Rio Tinto BT chairman Jan du Plessis

Mining leader steps down after major restructure

The head of a multinational mining company is calling it quits weeks after mass layoffs were announced as part of a $5 billion restructure.

Jan du Plessis has announced his resignation as chairman of Rio Tinto. The shock move comes weeks after Rio revealed it would sack 500 iron ore workers at its Paraburdoo Operation in Western Australia’s Pilbara, blaming the prolonged oversupply and sluggish commodity prices.

This is the third time Rio has reduced staff numbers since 2014. The company sacked 700 workers earlier in 2016 and a further 800 in 2015.

“When we announced the appointment of Jean-Sebastien Jacques as chief executive a year ago, I committed to the board to serve as chairman for another two years, as part of a planned leadership transition. This announcement is the next step in that plan. I remain committed to leading the board until I stand down, supporting the management team and ensuring an orderly handover to my successor,” du Plessis says.

“It has been a great privilege to chair Rio Tinto over the past eight years, during which time I have worked with some outstanding people across the business. The company has withstood the challenges of a cyclical industry and performed well. We have a robust balance sheet and a strong management team, led by an impressive chief executive in J-S Jacques.”

Rio senior independent director John Varley is leading the process to appoint a new chairman. A successor is expected to be announced before the end of the year, with du Plessis retiring as chairman before the end of the 2018 annual general meeting.

du Plessis has already lined-up a non-executive board director role at BT Group plc, and will start work at the beginning of June 2017, progressing to chairman of BT as early as November the same year.

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