Barrick Gold has agreed to cede 16 per cent of Acacia Mining’s three mines in Tanzania to the state and pay $300m as the first steps towards settling a six-month dispute over its subsidiary’s operations.
All future “economic benefits” from Acacia’s Tanzania operations will be shared equally, the two sides agreed in a deal signed on Thursday, although it was not clear whether that referred to profit or revenue.
The agreement does not settle a $190bn tax dispute between Acacia and Tanzania; the $300m is a “gesture of good faith”, Barrick said and would be paid by Acacia.
Acacia’s shares soared 20 per cent on news of the deal but they are still 60 per cent below where they were before the dispute began.
President John Magufuli of Tanzania wants to wring a greater share of mining company proceeds, which he says are too generous to the companies and the result of contentious practices under previous governments. He has also targeted Petra Diamonds, another London-listed miner.
In July, laws were passed giving the government the right to a 16 per cent share of all mining operations.
John Thornton, executive chairman of Barrick, which owns 64 per cent of Acacia, met Mr Magufuli on Thursday in Dodoma, the capital. After the talks, Mr Thornton said the agreement was a “framework for a modern, 21st century partnership that should ensure Acacia’s operations generate sustainable benefits and mutual prosperity for the people of Tanzania, as well as for the owners of Barrick and Acacia”.
The dispute began in March when the government banned the export of unprocessed ores in an effort to boost the domestic smelting industry. It then accused Acacia, one of Africa’s largest gold producers and Tanzania’s largest private employers, of illegally under-reporting its shipments and of tax evasion.
Acacia denied any wrongdoing and disputed the Tanzanian revenue authority’s assessments that it owed the state about $40bn in unpaid taxes plus $150bn in penalties and interest.
Mr Magufuli, known as the Bulldozer, did not say whether the export ban would be lifted. “Now that we are all shareholders, we can sit down over a cup of coffee and amicably resolve any outstanding issues,” he said. “We trust Barrick. They are a true partner.”
Mr Thornton said: “A partnership requires trust between the parties, and transparency is the currency of trust. Through our discussions over the last three months we have established both and this will form the basis of our relationship in the future.”
Acacia operates three gold mines in Tanzania, which account for the vast majority of its assets. It had scaled back operations at Bulyanhulu, its biggest mine, as a result of the export ban.
Last week Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man and one of the biggest investors in Tanzania, accused Mr Magufuli of compromising foreign investment. “They’ve scared quite a lot of investors and scaring investors is not a good thing to do,” he said. “Once an investor complains the rest will run away, they don’t even want to hear the details.”
Barrick said the deal was subject to approval by Acacia’s board and independent shareholders. Acacia said it would “consider any agreement once it receives the full details and a further update will be provided when appropriate”.