Alfredo Barrios, who will be based in Montreal, will replace Jacynthe Cote, who the FTSE 100 mining giant said is leaving for personal reasons and to pursue other interests.
Barrios has held a number of senior roles at BP since joining the oil company in 1992. His most recent position was as executive director and executive vice president downstream at joint venture TNK-BP, one of Russia’s largest vertically integrated oil and gas companies.
The aluminium sector is currently struggling with low prices. The division accounts for around four per cent of Rio’s earnings.
Rio’s decision to hire someone without aluminium experience was met with surprise by analysts, who have suggested it may mean a fresh approach for the business – either developing it or divesting it.
Cote will stay on in an advisory role until 1 September to ensure a smooth transition.