CORRECTED-Freeport to pay $16 mln in DRC visa settlement

Mon Aug 17, 2009 8:54am EDT

(Correcting spelling of Freeport McMoRan)-

KINSHASA Aug 17 (Reuters) - U.S. miner Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. has agreed with Congolese authorities to pay $16 million in fees and penalties in a settlement related to procedures for getting visas and work permits for staff, the company said on Monday.

Congo's top prosecutor told Reuters last week three employees of Tenke Fungurume Mining (TFM), in which Freeport (FCX.N) holds a majority, had been detained on suspicion of embezzling millions of dollars in a visa and work permit scam in the central African country.

"TFM has agreed to pay approximately $16 million in fees and penalties associated with the settlement," Freeport spokesman Bill Collier said in a statement.

"TFM is committed to maintaining compliance with all applicable laws and regulations," he added.

Separately, Congolese deputy prime minister Emile Bongeli told Reuters the affair would not affect a government review of Tenke's contract relating to its project in Congo's Katanga province.

The mine is widely considered to be the largest and highest grade undeveloped copper and cobalt project in the world. (Reporting by Joe Bavier; Editing by Mark John and Richard Valdmanis)

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