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 percent to 188 pence by 1000 GMT, making it the biggest 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 inventory and cut revenue as the firm met taxes and other bills, Acacia said in a statement. It had already cut costs, but the company was burning through cash and more action was needed.
"The impact of the ban, in addition to the deterioration of the current operating environment, has led to negative cash flow of approximately $15 million per month at the mine and thus has made ordinary course operations at Bulyanhulu unsustainable," it added in a statement.
Underground activity will cease and the processing of underground ore would stop within four weeks, under a programme "to preserve the viability of our business over the longer term," the company said.
Annual production is 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 $190 billion 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 mothball Bulyanhulu 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.
Piracy off the African coastline has been a headline grabbing phenomenon for more than a decade. For a few years though, Somali pirates appeared to have a quiet spell. Then, recently they had their first successful attack against a merchant vessel since 2012.
Other attacks followed, including one in April that was foiled by Chinese and Indian navies.
On the other side of the continent, attacks against ships in the Gulf of Guinea remain a concern for shipping companies, particularly off the coast of Nigeria.
The State of Maritime Piracy report reiterates that the Nigerian coastline is a dangerous area for seafarers and has been for years. However, coastal states affected by piracy often have other priorities. Take Somalia for example. The country is battling many issues including the effects of a long drought and frequent Al-Shabaab attacks.
The situation is similar in other countries. The Africa Centre for Strategic Studies points out that national security and economic policies rarely emphasise maritime security. This is due to a lack of awareness, political will and resources. For years maritime security has been neglected throughout Africa. Recently however, there has been renewed focus on maritime issues. This was highlighted by the African Union’s maritime strategy and the Lomé maritime summit.
These developments show that maritime matters have become more important. But this is still not enough. To develop their blue economy coastal states need to start addressing maritime security issues beyond just piracy.
It should also include factors such as illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Unfortunately politicians and academics have traditionally framed maritime security in Africa as a purely counter-piracy affair. The debate needs to be broadened significantly to include an appreciation of the economic potential of the seas.
How to secure the oceans
While these activities happen at sea, solutions to improve maritime security must be developed by national governments first. It is not enough to relegate security to navies and coastguards. Governments must first determine where patrols are needed.
In theory, they can do this using comprehensive surveillance techniques to gather intelligence on all activities within their exclusive economic zones. However, many governments in the developing world lack the sufficient technical capabilities to do so.
However, if Africa’s coastal states are really committed to developing their blue economies they will also need to employ a wide-reaching maritime strategy over and beyond basic security. The island nation of Seychelles has been particularly active in this area.
Maritime strategies help to identify the resources needed to realise the economic potential at sea. They are also the basis for security cooperation between neighbouring countries. This is because maritime insecurity is often a transnational problem.
National security agencies, the international community and NGOs should collaborate to develop a maritime strategy. At the national level, missing capacities can even be provided by the private sector. To manage this multi-agency approach national governments must ensure that their own priorities are front and centre. Limiting maritime security to counter-piracy activities will not lead to sustainable solutions. Governments must adopt a more holistic approach to securing the oceans.
It does not make sense to focus on pirate attacks while ignoring other criminal activities at sea.
The Kenyan government is waging a war against online hate mongers with what would appear to be a zero-tolerance policy. In an unprecedented move two chat group administrators have been arrested. They were charged with sharing hate messages on WhatsApp that threatened national security and face an additional charge of spreading alarming propaganda on social media.
Like many other countries, Kenya has charged people with hate speech before. Recently in the UK, a Facebook user was charged with spreading hate messages against Muslims. Rwanda has also successfully charged various people with hate speech.
The difference in this particular case is that WhatsApp administrators have been charged. However, this is not the first time a chat group administrator has been prosecuted for hate speech. In a similar case in India, the government arrested WhatsApp administrators for offensive posts about the prime minister.
As Kenya geared up for its general election in August it was already grappling with hate speech. This reached a crescendo in the post-election period as supporters of the two opposing political groupings – the ruling Jubilee party and The National Super Alliance – engaged in digital warfare.
Fearful of a rerun of previous post election violence, police were well prepared this time.
Under Kenyan law hate speech is a criminal offence that carries a five-year jail term and a million shilling fine. One of the suspects allegedly shared a hate message that threatened to slaughter members of a certain community.
The arrests have proved controversial on two grounds.
The first is that the government has been criticised for violating the constitutional freedoms of expression and the media. The second is that the WhatsApp users felt safe because of the anonymity provided by the platform. Moreover, the Kenyan authorities have shown reluctance to prosecute hate speech cases. Earlier in the year, politicians accused of hate speech were released due to lack of evidence and the absence of asupporting legal framework.
But I believe there are grounds for a successful prosecution under Kenyan law.
What the law says
On the issue of freedom of expression, Kenya’s constitution enshrines the right to freedom of speech. But this doesn’t include allowing propaganda for war, incitement to violence, hate speech, advocacy of hatred, discrimination, ethnic incitement, vilification of others, and incitement to cause harm. This is in line with international law which protects freedom of expression, but has limitations.
During the election period thousands of Kenyans used social media to express their opinions. Many of the conversations pitted members of different ethnic communities against each other. This type of hostile communication was a spillover from the 2013 general election period when online hate speech first reared its ugly head.
This year many Kenyans retreated to the privacy of their WhatsApp groups to speak freely about their political affiliations. Again, a good number of these conversations were inflammatory. It’s understandable that Kenyan authorities felt they needed to act. But what happens next is unclear given that the law hasn’t caught up with the implications of people using various social media platforms to ventilate.
There have been a number of cases in which individuals have been charged with hate speech. And on their part, newspapers, radio stations and media enterprises can also be held criminally liable for publicising threatening, abusive or insulting material intended to stir up ethnic hatred.
The law applies to audio, visual and written hate messages, all of which are common on social media platforms. Therefore, it can be argued that Section 62 of the National Cohesion and Integration Act includes online hate speech. This would make it a crime for digital perpetrators - including those in WhatsApp groups - to spread hate through private messages.
The government has also published guidelines specifically aimed at preventing the dissemination of undesirable political text messages and social media content. According to the guidelines, WhatsApp group administrators are responsible for the content disseminated through their groups and therefore they are criminally liable for any harm that results.
I believe that these guidelines, when read together with Section 62, empower the police to arrest WhatsApp group administrators. This is because the guidelines create legal responsibilities and liabilities in the social media environment that can be applied to content service providers, including WhatsApp group administrators.
And the activities governed by the guidelines include social media use and networking, online publishing and discussion, media sharing, blogging, micro blogging, and document and data sharing. As such, even WhatsApp group members can be accused of spreading hate speech.
The impact of these rules has been that online group administrators and content creators such as bloggers must now actively monitor their members so that they are well aware of the information that is being shared on their platforms.
Therefore one will have to watch and see whether the charges will be successful or whether the Constitutional Court will be faced with a question of interpretation. The salient point of contention will be whether the WhatsApp guidelines violate the right to freedom of media and speech or if they are a necessary limitation, taking into account Kenyan’s online environment and the people’s propensity to post inflammatory or dangerous speech.