for.

Salaries have spiked significantly in Australia as it enjoyed 21 consecutive years of economic growth. According to Ernst & Young, chief executive base salaries have climbed every year in the decade to mid-2012.

Median annual increases peaked 11 per cent in some years, but the global financial crisis slowed wage growth. Companies opted for incentive-based remuneration framework.

Gold prices have slid 24 per cent since January. Newcrest Mining last month revealed it may write down its assets value by as much as $6 billion.

Australian gold company Saracen Mineral Holdings has cut its non-executive directors’ salary by about $20000. Managing director Raleigh Finlayson’s salary is being examined.

Resolute Mining, which has three gold mines across Africa and Australia, has frozen executive salary.

Uranium explorer Deep Yellow is looking to cut executive salaries and board fees for the second time this year.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see this continue to impact more and more companies," Benson said of management pay evaluations.

"Now that we've seen a significant change in the gold price, and we're seeing real worries about what's happening in China, people are starting to act as though there is a longer-term change taking place."

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