Rio Tinto chairman Jan du Plessis steps down, set to lead BT

Rio Tinto’s (ASX, LON:RIO) chairman Jan du Plessis is stepping down in 2018, ending a run of more than eight years at the world’s No. 2 miner, which is under scrutiny from international authorities over its former businesses in Guinea, Africa.

He joins a growing list of chairmen who are leaving some of the world's top mining companies, including BHP's Jac Nasser and Anglo's John Parker.

South Africa-born Du Plessis, who helped steer Rio through the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis and the recent collapse of commodity prices — one of the sector's most severe downturns —, will become a director of British telecommunications group BT in June and take over the chairman role from Sir Mike Rake on Nov. 1, Rio said in a statement.

During its time at Rio Tinto, du Plessis launched a $15 billion rights issue to repair the company’s balance sheet, oversaw the removal of the then chief executive, Tom Albanese, and also dismissed a takeover approach from Glencore in 2014.

The announcement of du Plessis’ departure comes on the heels of a recently-launched fresh probe launched by Australia’s federal police into Rio’s dubious $10.5 million payment made to a French consultant who helped it gain access to the Simandou iron ore project in Guinea.

It also coincides with the decision of two other mining chairmen, Anglo's John Parker and BHP’s Jac Nasser, to leave their respective companies in the coming year.

The executive is not expected to have an easy start at BT, as the firm is under pressure to get to the bottom of an accounting scandal in Italy, for which it recently booked a £530 million write-down.