19th February 2020
Colombia has launched an investigation over alleged unpaid royalties of
619 billion pesos ($181.5 million) from iron and nickel production at
Australian miner South32’s Cerro Matoso mine between 1982 and 2012, the
country’s comptroller said Wednesday.
According to initial findings the Australian miner applied incorrect
discounts and deductions to the detriment of the Andean country’s
resources, the comptroller said.
“An investigation has been opened following an audit and preliminary
inquiry because there are strong concerns about whether royalties which
belong to the Colombian state are being adjusted correctly or
incorrectly,” vice-comptroller general Ricardo Rodriguez said in a
He said a review found the mine’s operator to have applied certain
deductions which have nothing to do with production processes, including
for journeys, hotels, clubs, transport and port costs that should not have
Cerro Matoso, one of the largest open-pit ferro-nickel mines in the world,
is located in a rural part of Cordoba province, in the north of Colombia.
During the 2019 financial year Cerro Matoso produced 41,100 tonnes of
In an email to Reuters, South32 said the attempt to retrospectively
recover royalties was both technically and legally invalid as it concerns
two concession contracts which were finalized in 2012 and are being
settled in Colombian courts.
The Australian miner said the figure quoted by the comptroller is not
based on the contractual royalty formula.
“We will take all necessary legal action to defend our legitimate
interests and provide the necessary legal certainty to promote and protect
foreign investment in Colombia,” the company said.
The investigation also concerns officials from Colombia’s National Mining
Agency (ANM), who are in charge of overseeing royalties are administered
correctly, the comptroller said.
“If this is found to have negatively impacted the state, this damage will
have to be compensated,” Rodriguez said.
($1 = 3.410,24 pesos)
(By Luis Jaime Acosta and Oliver Griffin; Editing by Alistair Bell)