UPDATE 3-Rio Tinto drops iron ore chief as incoming CEO makes his mark – by James Regan and Barbara Lewis (Reuters Africa – June 21, 2016)


SYDNEY/LONDON, June 21 (Reuters) – Rio Tinto replaced the head of its main profit-making iron ore division in a reshuffle by new Chief Executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques, who will run the mining giant from the start of July with a focus on the lowest costs in the business.

In common with its peers, Rio Tinto is striving to cut debt and sell some assets following a collapse in the value of commodities triggered by weaker than expected Chinese growth.

Analysts said the shake-up was part of an ongoing slimming down of mining organisational structures and had been expected as the incoming boss to replace Sam Walsh makes his mark. Iron ore accounts for almost 90 percent of Rio’s earnings, but that market is expected to remain oversupplied, while analysts see better growth potential in copper.

Iron ore division head Andrew Harding – once tipped as a contender to lead the global mining house – will leave on July 1, the company said in a statement, and Jacques, previously copper and coal division head, takes over the following day.

“A big departure, but not a great surprise given that Andrew must have been vying for Sam Walsh’s role,” Hunter Hillcoat, analyst at Investec, said. “This possibly made it untenable that he remain.”

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