Activist company

Suncor CEO resigns after latest death at company facility

Mark Little prepares to speak at the company’s annual meeting in Calgary on May 2, 2019. Mr. Little has resigned as the company’s president and CEO.Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

The chief executive of Suncor Energy Inc. has resigned, a day after the latest fatality at one of the company’s oil sands facilities.

The Calgary-based company announced Friday evening that Mark Little will step down as president and chief executive officer and resign from the board of directors effective immediately. Kris Smith, who currently serves as executive vice president of downstream operations, has been named interim CEO.

The move comes just months after activist investor Elliott Investment Management LP, a hedge fund, cited the company’s safety record in a bid for change at the pioneering oilsands producer, including a board overhaul. administration and management.

Thursday’s death of a contractor at the Base mine north of Fort McMurray, Alta., was the second this year at a Suncor facility. Since 2014, at least 12 people have died at Suncor sites, more than all of the company’s oil sands rivals combined.

After the incident, Suncor canceled an oil sands operations presentation scheduled for next week, which was partly intended to outline its actions and plans to improve its performance and safety record.

Mr Little said in May that the company had made a host of changes, including a third-party safety review, the appointment of new management and the integration of new fatigue management technology and collision avoidance at its oil sands sites to reduce risks to workers and contractors.

It is also deploying crash mitigation technology commonly used in the global mining industry across its oil sands operations, after a worker was killed and two others injured in January when two heavy trucks drove into collision while climbing a mine ramp.

Earlier this year, analysts had expressed concern that the death and other operational incidents that had plagued production since the start of winter highlighted problems with the company’s track record. Operational incidents – one at its Syncrude mine, the other at its Firebag operation – reduced production by about 195,000 barrels per day in the second half of December.

As a result of this reduction, overall annual production in 2021 is approximately 1% lower than the company’s target of 740,000 barrels per bay.

Suncor said Friday its board has formed a CEO search committee and is hiring a global executive search firm to help with the process.

“Suncor is committed to achieving safety and operational excellence across its business, and we need to recognize where we have failed and recognize the critical need for change,” said Suncor Chairman of the Board. administration, Michael Wilson, in a statement Friday.

“We commend Mark for his professionalism and the outstanding work he has done guiding Suncor through the pandemic and leading our industry’s progressive approach to energy transition. We thank him for his years of service to the company and wish him well.

Mr. Little joined Suncor in 2008 as Senior Vice President of Strategic Growth and Energy Trading before becoming Senior Vice President of Integration following Suncor’s merger with Petro -Canada.

He was named CEO in 2019.