Mining company Rio Tinto announced Wednesday (Nov. 9) that one of its executives has left the company, and another one was suspended due to an inquiry into emails over millions of dollars in payments made to a consultant to help the company get the rights to iron-ore deposits in Guinea.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Rio Tinto’s Energy and Minerals CEO Alan Davies was the executive suspended, while Debra Valentine of the legal and regulatory affairs group resigned. They are the latest players in a scandal relating to Simandou, which the paper said is one of the most sought-after places because of the size and the quality of the iron ore.
The emails, which were reviewed by WSJ, showed that top executives, including CEO at the time Tom Albanese, signed off on the payments to the consultant in 2011. The consultant, François de Combret, is a former Lazard Frères managing director who was close to senior government officials in Guinea, the paper reported.
Rio Tinto told the paper it has been looking into the emails since August and that it has alerted the Department of Justice in the U.S., as well as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office and the Australian Securities and Investment Commission, to the emails. “Rio Tinto intends to cooperate fully with any subsequent inquiries from all of the relevant authorities,” the company said in a statement to WSJ.
The paper noted that the miner has been exploring Simandou since the 1990s. It has been a controversial site for Rio Tinto since 2008 when now-deceased dictator Lansana Conté took back from Rio Tinto two of the project’s four blocks, contending Rio Tinto didn’t develop the project in a timely manner. In 2011, Rio Tinto won the two blocks back, noted the paper.