Barrick details proposal to settle Acacia dispute with Tanzania

(Reuters) - Canadian miner Barrick Gold outlined on Wednesday details of a deal it reached with the government of Tanzania to settle its disputes with Acacia Mining, including a $300 million payment to resolve tax claims in the country.

FILE PHOTO: Mark Bristow, chief executive officer of Barrick Gold, speaks during an interview at the Investing in African Mining Indaba conference in Cape Town, South Africa February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings/File Photo

The news sent London-listed shares in Acacia, which is 63.9 percent owned by Barrick, up 6 percent to their highest since October 2017, when an initial framework agreement was announced.

Barrick’s announcement confirms the 2017 deal which called for the creation of a local firm in Tanzania to manage Acacia’s assets, a 50-50 split of economic benefits and a $300 million payment to resolve all outstanding tax claims in the East African country.

Acacia, which was not allowed to negotiate for itself, and Tanzania’s government have been locked in a prolonged conflict with the government tearing up mining contracts, hiking taxes and royalties, and banning exports of raw minerals.

Sources have said initial agreement had been difficult to reach due to differing views from the government and the two companies about how the $300 million would be paid.

“While the original deal details have been known for over a year now, we believe that the actual execution of the US$300 million payout ... will remove a major overhang for Barrick and Acacia,” Credit Suisse analysts said in a note.

This also marks a victory for Barrick’s new Chief Executive Mark Bristow, who took the helm in January after the gold company merged with Randgold Resources.

“Significant amounts of real value have been destroyed by this dispute and, in Barrick’s view, this proposal will allow the business to focus on rebuilding its mining operations in partnership with their respective stakeholders,” Barrick’s Bristol said in a statement.

Separately, Acacia said it had not yet received Barrick’s proposal.

Barrick said the proposal would soon be presented to Acacia’s independent directors. A source at Acacia said the company planned to meet Barrick next week to get more details.

The deal is expected to be implemented by the end of March, the Tanzanian government said in a statement.

“This announcement provides opportunity for Bulyanhulu to be restarted and some value to be recreated within the company,” said Investec analyst Hunter Hillcoat, referring to a mine where Acacia lowered operations due to the export ban.

Acacia’s troubles in Tanzania began after President John Magufuli, nicknamed “The Bulldozer”, swept to power in 2015 pledging to secure a bigger share of resource wealth and cut corruption.

It was handed a $190 billion tax bill - about four times the country’s gross domestic product - for underreporting output. That was later revised down to $300 million.

(The story is refiled to correct typos in paragraphs 8, 9 and 12.)

Additional reporting by Zandi Shabalala in London and Nairobi newsroom; Editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar and Emelia Sithole-Matarise