Former East Africa Community (EAC) secretary-general Juma Mwapachu has left the Acacia Mining board ahead of planned talks with the government over the ban on exports of copper concentrates.
The company announced Mr Mwapachu’s departure in a brief statement posted on its website yesterday. He was the only Tanzanian sitting in the company’s eight-member board of directors.
“Acacia announces that following the expiry of his second three-year term of appointment, Ambassador Mwapachu has decided to retire from the Acacia Board of Directors with effect from July 13, 2017,” the statement said.
The board acknowledged Mr Mwapachu’s “valuable commitment and support” to the company during his tenure and wished him well. But Mr Mwapachu’s exit from the influential position is likely raise eyebrows, with the former Tanzanian ambassador to France himself appearing to dispute the “retirement” notion alluded to by Acacia.
In an interview with The Citizen, Mr Mwapachu, while declining to offer his reasons for leaving the Acacia board, questioned the wording of the statement released by the mining firm.
“Kindly ask the source (Acacia)…they can give you more details on the matter. Why did they use the word ‘retirement’, for instance? I’m no longer in the board, and there’s reason for that...Acacia can tell you what it is,” Mr Mwapachu said.
Efforts to reach Acacia to provide further details were futile by the time of filing this story.
The media’s access to the company, especially in Tanzania, has been limited since its dispute with the government started in March when President John Magufuli banned the shipping put of copper concentrates.
Following Mr Mwapachu’s departure, the number of board members is now down to seven, namely four independent non-executive directors, two non-executive directors and one executive director.
The announcement came at a time talks between the government and Barrick Gold Corporation are due to start any time. Barrick is Acacia’s parent company, owning a 60 per cent stake in the business.
Mr Mwapachu and Mr Deodatus Mwanyika, who is Acacia’s Vice President, Corporate Affairs, were the senior-most Tanzanians in the company, and were expected to play a pivotal role during negotiations.
Problems between Acacia and the government began when President Magufuli stopped the export of over 270 containers of mineral concentrates from Dar es Salaam Port.
The number of blacklisted containers had risen to over 1,000 by the beginning of June, with the company warning that operations at its Buzwagi and Bulyankulu mines would be seriously affected. The firm also owns the North Mara gold mine.
President Magufuli later formed two probe committees, with the first committee led by Prof Abulkarim Mruma, declaring in May that the value of minerals in the copper concentrate had been under-declared by up to 10 times.
The second committee, led by Prof Nahemia Osoro, examined the economic and legal frameworks around the exports and submitted its findings in the same month to set the tone for the planned negotiations. The second committee’s findings concluded that Tanzania had lost Sh108 trillion since concentrate exports began in the late 1990s.
Acacia has disputed the findings of both committees, saying its operations in the country have always been aboveboard and called for an independent inquiry.
The government has, however, ignored the appeal and has instead focused on the planned talks with Barrick to push for compensation and what it sees as better deals.
Acacia, which will play only a supportive role in the negotiations after the government said it was not legally registered in Tanzania, has since filed for arbitration.
The arbitration announcement was made only a day after Parliament approved two bills that sought to give Tanzanians absolute ownership of all natural resources.
The Natural Wealth and Resources Contracts (Review and Re-negotiation of Unconscionable Terms) Bill, 2017 and the Natural Wealth and Resources (Permanent Sovereignty) Bill, 2017, which have already been signed into law, have drawn varied reaction, with foreign investors largely viewing them as anti-business. But local voices have praised them as a step in the right direction in the country’s efforts to regain control of the management of natural resources.