Kibali's $500 million will be cleared to leave Congo 'very soon': Barrick CEO

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Barrick Gold’s Kibali gold mining joint venture in Democratic Republic of Congo will be able to get $500 million out of the country very soon, CEO Mark Bristow told Reuters on Monday.

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

The gold miner has been in discussions with Congo’s government over how to get the money out of the country for months. A resolution was close in January, but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Bristow said in a telephone interview.

Bristow said he expected the cash to be cleared for exit “very soon”, declining to give a specific timeline, after intensive discussions with the central bank, the mines minister, and the prime minister.

Under Congo’s 2018 mining code, miners must repatriate 60% of revenue from mineral sales back into the Congo, to help develop Congo’s economy.

The $500 million is the excess left over after Kibali repatriated 60% of revenue and paid all its in-country expenses, Bristow said.

Barrick needs the $500 million in order to pay back loans and dividends, Bristow said. AngloGold Ashanti, which owns 45% of Kibali, is entitled to half the money after dividends are paid, he said.

AngloGold Ashanti declined to comment, referring Reuters back to Barrick.

In May, Bristow had said the issue of the $500 million “keeps us awake at night”.

Barrick’s push to get the money out comes as Congo’s economy is under significant strain from the pandemic, with foreign currency reserves shrinking and mining companies taking longer to repatriate the 60% of mineral sales.

“Unfortunately, we have noted that repatriation of the 60% is currently erratic,” mines minister Willy Kitobo Samsoni told Reuters, adding he had warned mining companies to repatriate that capital immediately, or risk sanctions as set out in the mining code.

Delayed repatriation of funds is among the pressures facing the mining sector, a critical contributor to Congo’s economy, Samsoni said on Saturday.

Reporting by Helen Reid; editing by David Evans