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Rio Tinto, China collaborate on iron ore

Scott Tong Mar 19, 2010
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Steve Chiotakis: Today, the world’s biggest mining company, Rio Tinto, signed a deal with a Chinese company to work together on a major iron ore project in Africa. The news could thaw relations between the Chinese government and Rio Tinto after the two sides froze each other out last year. That’s when China charged company officials with bribery, a trial that starts on Monday. From Shanghai, Marketplace’s Scott Tong reports.


Scott Tong: Four Rio Tinto executives face up to seven years in prison for allegedly obtaining business secrets from Chinese steel mills. And they face up to 20 years for taking bribes.

Company managers have been detained in Shanghai since last July. And ever since, a chill has gone down the back of foreign businesses and China.

Jim McGregor is with the PR firm APCO and associates, and former head of the American Chamber of Commerce:

Jim McGregor: Our companies are always out trying to gather information and learn things.

He says China’s corruption rules are murky; this case reminds him you never know if you’ve crossed a line.

McGregor: If the wrong person doesn’t like what you’re doing, can they accuse you of getting some secret? Who knows, because nobody knows what this is, cause it’s just very opaque.

Business managers expect a conviction. And yet, the decision may not be a game-changer in the mining business.

Rio Tinto still supplies iron ore, China still buys it to make steel. And when the trial opens Monday, Rio Tinto’s CEO will actually be in Beijing, speaking at a conference on “strengthening global cooperation.”

In Shanghai, I’m Scott Tong for Marketplace.

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