Rio Tinto has stood down its minerals CEO over payments in Africa

The harbour of Conakry in Guinea. Cellou Binani/AFP/Getty Images

Alan Davies, Rio Tinto’s energy and minerals chief executive, has been stood down while a series of payments totalling $US10.5 million, and linked to work on one of the world’s largest untapped iron ore reserves, is investigated.

The move follows the discovery in August this year of email correspondence from 2011 about payments to a consultant providing advisory services on the Simandou project in Guinea, West Africa.

“The company launched an investigation into the matter led by external counsel,” Rio said in a statement.

Australian authorities are being contacted. UK and US authorities have already been informed.

“Energy & minerals chief executive Alan Davies, who had accountability for the Simandou project in 2011, has been suspended with immediate effect,” Rio Tinto said in a statement to the ASX.

“Legal & regulatory affairs group executive Debra Valentine, having previously notified the company of her intention to retire on 1 May 2017, has stepped down from her role.”

Neither has been accused of wrongdoing.

Rio announced last month that it has signed a preliminary deal to sell its 46.6% stake in the Simandou project to Chinalco, which already has 41.3%.

It expects to receive between $US1.1 billion ($A1.4 billion) and $US1.3 billion ($A1.6 billion).

Simandou project is one of the world’s largest high grade iron ore resources at more than 2 billion tonnes.

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