Fortescue Metals Group has tapped one of Robert Friedland's key lieutenants to run its Pilbara iron ore operations in the latest management shake-up at the Perth miner.
The appointment of David Woodall as operations director, to replace Jamie Frankcombe who had only been in the role for a year, came as Fortescue was yesterday also forced to deny an industry report that operational problems had delayed iron ore shipments out of Port Hedland.
The Platts report said some December shipments of one of Fortescue's ore blends had been delayed until the end of this month because of equipment issues that had slowed production.
Fortescue addressed the Platts report by reiterating last week's news that it had achieved an export run rate of 100 million tonnes a year in the month of December. It added that it was "constantly setting new production records and (continuing) to sell all of the ore produced".
"Occasionally we change the schedule of our shipments to accommodate changes in customer requirements or production sequencing," Fortescue said yesterday in response to the Platts report.
A Fortescue spokeswoman later told _WestBusiness _ there were no operational issues but it occasionally rescheduled shipments of a particular ore blend.
Mr Woodall joins Fortescue as the miner begins to ramp up production from its Solomon Hub, having promised it would be shipping at a rate of 115mtpa by March. Mr Woodall was previously the president of the Friedland-run Ivanhoe Mines' gold division and chief executive of Altynalmas Gold, half owned by Ivanhoe. He is the son of veteran geologist Roy Woodall, who played a big part in the discoveries of the Kambalda nickel belt, Olympic Dam and the Yeelirrie uranium project.
David Woodall's career also included stints at the Kanowna Belle gold mine and with Sino Gold and Glencore International.
Although most of his most recent experience was in gold, Mr Woodall served as operations manager of Rio Tinto's West Angelas mine in 2006 and 2007, when the Pilbara asset was ramping up production.
His appointment is the latest in a wave of senior executive changes at Fortescue in the past six months.
A company-wide purge in August claimed the scalps of investor relations head Rod Campbell and external affairs boss Julian Tapp along with a host of line managers. Head spokesman Nathan Vass left in November after just four months and external affairs director Deidre Willmott also resigned and is due to leave in a few weeks. Ms Willmott will be replaced by Fortescue's health, safety, environment and security director Isak Buitendag. Tim Langmead joins from Hess to take up the role of corporate affairs manager.