New Rio Tinto CEO Ousts Rival Harding in Management Reshuffle

  • World’s second-biggest mining company prepares for a new boss
  • Chris Salisbury will lead Rio’s top earning iron-ore division

Rio Tinto Group’s next Chief Executive Officer Jean-Sebastien Jacques is already making his mark with a management reshuffle that’ll see a key rival for the top job leave the company.

Andrew Harding, with a 24-year career at the world’s second-largest mining business, will depart July 1, London-based Rio said Tuesday in a statement. Currently head of iron ore, Rio’s biggest earner, Harding will be replaced by copper and coal boss Chris Salisbury, 49.

The company named Jacques, the then copper chief, to replace CEO Sam Walsh in March in a move seen as a pivot toward growth after years of aggressive cost-cutting following waning prices and faltering Chinese demand. In February, BHP Billiton Ltd., the biggest miner, overhauled management and replaced its heads of iron ore and petroleum.

Mine operators including Rio and BHP are rethinking their organizations as priorities shift to investment and output growth, Ben Davis, a London-based analyst at Liberum Capital Ltd., said by phone. “It’s setting out your stall for what you see as important going forward,” he said. “For Rio, that’s aluminum, iron ore and copper.”

‘Stronger Structure’

Arnaud Soirat, 51, takes a new role in charge of copper and diamonds in a reorganization of Rio’s assets into four product groups. Rio’s board last month approved a $5.3 billion expansion to more than double output at the Oyu Tolgoi copper mine in Mongolia.

Salisbury’s portfolio will focus on the producer’s iron ore operations in Western Australia, with mines in Canada overseen by an energy and minerals unit led by Alan Davies that’ll also manage coal and uranium assets. Alfredo Barrios will remain in charge of aluminum, while copper and diamonds operations will be combined.

“Broadly retaining existing product lines should reassure investors that there will be no wholesale changes to Rio’s corporate strategy under the new CEO,” Dominic O’Kane, a mining analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in London, said in a note.

Chief Financial Officer Chris Lynch keeps his job.

“Our strategy, commitment to balance sheet strength and focus on shareholder returns will not change,” Jacques said in a statement. “We are strengthening our structure and delivery.”

CEO Walsh is due to retire July 1.

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