BHP on the search for Kloppers' successor

The world's biggest mining company says it has embarked upon the search for a successor to Marius Kloppers as the South African approaches his sixth year as BHP Billiton's (NYSE:BHP) chief.

In an email sent to the Australian a spokesperson for the world's most highly valued diversified mining company said that BHP was currently devising a CEO succession plan as part of "an ongoing process," and that a "well-integrated, continual succession process [is] in place for our most senior executives."

The announcement follows a report by the Financial Times (paywall) that the company plans to replace Kloppers within one to two years, with investors urging BHP to prepare a succession plan in advance.

The search for Kloppers' successor portends further upheavals in the global mining industry, with the replacement of the CEO's of many the world's leading miners who have managed to retain the positions despite the sector's recent travails.

Klopper's took upon the role of BHP's CEO in 2007, the same year that other mining giants such as Rio Tinto (NYSE:RIO), Anglo American (LSE:AAL) and Xstrata (LON:XTA) implemented key changes to their senior personnel.

Five years later another round of management changes is in the works, with Cynthia Carroll set to resign as Anglo American's CEO upon finding a successor, and Xstrata head Mick Davis to be ousted should the company merge with Swiss peer Glencore (LSE:GLEN).

Analysts point out that the CEO's of major miners are in a perilous position at present, with adverse conditions for the industry leading to ongoing stock declines.

Kloppers is safer than most however, as BHP has fared the downturn in commodities prices far better than its peers due to its considerable exposure to oil.