April 8, 2016 / 11:47 AM / 2 years ago

UPDATE 1-Copper veteran Hernandez bows out of Antofagasta

(Adds details, background)

SANTIAGO, April 8 (Reuters) - Diego Hernandez will retire as chief executive of Chilean copper firm Antofagasta Plc, the company said on Friday, making way for his groomed successor, Ivan Arriagada.

London-listed Antofagasta said the handover would take place immediately, and that 67-year-old Hernandez would stay on as an adviser to the board.

Arriagada was named chief executive of operating unit Antofagasta Minerals in February 2015, at the same time as Hernandez moved from that role to run the plc.

It was always intended that Arriagada would take over from Hernandez once “specific targets” had been met, the company said, and Antofagasta Minerals will not replace Arriagada in the CEO role.

At a time of sliding metals prices, Antofagasta, like other miners, has focussed on cutting costs, although last year it also added to its Chilean assets with the $1 billion purchase of a 50 percent stake in the Zaldivar mine.

“Our focus today is working to reduce our costs, improve our efficiencies and protect our margins,” Arriagada told Reuters in an interview earlier this week.

The announcement comes at the end of the Cesco/CRU copper conference, an annual meeting in Santiago attended by representatives from across the global industry.

Hernandez is a well-known figure in the industry, a Chilean copper veteran who was previously executive president of state-run Codelco {COBRE.UL], the world’s no 1 producer of the base metal.

Reporting by Rosalba O'Brien, Additional reporting by Mamidipudi Soumithri in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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