Canadian gold firm requests extension on $11m tax debt

Thanh Nien News

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Workers at a Besra gold mine in Quang Nam Province. Photo: Hoang Son Workers at a Besra gold mine in Quang Nam Province. Photo: Hoang Son

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The Canadian owner of two gold mines in central Vietnam has asked the Prime Minister for a  two year extension to pay off its VND242 billion (US$11.34 million) in tax arrears.
Paul Seton, general director of Besra Vietnam which he founded with two brothers, acknowledged that his family owes back taxes accrued between January 2013 and August 2014, when they suspended most of their business in Quang Nam Province.
He pledged that if their plea is accepted, they will meet their payment obligations, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.
Seton said his company has faced a slew of difficulties in the past two years, including dramatic drops in the price of gold and flooding caused by a typhoon.
He also stressed that Bersa is committed to its long-term investment in Vietnam.
The group resumed small-scale operations at their Bong Mieu mine in October.
Seton they will set aside any and all profits accrued at the mine to pay back wages and clear nearly VND170 billion of debts owed to contractors and suppliers.
Hundreds of the creditors, including food vendors, hoteliers and Bersa’s primarily local contractor, Quang An Company, staged a protest in front of the Phuoc Son mine last December to demand their money.
Seton said Bersa's biggest challenge remains the central bank's refusal to renew Bong Mieu’s export license, despite the company's attempt to secure a new license in late 2013.
As a result, Bersa doesn't have funds to pay salaries, he said.
Besra began working in the Bong Mieu mine in Phu Ninh District in 1993.
In 1998, it began operations in Phuoc Son, the nation's largest gold mine.
In spite of the fact that the company has mined 6.9 tons of gold since 2008, Besra reportedly failed to pay the local authorities around VND350 billion ($17.5 million) worth of mining royalties, VAT taxes and environmental protection fees.
Quang Nam’s tax department froze the company’s accounts and ceased issuing VAT refunds (around 10 percent per transaction) to its customers last April, prompting Besra to stop work at its two gold mines on July 23.
Soon after that, Bersa's COO Darin Lee requested a reprieve, saying the closure of the mines had left more than 1,000 workers jobless and the inoperative mines vulnerable to thieves.
The Finance Ministry and the provincial government asked the department to give Besra a chance to repay its debts.

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