* Key hearing delayed to Dec. 16 - committee head
* Government decision on Simandou licence set to follow
CONAKRY Dec 10 A committee reviewing Guinea's
mining licences said it has delayed a Tuesday hearing with BSGR,
the mining arm of Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz, and
partner Vale, until next week.
BSGR is fighting to maintain its right to develop half of
the giant Simandou iron ore concession in the West African
country after the government accused it of bribing officials to
secure it in 2008.
BSGR has denied the allegations, which include offers of
entertainment and gifts to high-ranking officials in the former
government, saying that Conakry is using them to undermine its
position in the country.
BSGR did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
"The administrative hearing planned for today will not take
place because of a request by VBG for time to examine the
elements put before them. We have accepted their request," said
the technical committee's head Nava Toure.
VBG is the joint venture between BSGR and Brazilian miner
Vale, which bought a 51 percent stake of the
concession for $2.5 billion.
The hearing has been rescheduled for Dec. 16, Toure added.
A source at VGB saw agreement on the new hearing date as a
positive sign for the group. "This step by the Guinean
government proves that our rights are not being challenged. Now
it's up to senior management to negotiate," said the source, who
asked not to be named.
The future of Simandou, seen as key to boosting government
revenues for one of Africa's poorest countries, is unlikely to
be immediately determined by the hearing.
But it is an important pre-requisite for a final decision on
BSGR's role in the project, Toure added.
"Only after the hearing can we decide something," he said.
As well as its Simoundou concession, BSGR also has a
concession in nearby Zogota in the country's south.
(Reporting by Saliou Samb; Writing by Emma Farge; editing by