Mining group Rio Tinto (RIO.L) (RIO.AX) said on Wednesday its new chairman would be Jim Leng, deputy chairman of India's Tata Steel (TISC.BO), who will take over in April.

Rio, the world's fourth-biggest diversified mining group by market value, said in October current chairman Paul Skinner planned to step down in December 2009, but on Wednesday it said he had asked to leave earlier.

Leng has joined the board as chairman designate and will take over as chairman after the annual general meetings on April 20, a company statement said.

Leng is also chairman of Tata Steel Europe as well as chief executive at both Laporte Plc and Low and Bonar Plc (LWB.L). He is a non-executive director at heavy engineering group Alstom SA (ALSO.PA) and a senior adviser at bank HSBC (HSBA.L) (0005.HK).

I look forward to working closely with Chief Executive Tom Albanese and his team as we steer the company through the challenges of the current economic climate and beyond, Leng said. (Reporting by Eric Onstad, editing by Will Waterman)

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