Rio Tinto fires two of its top executives over $10.5 million in payments to a consultant who helped the company win rights to develop the world's largest untapped iron ore lode in Guinea. Eve Johnson reports.
A bribery scandal going all the way to the top of the worlds second-largest mining company. The British-Australian giant Rio Tinto announcing it's fired two executives on Thursday, over reports of 10 million dollars in suspicious payments. Linked to an iron ore project in the West African country of Guinea. (SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS CORRESPONDENT IN SYDNEY, JIM REGAN, SAYING: "Rio Tinto is regarded as a top tier what they call in the industry top tier mining company with a very strong track record for transparency. The situation that's happening in Guinea looks like it's going to damage that. Investigations are expected to begin in the United States, the UK and Australia shortly." The scandal erupted last week after Rio said it discovered a batch of old emails discussing making payments for help in winning development rights for SiMANdou - the world's largest untapped iron ore reserves. On the receiving end - a consultant with important connections. (SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS CORRESPONDENT IN SYDNEY, JIM REGAN, SAYING: "The French consultant named in the emails is Francois de Combret, a former Lazzard investment banker, born in Paris with strong ties to government officials in Guinea and other African countries." Experts say the company appears to be taking the front foot on the scandal, firing Energy and Minerals chief executive Alan Davies - who was in charge of the 20 BILLION DOLLAR Simandou project at the time. Davies has come back fighting - saying the company had no grounds for letting him go - and threatening to sue. Also shown the exit - Debra Valentine, the head of legal and regulatory affairs. The company's CEO says that the news has Rio Tinto staff shell shocked. And that any investigation could take years.