ULAN BATOR (Reuters) - The top copper marketing executive at Rio Tinto Ltd (ASX:RIO) (LSE:RIO) will take over as the head of Oyu Tolgoi, the giant Mongolian copper and gold mine controlled by Rio Tinto, Oyu Tolgoi said on Wednesday.
Oyu Tolgoi's board, including three new Mongolian members, approved the appointment of Craig Kinnell as president and chief executive, replacing Cameron McRae from October 1. McRae is leaving Rio Tinto.
Kinnell takes over at a tricky time as Rio Tinto is trying to resolve disputes with the Mongolian government over terms for $4.2 billion (2.7 billion pounds) in project financing to fund an expansion at Oyu Tolgoi, which is crucial to Rio's and Mongolia's growth.
Rio put the $5 billion expansion project on hold in August and said it would have to cut up to 1,700 jobs due to the project financing dispute.
The board is meeting in Ulan Bator this week to try to resolve some of the issues. Some analysts have speculated that Mongolia's concerns about Rio Tinto's management fee, capital costs for the open pit mine, which is now producing, and the planned underground mine, will be hard to resolve.
"The best we can determine is that all stakeholders want the outstanding issues to be resolved and are confident they will be, but a number of items still need to be agreed before the OT board can go back to the project finance syndicate members," analysts at Resource Investment Capital said in a note on Wednesday.
There had been speculation Rio Tinto may appoint a Mongolian to head Oyu Tolgoi to help smooth relations with the government.
"Craig's years of experience running mines and selling minerals at international market prices make him the perfect choice to successfully lead the project in the coming years," Oyu Tolgoi Chairman Batsukh Galsan said in a statement.
(Reporting by Terrence Edwards; Writing by Sonali Paul; Editing by Matt Driskill)