Guinea calls BSGR to December hearing on mining contracts

NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) - A committee charged with reviewing mining deals in Guinea has given BSG Resources a month to respond further to a string of allegations including that it paid bribes to secure contracts, setting a hearing date of December 10.

BSGR, mining arm of Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz's business empire, is battling for the right to develop half of the Simandou deposit in Guinea's south, one of the world's richest undeveloped deposits of iron ore.

The current Guinean government accuses BSGR of bribing officials to win its Simandou concession in 2008. BSGR has denied the allegations, and has accused the government of using the review of mining contracts to confiscate its licences.

The December hearing is unlikely to be definitive, but it will bring closer a long-awaited decision on the future of BSGR in Guinea, and on the future of Simandou.

A BSGR spokesman confirmed on Tuesday the company had received a letter from the Guinean committee requesting more information, but said there was no change to answers already provided to existing graft allegations.

"This is their latest attempt to damage our reputation in an effort to illegally seize our private property," he said.

In a letter, dated November 1 and seen by Reuters, the independent technical committee reviewing mining deals said responses it had received so far from BSGR had not been enough to dismiss the accusations levelled against the group.

The letter outlined 25 allegations, which included offering entertainment and meals to high-ranking officials, and gifts including cash, telephones and perfumes.

The committee said in the letter that BSG's responses to the allegations, many of them first detailed a year ago, had so far been either "incomplete, inaccurate or irrelevant".

It also said evidence obtained during a separate U.S. investigation into mining corruption in Guinea raised questions over some of BSGR's responses.

Earlier this year, FBI agents arrested BSGR representative Frederic Cilins in Florida, on charges of obstructing a criminal investigation, tampering with a witness and destruction of records. That trial is expected next year.