Rio Risks Losing Mining License in Guinea, Minister Thiam Says

Rio Tinto Group, the world’s third- largest mining company, may lose its Guinean mining license should it fail to hand over documentation for its Simandou iron ore project, Mines and Geology Minister Mahmoud Thiam said.

The West African country sent a letter to London-based Rio asking for documentation on Sept. 9 and the company hasn’t responded, Thiam said in an e-mailed statement.

“The company must respect Guinea’s mining code and supply these documents quarterly and annually but unfortunately, in 13 years, Rio never settled this obligation,” he said.

Rio Tinto has received the letter and continues “to engage with the Guinean government on a range of matters and have provided them with extensive documentation relating to the project,” Rio said in an e-mailed response to questions. “We are in the process of replying to their latest request.”

Rio, which sold a $1.35 billion stake in the project to Aluminum Corp. of China Ltd. in July, said Aug. 2 that it plans to speed up development of Simandou after approving an extra $170 million spending for infrastructure.

The company has previously described Simandou as the world’s top undeveloped iron ore deposit. Guinea, the world’s biggest bauxite producer, has been involved in a dispute with Rio over the rights to Simandou since 2008, when the government began reviewing mining contracts. The project may be worth $9.5 billion, UBS AG estimated in July.

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