Barrick Moves Closer to Resolving Acacia Dispute

Danielle Bochove, Thomas Biesheuvel and Kenneth Kakuri                 12 December 2018.

Photo: Barrick Tanzania Open Pit                                                                                                               

  • Acacia would pay $300 million to Tanzania, people say
  •  Board and shareholders still need to review final agreement

Barrick Gold Corp. has reached an agreement with the Tanzanian government on a $300 million payment, a milestone toward resolving a dispute that has crippled the miner’s subsidiary in the African country, according to people familiar with the situation.

Executives from the Toronto-based producer and Randgold Resources Ltd., which is being bought by Barrick, met with Tanzanian negotiators on Dec. 7, said the people, who declined to be identified as the talks are private. During that meeting, the two sides made significant progress on a deal that includes Acacia Mining Plc paying $300 million in installments. The terms are now being handed off to a tax working group in Tanzania for review, the people said.

Once that group is satisfied with the numbers, the deal would have to be reviewed by Acacia’s board and the U.K. listing authority, and then voted on by shareholders, which could delay a resolution. Tanzania’s president, John Magufuli, would also need to review the findings of the group to be certain it’s in the best interests of the country, one of the people said.

Barrick, Acacia and Randgold declined to comment, as did Idris Kikula, chairman of the state-run Tanzania Mining Commission.

Tanzania-Acacia Dispute

Acacia shares jumped as much as 6.5 percent in London, before closing up 5.4 percent at 198.9 pence, the highest since January. Barrick rose 3.1 percent at the close in Toronto.

In 2017, Tanzania banned exports of unprocessed metal and slapped Acacia with a $190 billion tax bill equal to almost two centuries of revenue, leading to a collapse in the stock. A preliminary framework agreement struck between Barrick Executive Chairman John Thornton and Magufuli cut Acacia management out of the negotiating process. The deal involved Acacia and Tanzania splitting the economic benefits of operations going forward, which was less contentious than a $300 million payment, according to people familiar with the talks.

The relationship between Barrick and Acacia has been strained and progress moving the deal forward has been slow. Corruption chargeshave been levied against Acacia and some of its employees, further complicating sensitive talks.

The appointment of Randgold CEO Mark Bristow to head the company after the merger was widely seen as offering fresh hope for stalled talks. Randgold’s Willem Jacobs, who will head Barrick’s Africa and Middle East division, was present at the meeting, as was Barrick senior executive Kevin Thomson, the people said.

A deal would be a major victory for Bristow as he prepares to take the helm of Barrick in January. It’s also seen as an important first step should Barrick decide to buy up the shares in Acacia it doesn’t already own. That’s something Bristow has said he personally sees as an option, although talks haven’t been held on the matter.

— With assistance by Steven Frank

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