Foreign investors reportedly unnerved by rise of 'populist politics'

20Mar 2017
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Foreign investors reportedly unnerved by rise of 'populist politics'

A surprise export ban imposed on gold and copper concentrate by the Tanzanian government has forced several Australian mining firms to seek urgent assurances about the future of their operations in the country, according to a report in Australia's Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

The export ban is seen by some as the latest manifestation of a populist drive affecting politics worldwide, amid a backlash to globalisation most obviously characterised by Donald Trump's rise to the White House.

Perth-based Tanga Resources director John Stockley will fly to Tanzania today for talks with government officials after the country slapped a ban on the export of mineral concentrates and ores for metallic minerals, including gold, copper, nickel and silver.

"If the Tanzanians wish to encourage foreign investment, they're not helping by making these sorts of announcements," Stockley said.

Tanga Resources has what it describes as a high-grade gold prospect in Tanzania and Stockley said in six years of exploration in the country, the company has never had trouble.

But despite some initial confusion as to the scope of the ban first announced by the Ministry of Energy and Minerals on March 2, Stockley said his local staff appeared confident the export of gold bars would not be stopped and so was not too upset.

"I think it is part of this worldwide populism that politicians are spouting for local consumption," Stockley said.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the country was "closely monitoring" the new business policies and regulations in Tanzania for any impact these changes may have on Australian investment interests.

But the Australian government has not yet directly made diplomatic representations in response to the ban.

Several Australian firms have interests in graphite, mineral sands and rare earths in Tanzania, including Magnis Resources, Strandline Resources and Peak Resources, but all have been assured they are unaffected.

Tanzania was seen as a darling of Africa's mining boom a decade ago, but views are mixed as to the future; whether the ban is just part of the usual risk of doing business in poorer countries, or a sign of further problems to come.

President John Magufuli has called for the processing or refining of metallic minerals in the country.

The export ban has had the most immediate impact on London Stock Exchange-listed giant Acacia Mining Plc which operates three gold mines in Tanzania.

A spokesman for Acacia told Fairfax Media the company did not have any further update to a statement earlier this month that it was "urgently seeking further clarification from the Ministry of Energy and Minerals".

OreCorp Limited, an Australian Stock Exchange-listed development company from Perth, has a joint venture with Acacia for the Nyanzaga gold project in north-west Tanzania, but did not respond to inquiries.

"Any government making unilateral decisions is worrying and of concern," said Tim Goyder of Perth-based Liontown Resources, which has lithium exploration assets in Tanzania. "But fundamentally, we're very optimistic on the geology and future of Tanzania."

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