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Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. is considering eliminating the chief-executive role and leaving founder Robert Friedland to lead the company as executive co-chair for the foreseeable future, according to a mining-industry source.

On Wednesday, Ivanhoe announced that its long-time CEO Lars-Eric Johansson will retire at the end of June, and is giving up the role of president immediately. Former Kinross Gold Corp. chief financial officer Tony Giardini was named as president but Ivanhoe didn’t name a successor CEO.

With the impending exit of Mr. Johansson, Ivanhoe’s upper-management tier could soon closely resemble Barrick Gold Corp.’s old structure. Toronto-based Barrick operated for a few years with a president but no CEO. The top strategic and management decisions were made by its executive chairman John Thornton. (Barrick brought back the CEO role in January after it acquired Randgold Resources Ltd.)

Mr. Friedland is expected to function in a similar way at Ivanhoe, making the major strategic decisions in consultation with co-chair Yufeng Sun, said the source, who was granted anonymity by The Globe and Mail because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Both Mr. Friedland and Ivanhoe’s media contact, cct Kimberly Lim, declined comment.

Vancouver-based Ivanhoe is developing a major copper project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with financial backing from a state-owned Chinese investment company.

Ivanhoe’s outgoing CEO Mr. Johansson had been with the company since 2007 and helped grow it from a tiny explorer to a player in the copper market with a multibillion-dollar valuation.

Earlier in his career, incoming president Mr. Giardini worked as CFO with Turquoise Hill Resources, another mining company founded by Mr. Friedland. Toronto-based Kinross announced in March that Mr. Giardini was stepping down as CFO after a seven-year run.

Over the past few years, Ivanhoe has lined up a series of financings from CITIC Metal Group Ltd., which has allowed the company to move forward on developing the Kamoa-Kakula copper project in the DRC. Kamoa-Kakula, touted as one of the world’s highest-grade and lowest-cost copper projects, is expected to be in production in a little more than two years.

Last week, CITIC said it was investing a further US$457-million into Ivanhoe, increasing its equity stake in the miner to 30 per cent from 19 per cent. To date, CITIC has invested in excess of US$1-billion into the company.