May 9, 2019 / 4:43 PM / 7 months ago

Acacia Mining hits back at parent Barrick in Tanzania row

LONDON (Reuters) - Acacia Mining on Thursday hit back at parent company Barrick Gold Corp’s allegation the miner was an obstacle to solving a long-running tax row in Tanzania.

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

Barrick CEO Mark Bristow said in a results presentation on Wednesday that Acacia was not cooperating, prompting Acacia to demand clarification from Barrick.

Acacia’s interim Chief Executive Officer Peter Geleta said in an interview that Acacia was “totally committed to achieving a negotiated solution” and laid out what he said was a series of facts.

Acacia had already been in discussion with Tanzania’s government in June 2017 when Barrick intervened without Acacia inviting it, he said.

“Barrick’s intervention at such an early stage of the dispute when Acacia was talking to the government of Tanzania undermined Acacia’s status, put both Acacia and Barrick into a difficult position and added a level of complexity that was unhelpful to an expedient resolution to the dispute. These are the facts and one cannot deny this,” Geleta said.   

Acacia has been excluded from the negotiations since Barrick’s intervention, but Geleta said the company was engaging constructively with local, regional and national governments and had turned around “a failing business” in Tanzania.

On Thursday, it announced gold output at its North Mara mine in Tanzania had risen 54 percent from the same time a year ago, helping to drive its share price 3 percent higher.

In its production update, Acacia also said it was seeking clarification from Barrick on Bristow’s comments, “not all of which are consistent with Acacia’s own understanding of the position”.

Barrick had no immediate response on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Bristow said Barrick was “stuck in the middle between Acacia and the government of Tanzania who are in a stand-off”.

“It will be a lot easier if Acacia were more engaging in their discussion,” he also said, adding Barrick, the majority shareholder, was open to buying out Acacia’s minority shareholders, but not at a premium.

Acacia has been caught up in sweeping changes to Tanzania’s mining industry spearheaded by President John Magufuli, who believes his country is not getting its fair share of profits.

The government has accused Acacia of evading taxes for years by under-declaring exports - an allegation dismissed by the company which said in 2017 it had been hit with a $190 billion tax bill.

Reporting by Barbara Lewis, Zandi Shabalala and Nichola Saminather; Editing by Mark Potter

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