Under pressure, AJN Resources scraps planned Kibali stake purchase

JOHANNESBURG, March 2 (Reuters) - AJN Resources has scrapped a plan to purchase a 10% stake in Congo’s biggest gold mine from state-owned gold firm SOKIMO, buckling to pressure from Barrick, the operator and 45% stakeholder of the Kibali mine which opposed the deal.

The Canadian junior miner’s shares tumbled nearly 50% last week after Reuters reported Barrick issued a cease-and-desist notice to block the Kibali stake purchase.

“As a result of its due diligence and further information received, will not proceed with its proposed acquisition of SOKIMO’s 10% free carried interest in the Kibali Gold Mine,” the company announced in a release late on Sunday.

The transaction would have required approval from both Barrick and Anglogold Ashanti, each of whom own 45% of Kibali.

Congolese civil society groups added to the pressure on AJN, demanding transparency over the deal and asking why SOKIMO’s stake sales were not subject to an open tender.

AJN said it was continuing due diligence on other projects it plans to acquire from SOKIMO (Société Minière de Kilo-Moto), namely 30% stakes in Zani-Kodo, Nizi, and Kibali South, and 35% stakes in Giro Goldfields and Wanga (Tendao).

AJN Resources’ Frankfurt-listed shares were up 5.1% by 1026 GMT on Monday after the announcement. (Reporting by Helen Reid; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)