IGO backs new CEO Vella after Rio Tinto dismissal

IGO operations are in Western Australia. (Image courtesy of IGO.)

Australia’s lithium and nickel producer IGO (ASX: IGO) is standing by its decision to appoint Ivan Vella as its chief executive officer, after investigating the circumstances that led Rio Tinto (ASX: RIO) to fire him earlier this month.

Rio said Vella, who will assume the top job at IGO on December 11, did not follow all appropriate procedures in relation to confidential information under his control. IGO noted that, based on what is known, no information was compromised as a result of Vella’s actions.

“Throughout the recruitment process, the Board was highly impressed by the alignment of Ivan’s values with those of IGO, and his proven track record as a corporate leader,” IGO’s chair, Michael Nossal, said in the statement. “Upon reviewing the full circumstances of this recent situation, the board continues to have confidence in Ivan’s character.”

Vella has accepted accountability for the policy breach that led to his early departure from Rio Tinto, where he was the head of the aluminum division.

“But having been passionately dedicated to Rio Tinto for over 20 years of my life, I can confirm that there was no mal intent,” Vella noted.

Vella takes the reins at a time when IGO’s nickel business is reeling from the costly takeover of rival Western Areas’ nickel assets and its own Nova nickel-copper-cobalt mine, its flagship operation, depletes faster than expected.