Wires

UPDATE 2-Aquarius Platinum boss resigns as sector feels heat

* No reason given for resignation with immediate effect

* Murray is third platinum boss to leave this year

* Shares fall over 10 percent in early trade

(Writes through with background, detail)

By Clara Ferreira-Marques

LONDON, Oct 8 (Reuters) - The chief executive of minerAquarius Platinum , industry veteran Stuart Murray, hasresigned with immediate effect after a decade at the helm,becoming the third boss of a major platinum producer to stepdown so far this year.

Aquarius, which announced the departure in a statement onMonday, gave no reason for Murray's resignation. But the movecomes at a time of unprecedented trouble in South Africa'splatinum industry, where strikes for higher wages have leftalmost 50 people dead, as the country experiences its worstsocial unrest since the end of apartheid in 1994.

Murray, a chemical engineer who began his career with numbertwo player Impala Platinum , was well-known in theindustry for his frank and sometimes controversial publiccomments, and his departure hit Aquarius shares, as investorsfretted it could signal more bad news to come.

During his time at the helm, Murray oversaw the growth ofthe company from a single mine to number four player, andsteered it through tough times. Those times included a mineaccident in 2010 that killed five employees and Zimbabweanefforts to claim a larger slice of mining revenue via"indigenisation" policies that threatened its Mimosa venture.

More recently, along with other executives in the sector, hebattled low platinum prices, safety stoppages and squeezedmargins that dragged Aquarius to a full-year loss.

Aquarius, which gets most of its production from SouthAfrica but also has the Mimosa mine in Zimbabwe, was one of thefirst major platinum miners to scale back activities because oflow prices, suspending operations at its Marikana joint venturewith Anglo American Platinum in June.

"Stuart Murray has pretty much been the face of AquariusPlatinum," Nomura analysts said in a morning note.

"After an extremely difficult last three years for thecompany there will be plenty of speculation surrounding whetheror not there is more bad news to come."

News of the resignation sent London-listed shares inAquarius down 10.5 percent to 42.99 pence at 0900 GMT,underperforming a 1.2 percent drop in the broader UK miningsector . Australian-listed shares closed down 6percent, while its Johannesburg stock fell almost 8 percent.

But Nomura analysts also saw positives, including apotential "fresh start" with new leadership for a miner that hasevolved since Murray took the chief executive role in 2001.

A replacement for Murray - also chairman of the miner'sprincipal, South African subsidiary - will be considered "in duecourse", Aquarius said, adding that he will continue at theminer until the end of March, for an "orderly handover".

Murray is the latest platinum boss to leave this year.

David Brown left the helm of Impala Platinum at the end ofJune, to be replaced by former Metorex boss Terence Goodlace,while Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) replaced veteran NevilleNicolau with iron ore executive Chris Griffith in July.

The third-largest platinum producer, Lonmin , hasappointed an acting chief executive as boss Ian Farmer pursuestreatment for an unpecified illness.

Aquarius, which in August reported a full-year loss for the12 months ended June 30, said that Jean Nel, formerly commercialdirector, would become its chief operating officer.

Zwelakhe Mankazana, a non-executive board member since 2007,has been appointed interim non-executive chairman of Aquarius'principal subsidiary, Aquarius Platinum South Africa.

(Additional reporting by Sarah Young; editing by KeironHenderson)

((clara.ferreira-marques@thomsonreuters.com)(+44 207 5423214)(Reuters Messaging:clara.ferreira-marques.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

Keywords: AQUARIUS/