Mining giant Anglo American is close to hiring Mark Cutifani, the boss of rival AngloGold Ashanti, as its new chief executive, two sources familiar with the situation said.
Cutifani would replace Cynthia Carroll, who said in October she would resign as CEO under pressure from investors over the miner's lagging share price and dependence on strike-hit South Africa.
Cutifani is the frontrunner and an announcement could come before mid-January, one of the sources said, but no final decision has been made.
Australian Cutifani has run AngloGold, created from Anglo American's gold assets, since 2007.
Should he be hired, he would become only the second non-South African and only the second outsider to head the group after New Jersey-born Carroll, in what analysts and investors say is one of the toughest jobs in the resources sector.
Other candidates in the running include Rene Medori, Anglo's finance director, and Peter Whitcutt, the firm's director of strategy and business.
Along with Cutifani, ex-BHP Billiton chief financial officer Alex Vanselow and chief executive of Xstrata Mike Davis are among the external candidates who have been tipped for the job.
Anglo American declined to comment. AngloGold could not immediately be reached for comment.