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Sale of diamond mine sparks feud

Discussion in 'Jukwaa la Siasa' started by BAK, Sep 11, 2008.

  1. BAK

    BAK JF-Expert Member

    Sep 11, 2008
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    Sale of diamond mine sparks feud

    Dar es Salaam

    THE sale of a controlling stake in Williamson Diamond Mine based in Shinyanga Region to a foreign company has sparked controversy in Tanzania, with several experts questioning the real motives behind the surprise deal.

    The new majority shareholder, UK-headquartered Petra Diamonds Limited, which has bought 75 per cent of the shares in the diamond mine from South African mining giant De Beers has declined to say exactly how much it plans to invest in the mine which has been posting cumulative losses for more than a decade.

    ’’Petra will invest a substantial amount in Williamson over the next five years, but we cannot disclose details at this time,’’ Cathy Malins, the Corporate Communications Manager of Petra Diamonds told THISDAY when asked to reveal the company’s future investment plans in Tanzania.

    However, latest reports from South Africa suggested that Petra Diamonds Ltd has already budgeted $28m (approx. 33bn/-) to expand the diamond-mining operations at Mwadui in the next two years.

    The company announced this week that it had paid De Beers just $10m (approx. 12bn/-) for its 75 per cent stake in the diamond mine. The Tanzanian government owns the remaining 25 per cent of the shares in the mine.

    ’’Petra believes that there is excellent potential to turnaround the economic performance of the Williamson mine. The key is to increase throughput to 7.5 million tonnes per annum (yielding some 500,000 carats per annum) and there is a two-year plan in place to do this,’’ Malins told THISDAY.

    ’’There remains a major resource at Williamson of 40 million carats. Given the lack of new discoveries in the diamond market, this is a significant deposit and it will sustain a mining operation at Williamson for many years to come.’’

    Asked if the company had any plans to buyout the government’s minority shares in the diamond mine, she explained that: ’’Petra looks forward to working with the (Tanzanian) government as its esteemed partner in the project going forward. There have not been any negotiations with regards to Petra buying the government�s stake in the mine.’’

    The Leader of the Official Opposition in the National Assembly and former chairman of the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Hamad Rashid Mohamed, said it was mind-boggling that De Beers was purportedly posting losses at the diamond mine for the past 14 years.

    Hamad Rashid, who led a PAC investigation into the diamond trade in Tanzania in 2004, said: ’’They (De Beers) cannot claim to have been making losses all those years while involved in diamond mining activities in the country.’’

    He urged the government to tighten controls in the mining sector and ensure foreign investor companies do not under declare their actual revenues.

    Among other things, Hamad Rashid’s committee had probed the activities of the Tanzania Diamond Sorting Office (Tansort) and its London trading centre.

    The report findings indicated that the government was losing huge sums of money thanks to loopholes in monitoring the entire diamond mining activities and trading.

    The report noted with concern that the processing of diamonds before they were handed over to Tansort for sorting was entirely undertaken by Williamson Diamond Ltd.

    On his part the incumbent PAC chairman, John Cheyo, said yesterday he was shocked by the news of the sale of the diamond mine.

    Cheyo, who was also a member of the presidential mining sector review committee chaired by former Judge Mark Bomani, voiced concern that De Beers might have opted to sell its stake in the mine after reaping a hefty profit.

    ’’It’s quite possible that the company (De Beers) sold its shares after making a super profit from the diamond mine,’’ he said, raising suspicion about the yearly losses posted by De Beers from its Mwadui operations.

    Likewise, the Karatu Member of Parliament, Dr Wilbrod Slaa, said the sale of the majority stake in the diamond mine was suspicious since De Beers had all along been claiming to be incurring heavy losses at Mwadui.

    He noted that the South African diamond miner had since 1994 been declaring losses to the government, hence let off from paying relevant taxes.

    ’’The government has not shown seriousness in dealing with mining companies, particularly in the area of collection of royalties and other revenues that these companies are supposed to pay to the state,’’ he said.

    Asked to comment about the sale of the diamond mine, Judge Bomani himself noted that there was nothing peculiar about the decision of De Beers to sell its stake in the diamond mine.

    ’’The De Beers company is free to sell its shares, but it is supposed to make an official notification to the government on its decision to sell its shares since it was in a joint venture business,’’ he said.

    Bomani said it was important for the government to ensure it collects stamp duty from the seller (De Beers) in the transaction regardless of whether or not the company had made a profit in its Tanzanian operations.

    Williamson mine, with a resource of 40-million carats, is a 70-year-old mine. De Beers returned to it in 1994, after 20 years. Last year the mine produced 220,209 carats, up from 189,396 carats, from 3.2-million tonnes of ore treated.

    De Beers decided last year an autogenous mill could lift throughput to 7-million tonnes a year, increasing diamond output to 500,000 carats a year and extending the mine’s life by 23 years.

    Petra Diamonds finance director David Abery was quoted as saying in South Africa yesterday that the autogenous mill was at Durban harbour and would cost about $5.5m to install.

    The company’s technical director, Jim Davidson, said Petra planned to keep production to 1.8 million tonnes for the first six months to iron out bottlenecks and would increase this to 3 million tonnes for the next 18 months to produce 200,000 carats a year.

    The investor plans to process about 7.5 million tonnes a year of ore at the mine after two years.
  2. BAK

    BAK JF-Expert Member

    Sep 11, 2008
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    EDITORIAL: Mwadui sold: De Beers still owe Tanzanians outstanding remittances and taxes


    THERE is every reason for Tanzanians to be curious about the sale of Williamson Diamond Mines Limited (WDL) by South Africa's De Beers to the UK-based Petra Diamonds Limited.

    The exit of De Beers is a normal practice in free economies provided that the transactions are transparent and correctly reflect the real value of shares sold for the taxman to take his dues.

    We do not have any qualms with De Beers quitting or selling its equity. But in our opinion, De Beers, should not be left so easily from the hook.

    De Beers through its subsidiary company, Willcroft still has an unfinished agenda with the Treasury and Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) before it is formally cleared off. For it is on record that since becoming majority shareholders, it started making losses, denying even the government profit on its shares.

    In a series of news stories last year we reported about findings of a select committee of the Public Accounts Committee which were presented to Parliament in 2004, but were never debated. In its findings the committee stated that WDL was making profit, rejecting the loss accounts posted by the company for 15 consecutive years.

    Members of Parliament observed that diamond business was profitable, and that was enough reason why De Beers was investing heavily in Mwadui in terms of machinery. It was also established that there was a healthy trading pattern of diamonds at the London diamond market and that De Beers was undervaluing diamonds at its London market.

    De Beers has vindicated the observation by the parliamentary committee in its statement of sale of WDL by acknowledging increased production of diamonds at the mine by saying, ''production in 2007 rose by 16 per cent to 220,209 carats, with a value of $23m.''

    But most significant is the acknowledgement by De Beers that Mwadui Diamond Mine is a very rich and largest Kimberlite in the world ever to be economically mined. ''The mine is renowned for producing large, high value diamonds with regular recoveries of special stones larger than10.8 carats,'' it was stated.

    The mine is also a known source of rare fancy pink stones, including the famous Williamson Pink- a 54.6 carat rough diamond recovered in 1947

    Now going back to the basics, De Beers are indeed honourable and generous. They tell sleeping Tanzanians that they have sold their stake for just $10m. But what is intriguing is, last year alone, the mine yielded 220,209 carats, with a value of $23m.'' Isn't this strange?

    Is De Beers not falsifying the exact value of the shares of Williamson mine? Records available say the mine which became operational in 1940 after registration with equity of 12m /- was sold in 1958 by the Williamson three siblings to De Beers - Tanganyika later Tanzania partnership for �4 million.

    Could De Beers become so generous and na�ve to sell so cheaply to Petra? There is every indication that the shares have been under valued.

    While we are told in the statement that, Petra will continue with the rehabilitation of the mine, there is a big silence on non returned funds from sales of diamonds, held by De Beers for the last 18 years.

    We call on the government to get tough with De Beers. We demand a fair and honest transaction, a clean and thorough revisit of books of accounts of Mwadui Diamond Limited to establish what ought to be paid in taxes by De Beers.

    If indeed they were making losses for the last 18 years, why did they not close shop long ago?