October 20, 2017 / 1:06 PM / in a year

Acacia-Tanzania proposed settlement on track - Barrick

TORONTO/LONDON (Reuters) - Barrick Gold (ABX.TO) said on Friday a proposed mining settlement it negotiated with Tanzania for its Acacia Mining (ACAA.L) unit was not under threat, even though Acacia said it could not immediately make a $300 million (227.43 million pounds) payment included in the deal.

Barrick Gold Corp Chairman of the board John Thornton speaks during their annual general meeting for shareholders in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on April 28, 2015. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Barrick, which owns 63.9 percent of Acacia, announced on Thursday the deal whose terms include the payment, giving the state a 16-percent stake in its three mines, and splitting “economic benefits” from those operations with the government.

Tanzania in March banned unprocessed mineral exports as part of a push to reap greater rewards from the east African country’s resources. In July, Acacia, the country’s largest gold miner, was served with a $190 billion bill for unpaid taxes, penalties and interest.

Government-appointed auditors said the company had understated its gold shipments and that it was operating illegally in Tanzania. Acacia has denied the allegations.

Acacia, which has not participated in months-long talks to resolve the issues, said on Friday its board would need to approve any deal. Acacia executives said the company had not received any formal proposal on the agreement and was seeking clarity.

Barrick said the proposed settlement did not require Acacia to make an upfront payment, citing two announcements stating that Barrick and government representatives would negotiate payment terms. That could include staggered payments, for example, Barrick spokesman Andy Lloyd said by phone.

Shares of London-listed Acacia, which has lost $1.7 billion in market value since the March 3 ban, dropped 8.1 percent on Friday. Shares of Barrick rose 0.45 percent to C$20.22.

The partnership model in the proposed deal is crucial to success in a mining industry in which governments are increasingly seeking greater benefits from resource development, Lloyd said.

A meeting between Barrick Chairman John Thornton and Tanzania President John Magufuli in Dar es Salaam on Thursday resulted in the framework agreement, Lloyd said. Acacia was aware of the status of this week’s talks, including the possibility of a 50-50 partnership, he added.

“It is still very early in the process,” Acacia Chief Executive Brad Gordon said on a conference call after the company released quarterly results. “There is a long way to go before any proposal is made to Acacia.”

Panmure Gordon & Co mining analyst Kieron Hodgson said it was “strange” for Barrick to negotiate for a company meant to be responsible for its own future.

“It’s akin to negotiating for your brother and then your brother picking up the bill,” he said.

The talks were led by Thornton, who lacks a mining background and spent years working in China after holding a senior role at Goldman. He helped strike a near-billion dollar deal with a Chinese miner this spring.

Reflecting the March export ban, Acacia on Friday posted a 60 percent drop in third-quarter core earnings to $50 million. It cut spending by 33 percent and said it hoped to resume generating cash in early 2018.

Reporting by Susan Taylor in Toronto, Zandi Shabalala in London and Sanjeeban Sarkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Larry King and Richard Chang

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