Chile-owned copper producer Codelco has appointed Octavio Araneda, VP of the company’s central-south operations, as interim CEO until a definitive replacement is picked.
The decision follows the dismissal of Thomas Keller, who worked for Codelco until Friday, June 13.
Keller, a former retail executive, had been commended for his efforts to overhaul old mines and cut costs at the firm. His tough style, however, triggered tensions with the company’s powerful unions, according to opposition-run newspaper El Mercurio (in Spanish).
His departure, however, was foreseeable given his disagreements with the company’s new board. Keller had warned he would not stay on if the current directors did not support his vision for the company.
Under his leadership the company spent more than $4 billion a year to revive the mines that provide about a 10th of the world’s copper.
The world’s largest copper producer also announced it has began the selection process to pick a more permanent CEO, which will be led by the board’s new president Oscar Landerretche.
According to the executive, there is no obvious candidate to become Codelco’s next CEO, but MINING.com learned last month that Michele Bachelet’s government is considering the nominations of Nelson Pizarro and Sergio Jarpa, both former Codelco executives.
As a state-owned company, Codelco has often been in a tug-of-war with the government over its investment budget. Of about $100bn in profits that Codelco has transferred to the state since it was nationalized in 1971, only $4bn has been returned back to the miner.
The mining company is undergoing a massive transformation, trying to maintain profits from the world’s largest open-pit copper mine, Chuquicamata, by extending operations underground. At the same time, plans call for turning the world’s largest underground mine, El Teniente, into an open pit operation.
Copper accounts for 60% of Chile’s exports and 15% of gross domestic product.
Image courtesy of Codelco.