Mining giants scramble to fill key leadership vacancies

BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Anglo-American, three of the world’s biggest miners are all racing to fill the top spots on their boards, following announcements that their chairmen are stepping down.

The search comes at a time of growing calls for more cash to be returned to shareholders, as well as tough questions about the suitability of the companies’ diversified model in today’s economic environment.

As well as backing up their CEOs against a restive shareholder base, whoever fills the shoes of the outgoing chairmen will have to get to grips with the rollout of new technology, help cut costs and maintain strict capital discipline in the face of an unpredictable commodities cycle, and deliver on commitments to improve gender diversity across their organistions.

Industry sources are tipping Sam Laidlaw, CEO of British giant Centrica, as the frontrunner to lead Rio Tinto’s board. Outgoing Dow Chemicals boss Andrew Liveris and existing BHP director Malcom Broomhead are said to be in the frame for BHP Billiton.