Torres will join South32 from BHP, where she was most recently vice president, operational infrastructure in the iron ore business.
Brazilian-born Torres has also held senior roles with Vale.
Torres was named as Outstanding Woman in Resources at the WA Women in Resources last March, and went on to be named Exceptional Woman in Australian Resources at the national awards in September.
She has also been recognised as one of the most inspirational women in mining by WIM UK.
South32 said Torres had been at the forefront of technology improvements in mining and minerals processing and was a recognised leader and early adopter of technological advancements that enabled significant value creation.
“We see technology as a key enabler in driving safety and production improvements at our operations, and Vanessa’s knowledge and operational experience position her well to lead us into this next phase of performance improvement,” South32 CEO Graham Kerr said.
Torres replaces Ricus Grimbeek, South32’s inaugural CTO, who resigned suddenly in August.
South32 last week lifted full-year guidance for corporate costs by US$25 million to $105 million due to a greater rate of investment in technology and a rise in greenfield exploration.