Rio Tinto’s West African Bet Comes Back to Haunt It – by Rhiannon Hoyle (Wall Street Journal – November 17, 2016)

Rio Tinto PLC’s firing of two top executives has shone a fresh spotlight on its probe into payments associated with a massive iron-ore deposit in Guinea.

Early Thursday in Australia, Rio Tinto said it had ended the contracts of energy and minerals chief executive Alan Davies and legal and regulatory affairs group executive Debra Valentine. The move came after Mr. Davies was suspended and Ms. Valentine stepped down last week.

Internal Rio Tinto emails, seen by The Wall Street Journal, showed that high-level executives at the company approved payments in 2011 to a consultant who was close to senior government officials in Guinea.

In a statement, Mr. Davies said there were “no grounds” for his termination and he had been given “no opportunity to answer any allegations.” Ms. Valentine couldn’t be reached for comment.

The Anglo-Australian mining company said it has notified authorities in the U.K., U.S. and Australia. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission wouldn’t say Thursday whether it was looking into the matter, while the Australian Federal Police said it “has engaged with Rio Tinto in relation to this matter, however, the matter has not been formally referred to the AFP.”

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