Rio Tinto Chief Executive Sam Walsh will retire on July 1 and will be succeeded by Jean-Sébastien Jacques, chief executive for the company’s copper and coal division. To ensure a smooth transition, Jacques will join the board and become deputy chief executive with immediate effect.

Walsh took control of Rio Tinto during a challenging period. Against a volatile economic backdrop, he and his team transformed the business during the past three years, removing more than $6 billion of costs, strengthening the balance sheet and returning more than $13 billion to shareholders. Rio Tinto said Walsh leaves the company as a much stronger company, with a bright future.

“I have been seriously fortunate to lead one of the world’s best companies,” Walsh said. “I am very proud to have played my part, together with all of our employees around the world, in returning Rio Tinto to a position of industry leadership and strength. I have always wanted to make a difference and I believe we have achieved that.

“After 25 great and enjoyable years with Rio Tinto, now is the right time to pass the reins on to Jean-Sébastien,” Walsh said. In his time at Rio Tinto, J-S has proven to be a standout performer as a leader in our business.”

Jacques is credited with bringing greater focus to the copper and coal businesses. He has delivered a step-change in both safety and cash performance while significantly reducing costs. Prior to joining Rio Tinto, he worked for more than 15 years across Europe, Southeast Asia, India, and the United States in a wide range of operational and functional positions in the aluminum, bauxite and steel industries. He served as group strategy director for Tata Steel Group from 2007 to 2011.

Chris Salisbury has been appointed acting chief executive for the Rio Tinto copper and coal division.