Acacia Mining admits in talks with Chinese over potential sale of Tanzania assets

Acacia Mining is Tanzania’s biggest gold producer and operates three major mines in the country — Bulyanhulu, Buzwagi and North Mara (pictured). (Image courtesy of Acacia Mining.)

Acacia Mining (LON:ACA), Tanzania’s No.1 bullion producer, which has been hit hard by a long-running dispute with the government of the East African nation, is mulling the sale of stakes in some or all of its operations in that country.

In response to media speculation on the matter, the company said it was “engaging with a small number of potential investors” over the potential deal, adding it ad received expressions of interest from Chinese companies.

The process “remains at a very early stage,” it said in the statement, adding there could be “no certainty that an agreement will be reached.”

Barrick, which owns 63.9% of Acacia, has a close ties with the rumoured suitors — Shandong Gold and Zijin Group.

The companies involved in talks with Acacia, which is majority owned by Barrick Gold (TSX, NYSE:ABX), are Shandong Gold Mining and Zijin Mining Group, according to people familiar with the matter quoted by Reuters.

“If successful, the discussions could lead to a joint venture agreement between Acacia and a Chinese company that would own Acacia’s three mines in the East African country — Bulyanhulu, Buzwagi and North Mara,” the agency reported.

The news comes only a few days after Acacia announced it was scrapping its 2017 dividend and warned gold output would drop this as a result of Tanzania’s ongoing ban on exports of metal concentrate, which represent about a third of Acacia’s output.

Barrick has a close ties with Shandong Gold. Last year, it sold the company a 50% stake in its Veladero mine in Argentina.

As part of the deal, which makes the two firms strategic partners, the Shandong province-based gold miner will help Barrick move forward with the long delayed and hurdles ridden Pascua-Lama gold, silver and copper project, straddling the border between Chile and Argentina.

The Toronto-based gold giant also has a strategic partnership with Zijin Group, China’s biggest gold company by market value.