India-focused mining conglomerate Vedanta Resources today appointed Tom Albanese as its new chief executive from April 1.

The former head of Anglo—Australian mining giant Rio Tinto plc will replace Mahendra Singh Mehta, the CEO of both Vedanta Resources and Sesa Sterlite, who is retiring on March 31.

“Albanese will take over as the Chief Executive Officer of Vedanta and join the Vedanta board with effect from 1 April 2014,” the company said in a statement.

He will also be appointed CEO of its main operating entity, Sesa Sterlite, from April 1, it added.

Vedanta’s Indian billionaire boss, Anil Agarwal, continues to own most of the company and remains executive chairman.

The 56—year old mining honcho has been with Vedanta since September as chairman of its subsidiary Vedanta Resources Holdings Ltd, the holding company of Sesa Sterlite and Konkola Copper Mines. He quit Rio Tinto in January last year after the company reported its first loss in more than a decade.

Albanese is respected in the industry as a seasoned miner with international experience who would be able to help Vedanta improve its relationship with countries such as Zambia, where it has the biggest copper mine outside India.

“Tom will lead all the businesses of our group companies.

The board remains committed to delivering against our stated key strategic priorities of optimising our operations, strengthening our balance sheet and further simplifying the Vedanta Group structure,” Chairman Anil Agarwal said.

He added that Albanese’s skills and experience in leading world—class mining companies will be of great value in supporting Vedanta’s strategic objective of creating sustainable long—term value for all stakeholders.

“My focus as CEO will be on operational excellence, efficient cost management and sustainability to drive long—term value for all our stakeholders. I also look forward to supporting Anil and the board in implementing the strategic ambitions of the Vedanta Group,” Albanese said.

Industry circles had been abuzz with speculation since December about Albanese succeeding Mehta. However, Vedanta extended Mehta’s term for three months as its search committee had not finalised any names.

Agarwal had hinted to PTI in November that Albanese was being considered for the top post and would be joining the Vedanta board soon.

Industry insiders said the appointment of Albanese as CEO would help Vedanta to reposition itself as a global miner and improve its image.

Although Vedanta is among the world’s top 10 mining firms, it is perceived as an India—focused miner because most of its operations are located here.

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