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Andrew Harding, the man who lost out in the battle to replace Sam Walsh as CEO of Rio Tinto, is to quit the company in a sweeping reorganisation engineered by incoming chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques. Even though Jacques doesn’t officially take over from Walsh until July 2, his former rival for the job will leave the group on July 1, after 24 years.
The Frenchman’s stamp is all over the reorganisation and analysts said it was clear he wanted his imprint to be there from day one.
Harding, as head of Rio’s iron ore operations around the globe, with the focus, of course, on the Pilbara, was often referred to as Australia’s most powerful miner.
Replacing him as head of a new unit devoted exclusively to the Western Australian iron ore business is acting coal and copper boss Chris Salisbury.
Salisbury has pulled ahead of other key executive committee members Alan Davies and Alfredo Barrios to take the second biggest role on offer at Rio.
“Effectively he becomes the CEO’s right hand man,” said one London-based analyst..
Other features of the revamp will see copper and diamonds run together by another Frenchman, Arnaud Soirat, who has been promoted from aluminium primary metal president.
Alan Davies will lose responsibility for diamonds but gain coal in a new unit named energy and minerals, which also includes Canadian iron ore, widely seen as a possible disposal down the line.
Jacques said Rio’s new organisational structure will include four product groups – aluminium, copper & diamonds, energy & minerals and iron ore. These groups will be complemented by a newly-shaped growth and innovation group, which will focus on future assets and technical support.
Alfredo Barrios will remain in charge of Rio’s aluminium business, working out of Montreal, Canada. Salisbury will be based in Perth, Australia.
Combining copper and diamonds businesses would help the company “maximise our technical underground mining expertise”, Jacques said.
Interestingly, there was no mention of the giant Simandou iron ore property in Guinea, more-or-less confirming speculation development plans were on hold. Simandou had previously and somewhat haphazardly been shoe-horned into Davies’ diamonds portfolio.
Jacques said in a statement: “In the face of testing times for the industry, Rio is performing remarkably well. Our ambition is to deliver superior performance day-in and day-out so that we create value for our shareholders and communities now and over the long term.”
The new Rio Tinto Executive Committee will be:
Jean-Sébastien Jacques, chief executive
Christopher Lynch, chief financial officer
Hugo Bague, organisational resources group executive
Alfredo Barrios, aluminium chief executive
Alan Davies, energy and minerals chief executive
Joanne Farrell, health, safety and environment group executive
Stephen McIntosh, growth and innovation group executive
Chris Salisbury, iron ore chief executive
Arnaud Soirat, copper and diamonds chief executive
Debra Valentine, legal and regulatory affairs group executive.