Rio’s new iron rule

Pilbara News - - News - Nick Evans

In­com­ing Rio Tinto chief ex­ec­u­tive Jean-Sébastien Jac­ques has ap­pointed a key coal lieu­tenant to run the com­pany’s big­gest money spin­ner, with for­mer lead­er­ship ri­val and iron ore boss An­drew Harding set to de­part af­ter al­most 25 years with the An­gloAus­tralian gi­ant.

Mr Jac­ques does not take over as chief ex­ec­u­tive from Sam Walsh un­til July 2 but has stamped his mark on the min­ing gi­ant by shak­ing up its ex­ec­u­tive decks.

Mr Harding — Mr Walsh’s hand-picked suc­ces­sor as Perth-based iron ore boss — is the only ma­jor ca­su­alty of Mr Jac­ques’ changes, af­ter los­ing the race for the chief ex­ec­u­tive’s gig to Rio’s erst­while cop­per and coal boss in March.

Mr Harding will part with Rio at the same time as Mr Walsh, to be re­placed by Chris Sal­is­bury.

Un­til March, Mr Sal­is­bury was the chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of Rio’s coal unit and a key mem­ber of Mr Jac­ques’ divi­sional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee. He was ap­pointed act­ing head of its cop­per and coal group when Mr Jac­ques was named Mr Walsh’s suc­ces­sor.

The re­struc­ture will also see a sec­ond Perth­based ex­ec­u­tive join Rio’s ex­ec­u­tive ech­e­lon, with the ap­point­ment of Joanne Far­rell as global head of health, safety, en­vi­ron­ment and com­mu­ni­ties.

Mr Harding’s de­par­ture from Rio marks a fur­ther re-shap­ing of the State’s iron ore sec­tor af­ter the exit of his BHP Bil­li­ton coun­ter­part, Jimmy Wilson, in Fe­bru­ary.

Like BHP, which turned to Mike Henry to head its new Aus­tralian op­er­a­tions in­clud­ing iron ore, Rio has turned to its coal di­vi­sion for new lead­er­ship for its most im­por­tant com­mod­ity at a time when the ex­pan­sion era is over and a re­newed fo­cus on cost­cut­ting is re­quired.

Mr Jac­ques and Mr Sal­is­bury de­liv­ered $1 bil­lion in free cash flow from the coal and cop­per di­vi­sion last year. Their unit was able to make the rare boast that all its as­sets were free cash flow pos­i­tive, de­spite tum­bling com­mod­ity prices.

Pic­ture: Pa­trick Hamil­ton/Bloomberg

Jean-Se­bastien Jac­ques, in­com­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Rio Tinto Group, has ap­pointed his lieu­tenant from the coal group to run iron ore.

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