Rio’s Andrew Woodley to Take Over Oyu Tolgoi Mine Amid Disputes

Sep 04, 2014 12:10 am ET

Sept. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Rio Tinto Plc’s copper mining unit in Mongolia said Andrew Woodley will take over as president, handing him the job of managing a dispute with the government over developing one of the world’s biggest deposits of the metal.

The unit, Oyu Tolgoi LLC, and Mongolian authorities set a target for the end of this month to agree on $4 billion in financing for the copper and gold mine that bears the company’s name, though two previous deadlines have been extended.

While the open pit portion of the mine has been operating since July 2013, the government and Rio are at loggerheads over a range of issues including taxes, management fees, water usage and cost overruns. This has stymied underground development of the mine, where 80 percent of the deposit’s value lies.

Complicating the negotiations is a $130 million tax claim by Mongolia that has delayed the release of a feasibility study for the second phase of the mine.

Woodley has spent 18 years with Rio and is currently managing director of its coal business in Mozambique. He’ll take over as president and chief executive officer on Nov. 15, replacing Craig Kinnell, who has served as CEO since October 2013 and is departing for personal reasons.

“I am very pleased Andrew has accepted this exciting and challenging assignment, and we look forward to working with him closely,” Jean-Sebastien Jacques, Rio Tinto Copper chief executive, said in a press statement. Rio controls the mine through its Turquoise Hill unit, which owns 66 percent of Oyu Tolgoi. The Mongolian government holds the remaining 34 percent.

Kinnell will return to the U.K. and take another role within Rio Tinto, according to the press statement.