Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Johannesburg/Bengaluru — Acacia Mining said on Monday it would stop underground work at its flagship Tanzanian gold mine and cut its production guidance in the face of a confrontation between the industry and the government.

Shares in the FTSE 250 company plummeted 9% to 188 pence by 10.00am GMT, making it the worst decliner among an index of its peers.

Acacia, majority-owned by Barrick Gold, said it would have to scale back operations at Bulyanhulu mine and cut staff as it coped with a government ban on exports of unprocessed ore, imposed in March to encourage the construction of a local smelter.

The ban had left a build-up of ore and cut revenue as the firm met taxes and other bills, Acacia said in a statement.

"The impact of the ban, in addition to the deterioration of the current operating environment, has led to negative cash flow of approximately $15m a month at the mine and thus has made ordinary course operations at Bulyanhulu unsustainable," it added in a statement.

Annual production was expected to be 100,000 ounces lower than the bottom of the previous guidance range of 850,000-900,000 ounces, it added.

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 also accuses Acacia of evading taxes for years by under-declaring exports — an allegation dismissed by the company, which said in July it had been hit with a $190bn tax bill, equivalent to four times the East African country’s annual gross domestic product.

Despite the cash burn, Acacia’s chief financial officer Andrew Wray said the company did not need additional financial resources or financial assistance from its Canadian parent Barrick.

"From our perspective we still have reasonable liquidity as on the balance sheet," said Wray said. "We’re not contemplating looking beyond Acacia’s resources at this time."

A combination of scaling back Bulyanhulu, cutting corporate overheads, expansionary drilling at its largest mine North Mara, greenfield exploration activity and gold hedging should return Acacia back into cash generation next year, the miner said.

"Regrettably, the implementation of this programme will lead to a significant reduction in the workforce from the current 1,200 employee and 800 contractor roles," Acacia said.

Acacia first signalled intentions to put Bulyanhulu mine under care and maintenance in June.

"Acacia has implemented a sensible holding pattern – Bulyanhulu can be restarted without significant effort, but the company moves into a considerably more viable operational and financial position in the meantime," Investec analysts said.

"We expect this to now move the pressure onto the president – if he actually cares."

Talks between the Tanzanian government and Barrick Gold are ongoing, Acacia said.

Reuters

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