SANTIAGO, June 8 (Reuters) - Chilean state miner Codelco’s chief executive Thomas Keller was removed to avoid “tensions” within the company but plans to contain costs and overhaul old deposits remain intact, its president said in an interview published on Sunday.
The world’s biggest copper producer’s board, reformed under the country’s new center-left president Michelle Bachelet, announced on Friday that it was replacing Keller, seen as close to the conservative bloc.
Keller was not removed due to any substantive disagreement, Oscar Landerretche, an economist and academic who was tapped in May by Bachelet to head the board, told daily newspaper La Tercera.
Rather, the hot-tempered former retail executive who had strained relations with Codelco’s powerful unions was removed to bolster unity as the miner charges ahead with a $30 billion investment programme, Landerretche added.
“I share his vision about the company, with a few nuances, but they’re not disagreements,” Landerretche said.
He praised Keller’s success in pushing down costs, and said Codelco’s chief priority was ensuring that trend didn’t turn.
The success of Codelco’s investment plan hinges on forging unity with workers and communities, he stressed, but added the board was not seeking to return to the “strategic alliance” reached with unions during past center-left administrations, where critics said labor groups sought to block urgent reforms that would entail lay-offs. (Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Greg Mahlich)