All change at the top – Top global mining CEOs an endangered species – by Lawrence Williams ( – January 17, 2013)

Nearly all the world’s top industrial and gold mining companies have been, or are in the process of, changing their CEOs. What impact will this have on future metals production?

LONDON (MINEWEB) – Rio Tinto’s Tom Albanese is the latest victim of rapidly shrinking endangered species, the major mining CEO.

It may have taken almost 6 years but, the primary reason for the departure was the mega-miner’s foray into aluminium with the takeover of Alcan in 2007, just ahead of the big commodity price collapse of 2007/2008.

Aluminium has never fully recovered from that and at last Rio has taken the decision to write off $10 billion against the fall in value of one of the world’s biggest aluminium producers.

Albanese might have survived this on its own, but the recent $3.5 billion purchase of Mozambique coal developer, Riversdale, just. two years ago, which is now being almost entirely written down in Rio’s books was just too much for the company’s board and shareholders to live with. Albanese had to go

But Albanese is not alone. Of the world’s 10 largest mining companies, eight CEOs have been pushed, resigned, or are at least rumoured to be leaving. Look at the list: Top global miner BHP is reported in the Australian press to be seeking a successor to CEO, Marius Kloppers; No. 2, Vale, ousted its CEO Roger Agnelli two years ago in a government initiated move, the Brazilian government being the company’s largest shareholder; No. 3 ,Rio Tinto, is as noted above losing Tom Albanese; No. 4, Anglo American, has announced its CEO, Cynthia Carroll, is stepping down this year after dissatisfaction with the company’s performance; and No. 5, Xstrata, is to lose its CEO as part of the merger with its 34% shareholder, Glencore.

But it doesn’t stop there. Codelco, the world’s biggest copper miner, saw its CEO, Diego Hernandez, resign last year over differences with its Board; Norilsk Nickel is changing its CEO, Vladimir Strzhalkovsky as a result of the attempt to settle the differences between its biggest shareholders, Vladimir Potanin and Oleg Deripaska. The list goes on.

Take the gold mining sector. No. 1 gold miner, Barrick Gold, removed its CEO, Aaron Regent, last year, as did Kinross with Tye Burt. Newmont CEO, Richard O’Brien, is stepping down and leaving the board in a couple of months time. Of the other top gold miners, Newcrest’s CEO, Ian Smith, resigned two years ago, although this was not performance related as the top Australian gold miner had just reported record earnings at the time. AngloGold Ashanti’s CEO, Mark Cutifani, is also leaving – but in this case to take over the leadership of former parent company, Anglo American, which could therefore be considered a promotion.

So who does this leave at the top? The survivors who now become perhaps the industry’s senior leaders are Richard Adkerson at Freeport McMoran, Chuck Jeannes at Goldcorp and Nick Holland at Gold Fields. They may too be looking over their shoulders. The demise of their peers will certainly be concentrating their minds!

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