It must have seemed like Christmas would never come in the Rio Tinto bunker. The promise of a new, urbane chief executive in Jean-Sebastien Jacques, the tailwind of rising commodity prices and progress on some genuinely exciting growth projects have been completely drowned out by the scandal over allegations of improper payments made five year ago around the controversial iron ore Simandou iron ore project in Guinea.
But it seems the Big Guy in red dropped a little early gift down the Rio chimney on Monday night after news emerged that Rio’s bitter rival, Beny Steinmetz, was detained in his native Israel on suspicion of bribing government officials in Guinea
Barely a week has passed since Steinmetz threatened to take legal action against Rio over the email scandal, writing an incendiary letter to Jacques and Rio chairman Jan de Plessis, and sending it on to the world’s media.
The toxicity between Rio and Steinmetz’s company, Beny Steinmetz Group Resources, stems back to 2008, when the Guinean government stripped Rio of its rights to four tenements that contained the Simandou iron ore deposit.
Two of those tenements were then awarded to BSGR that same year. Beny quickly flogged a stake in the project to Brazilian miner Vale for a tasty $US2.5 billion.
For the rest of this opinion column, click here: http://www.afr.com/business/mining/rio-tinto-gets-little-christmas-miracle-as-bitter-rival-beny-steinmetz-detained-20161220-gtepr7