By Samantha Cole of Tanzania Business Ethics
Brad Gordon the CEO of Acacia Mining, a publicly listed company on the London Stock Exchange, made a public announcement at the African Down-under Conference in Perth Australia this past week that Barrick Gold, a Canadian listed company and 64% shareholder in Acacia Mining, was exiting due to it alleging Acacia was a non-core asset.
It is undisputed that divesting from non-core assets to unlock cash to reduce debt, would be construed as a normal business practice that any corporation would engage in. However, Barrick being the largest gold mining company in the world, and Acacia who also are a gold producing entity, and whom earlier this year declared a US$400 million dividend, would never divest from an asset, after such a large dividend pay-out, unless there was an ulterior motive…. something “between the lines” that is being hidden from the public and shareholders worldwide.
We have heard feedback and opinions from some legal people in London as well as UK mining analysts, that Barrick Gold is looking to totally divorce itself from Acacia Mining, since Acacia’s track record in Tanzania is truly under heavy scrutiny and Barrick prefer to distance themselves from the problems and scandals in Tanzania.
Only recently, Acacia Mining and Barrick Gold were openly mentioned and lambasted in Parliament by a Shadow Minister of the opposition party. The media around the world covered the story in print and online. As bad was the Tax Authority guilty verdict against Barrick Gold and Acacia Mining for tax evasion – with fines to pay in excess of US$ 40 million.
President Dr. John Magufuli later stated at a Bank of Tanzania conference, that he will not tolerate international mining companies not paying the required taxation because they claim they only lose money in Tanzania. Of course, he was also referring to Acacia Mining who declare massive dividends to its shareholders off-shore but claim losses in Tanzania.
Acacia also has a multitude of ongoing legal issues. They report in their website that they have no less than 255 active legal cases in Tanzania to the staggering amount of over US$230 million involving the Tanzanian Revenue Authorities, Local Labour Claims, local companies, the well-publicised Bismark Hotel (Mining) Limited claim for the negligent loss of a mining concession, with fraud and corruption allegations linked to the Acacia-Bismark case, and many more. No wonder that Barrick Gold wants to distance itself from 255 legal cases and other Acacia problems.
Reuters reported in a July publication that Barrick Gold were in talks with a number of potential buyers for their 64% holdings in Acacia Mining. Amongst these buyers were various South African companies all of whom are well versed in the dynamics and workings of African mining.
Harmony Gold, a world renowned South African gold producer, is/was alleged to be close to concluding a deal with Barrick Gold, but refused to comment on the multitude of pending litigation’s they may inherit when they were called by an independent correspondent.
Reports surfaced regarding members of Acacia Mining’s employees that have been “suspiciously” dismissed in Tanzania, for reasons that can’t be confirmed, including Katrina White, the most senior in-house legal officer and also company secretary, and who was reported to be a director of the North Mara Mine.
Calls to Acacia’s offices in both London and Dar es Salaam have not confirmed why these dismissal’s are happening.
Calls to a Director of Bismark Hotel (Mining), who are the largest claimant against Acacia Mining amongst the 255 legal cases, at first met with a refusal to discuss anything due to the case being in the process of Adjudication. However, the Director did confirm their matter was still pending and had not been resolved. Furthermore, he said that if necessary, they would apply to the high court to stop the Acacia sale until a resolution to its claim had been finalised.
One has to wonder what Brad Gordon meant in Australia when he said that “Acacia was a non-core asset” to Barrick when there is so much crisis around Acacia’s operations In Tanzania.