Troubled Acacia plans to sell its Tanzanian mines to Chinese firms

18Feb 2018
Guardian On Sunday
Troubled Acacia plans to sell its Tanzanian mines to Chinese firms

ACACIA Mining Plc, which is embroiled in a massive tax dispute with the Tanzanian government, is now looking to sell all or part of its three gold-producing mines in the country to Chinese companies.

Acacia Mining Plc, which is being accused of massive tax evasion by the Tanzanian government, wants to sell all or part of its gold mining operations in the country, which include Bulyanhulu, North Mara and Buzwagi mines. FULL STORY ON PAGE 2

Acacia said in a statement on Friday that the company is “engaging with a small number of potential investors” over the sale and had received expressions of interest from Chinese companies.

The process “remains at a very early stage,” it added in response to media reports.

The discussions come as Acacia reported a loss of more than $700 million (over 1.5 trillion shillings) in 2017 after it was forced to write down the value of its assets in Tanzania, following the imposition of an export ban in March last year on gold and copper concentrates.

"The company confirms that, in response to a number of expressions of potential interest from Chinese counter-parties, it has commenced a process to explore the value to the company of the sale of a stake in some or all of its Tanzanian operations," Acacia said.

"Acacia continues to support the ongoing negotiations between the government of Tanzania and Barrick Gold Corporation, Acacia’s majority shareholder, in seeking to identify a detailed proposal to present to Acacia for review."

Tanzania's biggest gold miner currently operates three mines in the country -- Bulyanhulu, North Mara and Buzwagi.

Reuters earlier reported that Shandong Gold, Zijing Mining Group and China National Gold Group have held discussions with Acacia about a possible sale of its Tanzanian assets. The arrangement being discussed is a 50-50 joint venture, it said.

Barrick has a close relationship with Shandong Gold. Last June it sold the company a 50 per cent interest in its Veladero mine in Argentina to the company. Barrick also has a strategic partnership with Zijin Group. 

Previous talks between Barrick and China National Gold, a state-owned miner, collapsed in 2013 after the two sides failed to agree on a deal to purchase the Tanzanian mines.

China National Gold’s interest in the group had been viewed as further evidence of Chinese companies’ ambition to acquire gold assets globally.

Acacia's shares have fallen around 70 per cent in the past 12 months due to the tax dispute as well as an industrywide export ban on minerals not processed in Tanzania. Its woes have also weighed on Barrick’s stock, which is down some 30 per cent in the past year.




Getting a Chinese partner for its mines could help Acacia smooth relations with Tanzania after they fell apart last year over tax and the government crackdown on the mining sector, one person said.

Tanzania wants to attract more investment from China, which is already one of its five top foreign investors and whose clout has grown across Africa. China is also the world’s biggest consumer and producer of gold.

Tanzania’s government last year accused Acacia, the country’s biggest gold miner, of under-declaring mineral exports and slapped it with a massive $190 billion tax bill. Acacia denies the charges.

Last March, the government banned miners from exporting minerals that are not processed in the country as it aims for a bigger slice of the revenues from its natural resources. As a result, Acacia’s gold sales fell nearly 30 percent last year, pushing it to a financial loss. Its chief executive and finance chief quit in November.

With relations strained between Acacia and Tanzania, Barrick, which owns 63.9 per cent of Acacia, has taken the lead in negotiations with the government. It reached a framework agreement with Tanzania in October and is aiming for a final deal in the first half of 2018. 

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