Reuters International

CONAKRY (Reuters) - Guinea's justice minister said on Saturday he was ordering an examination of how Sable Mining Africa Ltd won its mining permits, citing allegations of corruption in a report by watchdog group Global Witness.

Based on what it said were leaked company documents, Global Witness alleged Sable Mining financed the 2010 election campaign of President Alpha Conde and paid money to his son for bribes to secure the rights to its Mount Nimba iron ore concession.

Reuters could not immediately verify the allegations. Calls to Sable Mining and its public relations agency were not answered on Saturday. Neither were voice messages and emails sent to both.

Repeated calls to Guinea's government spokesman were not answered. President Conde, who Global Witness said was not involved in any wrongdoing, was abroad on state business.

The president's son, Alpha Mohammed Conde, also could not be reached but was cited by Global Witness as telling them that he had never "attempted to use improper influence to assist Sable".

Global Witness said a government spokesman said any payments to the president's son from Sable "would have been for consultancy work or reimbursement for travel".

Sable officials were similarly cited by Global Witness as saying they followed all laws but would investigate.

Cheick Sako, Guinea's justice minister, said: "The Global Witness report alleges that the heads of Sable Mining Ltd used corruption to secure permits to natural resources in Guinea.

"Sable Mining Ltd has exploration and development rights going back to 2010. I will ensure that the awarding of each of these permits is examined."

Mines Minister Abdoulaye Magassouba had earlier issued a statement saying that, following the publication of the Global Witness report, he had asked the Justice Ministry to look into the attribution of the permits.

According to its website, Sable Mining "has a significant interest in an exploration permit in the Mount Nimba area of southeast Guinea".

Aboubacar Sampil, the head of West Africa Exploration (WAE), Sable's Guinean partner in the Mount Nimba project, told Reuters that while Sable was a shareholder, its name did not appear on any mining permits in Guinea. He denied any wrongdoing.

"At no moment was there corruption during the process of acquiring the permit, which entirely belonged to WAE before the arrival of Sable Mining," he said.

After decades of dictatorship and military rule, Guinea carried out a review of mining permits between 2012 and 2015 to ensure that deals had been negotiated legally and transparently.

The WAE Mount Nimba permit was not among permits reviewed by the panel.

(Reporting by Saliou Samb; Additional reporting and writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt and Alison Williams)

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