November 2, 2017 / 9:05 AM / in a year

UPDATE 1-Top Acacia Mining bosses quit in midst of Tanzania dispute

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LONDON, Nov 2 (Reuters) - Acacia Mining's top two executives have resigned in the midst of talks between its parent company and the Tanzanian government aimed at ending a long-running dispute that has hit Acacia's operations.

Barrick Gold, the world's biggest gold miner and 63.9 percent owner of Acacia, struck a deal with Tanzania last month to end the dispute, part of which involved Acacia making a $300 million payment to the east African country.

But Acacia, whose three producing gold mines are in Tanzania and was not directly involved in the talks, said last week it could not afford the payment.

The company said on Thursday that Chief Executive Brad Gordon and finance chief Andrew Wray would both leave at the end of the year. It said Gordon was returning to Australia for family reason, while Wray was pursuing other opportunities.

"The obvious conclusion would be that those two individuals feel that the situation in Tanzania is not going to get resolved sensibly or quickly," said Peel Hunt analyst Peter Mallin-Jones.

Acacia stock was down 4 percent in early trade to 174 pence.

However, Investec analysts said the departures could help smooth a deal with Tanzania.

"Clearly not a positive given the depth of experience that Brad and Andrew have, but it could appease the Tanzanian government as Barrick will be able to say how they are sorting things out, even if it had nothing to do with them," they said.

Tanzania in March banned unprocessed mineral exports as part of a push to reap greater rewards from its natural resources. In July, Acacia was also served with a $190 billion bill for unpaid taxes, penalties and interest.

Acacia said Peter Geleta would take over as interim chief executive, while Jaco Maritz was appointed finance chief.

Chairman Kevin Dushnisky said the company would fully support its management team while seeking a resolution to the dispute in Tanzania. (Reporting by Zandi Shabalala; Editing by Mark Potter)

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