New York (Reuters) - A U.S. federal judge on Wednesday refused to dismiss mining giant Rio Tinto’s (RIO.AX) (RIO.L) lawsuit against rival Vale (VALE5.SA), alleging it conspired with Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz and BSG Resources to steal the company’s valuable mining rights in Guinea.
U.S. District Judge Richard Berman of Manhattan rejected Brazil-based Vale’s argument that a 2008 agreement it struck with Rio Tinto related to the mining rights required that the dispute be litigated in England.
The agreement makes England an optional, not a mandatory, choice, the judge said.
The judge also cited other reasons to keep the lawsuit in New York, including Vale’s meetings in the city related to the alleged conspiracy, and an ongoing federal investigation related to Guinea rights.
Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto filed the lawsuit last April against Vale, Steinmetz and BSGR.
Steinmetz and BSGR have denied wrongdoing.
Simandou in Guinea is one of the most valuable iron ore deposits in the world.
The area could help one of Africa’s poorest countries to prosper but the mine development has been paralysed by battles over the concessions.
Citing the high cost of lawsuits in the U.S., Vale’s general counsel earlier this month said that the company may consider settling with Rio Tinto depending on how Berman ruled on the dismissal request.
Representatives from Rio Tinto and Vale did not immediately return requests for comment.
The case is Rio Tinto PLC v Vale SA et al, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 14-3042.
Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Bernard Orr