Chappy Hakim, a retired Indonesian air force chief who says he knows next to nothing about mining, now heads the local unit of mining giant Freeport-McMoRan.
This comes as Freeport seeks the go ahead for an $US18 billion expansion of its Grasberg mine - one of the world's biggest deposits of gold and copper - in Papua.
Mr Hakim was appointed last month as the company seeks to reverse Indonesia's plans to stop the exports of ore.
Reuters reports him as saying his experience leading the air force and later an air safety panel after a string of deadly plane crashes would help him with both human resource management and mine safety issues.
Freeport said Mr Hakim's appointment was made in consultation with the government and comes as the company fights to win an extension on its mine beyond 2021.
Freeport needs to sign off in late 2017 on the $18 billion plan to transition Grasberg from open pit to underground mining, and it wants the contract renewed before committing the money.