The US Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating a massive writedown booked by world number two miner Rio Tinto on a coal deal in Mozambique according to news reports.
Rio Tinto acquired the Benga mine and other coal projects in the Southern African country’s Tete province in 2011, after buying Australia’s Riversdale Mining for $3.7 billion.
But in 2013 the Anglo-Australian giant took an asset impairment charge of $3 billion on the coking coal venture citing challenges in building the necessary infrastructure to bring the project on stream.
Bloomberg reports the charge, part of a wider $14 billion in asset writedowns, led to the departure of then CEO Tom Albanese.
A year later Melbourne-based Rio sold the assets to an Indian company for just $50 million.
Mozambique’s central Tete province is believed to hold one of the world’s largest untapped coal reserves that has been compared with Australia’s coal-rich Bowen Basin.
As part of a separate investigation, Rio this month fired two top executives in relation to a bribery case at its recently sold Simandou iron ore project in Guinea, West Africa.