BHP Billiton chief executive Marius Kloppers will step down after the world's biggest miner recorded a 58% fall in profits in the second half of 2012.
Kloppers will resign on May 10 and be replaced by BHP's non-ferrous division head Andrew Mackenzie.
BHP Billiton chairman Jac Nasser praised Kloppers for steering the company through a difficult economic period.
"He leaves BHP Billiton a safer and stronger company," Nasser said.
"The Board has decided that Andrew is the right person to lead BHP Billiton in a changing global environment."
On Tuesday, the firm saw attributable net profits including writedowns plunge to $4.2 billion, while revenues declined 14% to $32bn from $37bn a year before.
The group has recognised an impairment charge of $865m at Nickel West, Australia, and $1.5bn at Worsley Alumina owing to a strong Australian dollar and weak nickel and aluminium prices.
In November, BHP took a $200m impairment charge after selling its EKATI Diamond Mine to Canada's Harry Winston Diamond for $500m.
Meanwhile, the suspension of all early works associated with the development at the West Australian Iron Ore Port Hedland Inner Harbour Expansion project as well as other restructuring resulted in an impairment of $655m.
Underlying EBIT for the second half reduced by 38% to $9.8bn, attributed to lower commodity prices, inflation and a weak US dollar.
In the short term, the company predicts better demand and prices for several commodities as a result of a general improvement in the global economy.
Image: BHP CEO Marius Kloppers will step down in May. Photo: BHP Billiton Plc.