Newcrest Mining , Australia's top gold miner, almost doubled underlying first-half profits on Friday due to higher gold production, beating some forecasts, and appointed a new chief executive.

Newcrest, which acquired Lihir Gold last year in a deal which positions it as the world's third-largest gold miner, said that its finance director Greg Robinson would replace Ian Smith as chief executive from July 1.

Lihir declared an interim dividend of 10 cents per share and a 148 percent increase in net profit to A$437.8 million ($442 million).

Underlying profit rose to A$523.1 million for July-December 2010 from A$266.6 million a year earlier, compared with six analysts' forecasts of around A$517 million.

The result was driven by a 70 percent jump in gold production on the back of the Lihir acquisition. Copper production fell due to lower production from its flood-affected Cadia Valley operation.

The company did not give earnings guidance but said its hedge book had been closed out, it had a strong balance sheet and was well placed for growth.

The company is well placed for future growth with a suite of large scale, long life, low cost mines, two major projects currently in construction - Cadia East and the Lihir plant upgrade - and an enviable pipeline of organic growth opportunities including Wafi Golpu, Newcrest Chairman Don Mercer said.

Smith said he was leaving to pursue other areas of personal interest after overseeing substantial change at the company. Robinson joined Newcrest in 2006 and has held senior roles at BHP Billiton and Merrill Lynch.