Guinea Approves Stripping Vale, BSG of Iron-Ore Rights

Guinea’s cabinet approved a recommendation to strip rights to part of the world’s biggest untapped iron-ore deposit from a venture of Vale SA and billionaire Beny Steinmetz’s mining company, BSG Resources Ltd., a government spokesman said.

The decision was made by the country’s cabinet in Conakry today, spokesman Damantang Albert Camara said in an address broadcast on state-owned Radio Television Guineenne.

The West African nation said BSGR, which had joined with Brazil’s Vale, should have its licenses revoked after the country presented what it called evidence of corruption in awarding permits. BSGR said today it obtained the rights lawfully, adding the government “is relying on fabricated claims” to take back the mining licenses.

“BSGR looks forward to international arbitration, where this process will be exposed for the first time to a fair and transparent legal process that establishes the truth and protects our rights,” it said in a statement today.

The decision comes after an 18-month investigation and puts ownership of one of the most-prized mineral assets into doubt. It may trigger interest from some of the biggest mining companies should Guinea choose to put the site out to tender.

A government appointed committee this month recommended the country void the licenses given what it described as evidence of corruption. “These corrupt practices tarnish and thus void the mining titles and the mining convention,” it said in a report.

Vale said today in an e-mailed statement it couldn’t confirm the Guinean government’s decision and it wouldn’t immediately comment. The news was reported earlier by Reuters.

Guinea ranked 150 out of 177 in Transparency International’s 2013 corruption perceptions index.

(Corrects attribution in second paragraph of story originally published April 17.)
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