Rio Tinto chief executive Sam Walsh to retire

Outgoing Rio Tinto CEO Sam Walsh poses in London Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sam Walsh has spent more than two decades at the mining giant

Rio Tinto chief executive Sam Walsh is to retire in July after just three years in the top job.

He will be succeeded by the firm's coal and copper head Jean-Sebastien Jacques, who used to be a strategy director at Tata Steel Group.

The world's second-largest miner has been struggling to maintain profits amid a slump in commodity prices.

Under Mr Walsh, Rio undertook a major cost-cutting programme and dropped its progressive dividend policy.

Shareholders will no longer see payouts maintained or raised each year after the mining giant reported a 50% drop in underlying annual earnings last month.

In a statement, Rio Tinto said the latest announcement was "the culmination of comprehensive and deliberate executive succession process".

"Jean-Sebastien is the right person to lead Rio Tinto in an increasingly complex world filled with both challenges and opportunities for our industry."

Mr Jacques will receive a base salary of £1,080,000 and various bonuses once he takes over on 2 July.

Mr Walsh, a 66-year-old Australian, spent two decades in the car industry before joining Rio Tinto in 1991.

He replaced Tom Albanese as chief executive in 2013 after his predecessor was ousted following expensive and unsuccessful acquisitions in aluminium and coal.

"The board appointed Sam as chief executive at a challenging time for our company and I am very grateful for his tremendous leadership," Rio chairman Jan du Plessis said.

"Against the backdrop of a volatile economic environment, Sam and his team have transformed the business, removing more than $6bn in costs, strengthening the balance sheet and returning more than $13bn to shareholders."

Shares of Rio Tinto closed 2.4% higher in Sydney on Thursday before the announcement was made.

More on this story