* Relates to Rio Tinto loss of rights over Simandou deposit
* Steinmetz and BSGR dismiss charge, Vale no comment
* Development paralysed by battles over concessions
(adds details, comment from Guinea government)
By Silvia Antonioli
LONDON, April 30 Mining giant Rio Tinto
<RIO. L> said on Wednesday it had filed a complaint against
competitor Vale, Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz
and BSG Resources (BSGR) over valuable mining concessions in
The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for
the Southern District of New York, relates to Rio Tinto's loss
in 2008 of half the rights to Simandou, in Guinea, one of the
world's most valuable iron ore deposits.
Rio Tinto alleged in its complaint that the defendants
devised a fraudulent scheme to steal its rights over the
northern half of Simandou. Steinmetz and BSGR dismissed the
charge and Vale declined to comment.
Exploiting Simandou could help one of Africa's poorest
countries to prosper but the mine development has been paralysed
by battles over the concessions.
Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto said in its complaint it
had spent hundreds of millions trying to develop Simandou until
2008, when former President Lansana Conte's government revoked
its permit on the northern half of the deposit and then
transferred it to BSGR, the mining branch of Israeli billionaire
Beny Steinmetz's conglomerate.
At the time, the government told Rio it had moved too
Rio Tinto maintained that it had complied with the terms of
BSGR then sold 51 percent of its Guinean assets to Brazil's
Vale in 2010, when they created joint venture VBG in a $2.5
"Rio Tinto's injuries are clear and definite and include the
loss of billions of dollars in assets, as well as the lost
investment of its activities in Simandou," Rio Tinto said in the
"This is a case about the theft of Rio Tinto's valuable
mining rights by the defendants through a scheme in violation of
the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act," it added
in the filing.
Earlier this month Guinea's government stripped BSGR and its
joint venture partner Vale of their rights over Simandou and the
Zogota deposits in Guinea after a government panel charged with
reviewing the West African nation's mining deals said in its
report it had found BSGR obtained the rights through
BSGR has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and said it would
seek international arbitration. Guinea's President Alpha Conde
said on Wednesday that Vale had had nothing to do with the
corruption alleged by the government panel.
A spokesman for Beny Steinmetz and BSGR called the Rio Tinto
lawsuit "baseless and bizarre".
Vale chief executive Murilo Ferreira said it was too early
to comment on Rio Tinto's lawsuit. He added that the company was
reviewing its options over the future role it will play in
Guinea after losing the concessions over Simandou.
"This is an issue between mining companies and the
government has no intention of interfering or commenting in such
a way as to make people question our impartiality," said
Damntantang Albert Camara, a Guinea government spokesman.
"One thing is for sure - there will be a new bidding round
to chose the new owners of these permits."
(Additional reporting by Saliu Samb in Conakry, Stephen
Eisenhammer in London, David Lewis in Dakar, Stephanie Nebehay
in Geneva, Jeb Blount in Rio de Janeiro, David Rohde in New
York; Editing by Keiron Henderson and Andrew Heavens)