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Fortescue keeps women on the top job with Fiona Hick’s appointment

Fiona Hick is the current president of the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia – CME. (Image courtesy of CME.)

Australia’s Fortescue Metals Group (ASX: FMG) has named former Woodside Energy (ASX: WDS) executive Fiona Hick as its new chief executive officer, effective February 2023.

With the appointment, the iron ore miner ends a year-long search for a leader to fill the void left by CEO Elizabeth Gaines, who stepped down in December 2021 and who will remain on Fortescue’s board as a non-executive director.

Hick, who began her mining career at Hamersley Iron in 1996, joins Fortescue at a time when the company is tapping into new commodities, such as critical minerals and rare earths.

The miner has also kicked off a transition plan into a green energy firm through its unit Fortescue Future Industries (FFI), and Hick said she is ready to grow the company into one of the world’s most climate-responsible miners.

She will be directly responsible for the iron ore operations in the Pilbara and a new iron ore mine in Gabon, as well as an ambitious energy minerals exploration program.

“I am so thrilled to have found someone so close to home that knows the Pilbara like the back of her hand,” Andrew Forrester, Fortescue’s founder and executive chairman said in the statement.

“I have enjoyed and grown immensely during my 20 years in energy. I am as committed to the new future of the world as Andrew is,” Hick noted. “We must provide the metals and the energy which will help to accelerate the energy transition.”

Fortescue’s future CEO spent more than two decades at Woodside, most recently as the executive vice-president of Australian operations.

She was part of the team that led the company through its $40 billion merger with BHP’s petroleum division.

Hick’s nomination to one of the top roles in corporate Australia comes after some high-profile executive departures within Forrest’s business empire. 

Former Reserve Bank of Australia deputy governor Guy Debelle stepped down last week as chief financial officer of FFI, the company’s green energy arm. 

His departure followed former NAB executive Andrew Hagger’s, who in October vacated the CEO position at of Forrest’s philanthropy firm Minderoo and private investment vehicle Tattarang.

Elizabeth Gaines made history when she was appointed in 2017, becoming the first woman to run the iron ore giant and the second chief executive officer to have taken the role since Fortescue’s inception in 2003.