Two new chief executive appointments on Thursday struck me as quite symbolic. Poetic, even. Noble Corp (NYSE: NE) and Harmony Gold Mining (NYSE: HMY) have, in a sense, begun 2008 with a clean slate, by choosing to announce new CEOs during the first week of the New Year. At the same time, they have embraced continuity by choosing to promote internal candidates to the top leadership spot. This isn't a trivial point, given that both companies were jarred by abrupt executive resignations in 2007.

When Mark Jackson jumped ship from offshore driller Noble in the wake of the Transocean (NYSE: RIG) merger, consolidation seemed to be a-comin'. But my speculation proved to be off the mark, and no tie-up with SeaDrill ever came to light. Instead, it's been business as usual, and the promotion of COO David Williams reinforces that point.

Diamond Offshore (NYSE: DO) veteran Williams seems a natural choice, as he has served as the face of Noble during recent roadshow presentations. Playing Meet the Street was probably a critical trial run for Williams, and it would appear that he was quite well-received by analysts. I look forward to seeing what he can do with this fine company.

Bernard Swanepoel left Harmony Gold under much more discordant circumstances. The South African miner, the world's fifth largest, had just warned of a production shortfall, not to mention a crippling cost creep. Thus, the longstanding executive's departure was far less mystifying.

It certainly hasn't been easy street for acting chief executive Graham Briggs, who can now drop the "acting" upon his permanent appointment. You may recall the near-disastrous mine accident in early October that trapped over 3,000 workers more than a mile underground. But there have been some bright spots as well, including the wise disposition of uranium assets, which mirrors a recent move by Newmont Mining (NYSE: NEM). Now, with the gold price really flying, Briggs may have better than an even chance to turn things around.

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Fool contributor Toby Shute doesn't have a position in any company mentioned. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is solid gold.