Fortescue poaches top Woodside executive to lead iron ore business

She’s also tasked with delivering on Fortescue’s global metals strategy, which is to be “the most successful iron ore operator in the world” as well a leader in exploration and development in rare earths and other critical minerals.

End of a year-long search

Dr Forrest stated that Fortescue had three chief executives in its 20th anniversary and supported Ms Hick’s performance after a year-long, worldwide search for the right candidate.

The Forescue founder said he was “thrilled to have found someone so close to home that knows the Pilbara like the back of her hand and that will love this company as much as we all do”.

“Fiona will lead Fortescue Metals into the next phase, potentially the most exciting and fruitful of our company’s highly active history,” he said.

Ms Hick will lead iron ore and other mining ventures while Mark Hutchinson continues in his role as chief executive of the company’s green-hydrogen focused Fortescue Future Industries division.

Her Fortescue announced that Guy Debelle, former deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, was stepping down as CEO of FFI less than one week ago. After a serious bicycle accident in August, Mr Debelle said that he couldn’t fulfill the FFI chief financial officers role.

He Fortescue has seen a number of executive departures in recent years.

Dr Forrest said FFI was likely to hire up to six executives to bolster its team while Ms Hick might hire “two or three” in the mining business as the two divisions set about transforming Fortescue into a global green metals and energy company.

Magnetite is a high priority project

Ms. Hick is expected at Fortescue to assume her position in February, one month before Iron Bridge begins production.

She According to them, a priority would be to get the $US3.6 billion to US3.8 billion ($5.3 billion to $6 billion) magnetite project on track.

Ms Hick said she didn’t anticipate any teething problems in making the change from oil and gas to mining, given many skills were transferrable and her early career was in iron ore.

She Fortescue’s plan for decarbonising mining was inspiring, and that is why she agreed.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I come into this role with an enormous and exciting project pipeline to continue to grow and execute for Fortescue,” she said.

Fortescue will go green with iron ore, spending $US6.2B over four years on switching to renewable energy. They also plan to save $US818M annually from 2030.

While the company has spoken for years about its ambitions with lithium mining and rare earths, there are no assets or projects in this area. However, Ms Hick is now expected to make significant investments.

Ms. Hick was the first woman to be elected president of the WA Chamber of Minerals and Energy, which was established 121 years ago.

A mother of three, she also played a major role in the response against sex assaults and sexual harassment problems within the resources industry that led a WA parliamentary inquiry.

Woodside alumni

Ms Hick was one of several senior executives who moved up the ranks at Woodside under former CEO Peter Coleman, securing the role heading up the Australian operations of the combined Woodside-BHP Petroleum under his successor Meg O’Neill, who herself had been in charge of operations.

Her Woodside’s CFO Sherry Duhe left the company just months before the merger. Sherry Duhe will be taking the same position at Newcrest Mining.

Saul Kavonic, a Credit Suisse analyst, said that the appointment would present a challenge for Ms Hick as well as Fortescue. Woodside should be able cover until a replacement is found.

“After so much management churn, Fortescue needs to demonstrate they can retain executive talent,” Mr Kavonic said.

“Woodside has a strong handle on operations, with CEO O’Neill having previously headed operations before Fiona stepped into the role, which was split between Australian and international operations.”

Ms Hick has been part of the executive leadership team at Woodside since 2019, responsible most recently for ensuring safe, reliable and low-cost performance at the merged company’s oil and gas assets, which now include the Bass Strait as well as Western Australia.

Ms O’Neill paid tribute to Ms Hick’s contribution during “a very challenging period” for the operational businesses during the pandemic and global commodity market disruptions. Woodside said a process to identify Ms Hick’s successor was under way.