Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

Sydney — On Monday, Rio Tinto appointed former Anglo American group executive director Simon Thompson to lead the company, replacing their departing chairperson, who will step down March.

Thompson, a veteran with more than 20 years’ industry experience, joined Rio as a nonexecutive board member in 2014. He will succeed Jan du Plessis, who will have served almost nine years in the role. "The board is delighted to have appointed Simon to chair Rio Tinto," senior independent director Ann Godbehere said in a statement.

"He brings to the role a deep understanding of the mining industry, as well as a strong track record as a nonexecutive." Thompson held a number of positions with Anglo American between 1995 and 2007, and previously worked in investment banking at SG Warburg and NM Rothschild.

He will take the reins as the miner endures intense scrutiny from regulators.

Rio and two former top executives were charged with fraud by US authorities in October, accused of inflating the value of their Mozambique coal assets and failing to disclose mounting losses.

The world’s second-biggest miner has vowed to "vigorously" defend itself against the allegations.

The Anglo-Australian giant also announced in October it had settled a case with the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority about the timing of writing down the same projects.

In August, Rio reported a 93% jump in first-half net profit on rising commodity prices, and it returned a bumper $3bn to shareholders.

In September it announced a return of $2.5bn to shareholders in a buyback after selling most of its Australian coal assets to China-backed Yancoal.

AFP

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