Leigh Clifford AO


Leigh Clifford was born in South Australia in 1947. From a young age, Leigh wanted to pursue a career in engineering and saw mining as an industry in Australia where opportunities were plentiful. Influenced to consider university by his uncle who worked in mining, Leigh graduated from the University of Melbourne with a Bachelor of Engineering, with first class honours. Leigh also later completed a Master’s Degree in Engineering Science.

As a qualified engineer, Leigh worked for Rio Tinto for 37 years. From Assistant Surveyor underground at Broken Hill to CEO in London, Leigh completed a wide variety of roles during his time at Rio Tinto. In 1994 Leigh was appointed as Director of Rio Tinto and later Chief Executive, in March 2000. On 30 April 2007, Leigh retired from Rio Tinto, leaving the company in a strong position and having made some key changes in his time, including the emergence of China as a key customer.

On 9 August 2007 Leigh became a Qantas Director and later that same year, on the 14 November 2007, was appointed as Chairman of the Qantas Board. Leigh continues to hold this position.

Leigh is a longstanding member and Fellow of the AusIMM, joining the Institute in 1967. As recognition of his loyalty and career achievements, Leigh was awarded The Institute Medal for 2008.

On Australia Day in 2008, Leigh was awarded the principal and most prestigious means of recognising outstanding members of the community – Leigh was honoured as an Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AO).

In addition to his many career achievements Leigh has held the following positions:

  • Director of Bechtel Group Inc USA
  • Chairman of Bechtel Australia Pty Ltd
  • Chairman of Crestone Wealth Management
  • Senior Adviser to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co
  • A member of the Council of Trustees of the National Gallery of Victoria
  • Chairman of the National Gallery of Victoria Foundation
  • Chairman of the University of Melbourne’s philanthropic campaign.

Leigh has also previously held the following posts:

  • Chairman of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute
  • Director of Equestrian Australia
  • Director of Barclays Bank plc in the United Kingdom
  • Director Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc in the USA.

Throughout his career Leigh Clifford has made tremendous contributions to the mining industry and the AusIMM. Leigh’s career highlights the many incredible opportunities the mining industry has to offer individuals who are willing to work hard and never stop learning.

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