Vietnam to give beleaguered Canadian gold firm another break

By Anh Vu, Thanh Nien News

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Gold production at Bersa Gold Inc. in Quang Nam province. Photo credit: Business Forum newspaper Gold production at Bersa Gold Inc. in Quang Nam province. Photo credit: Business Forum newspaper


The Finance Ministry ordered officials in Quang Nam Province to give a Canadian gold producer more time to pay off its multi-million dollar tax bill.
A source from the ministry’s tax department said Thursday that they have told the provincial department to give Besra Gold Inc. (a Canadian firm) several extensions, and let them pay off their debts gradually.
Besra began working in the Bong Mieu mine in Phu Ninh District in 1993.
In 1998, it began operations in Phuoc Son, the largest gold mine in Vietnam located in a district of the same name.
In spite of the fact that the company has yielded 6.9 tons of gold since 2008, Besra has reportedly failed to pay the local authorities mining royalties, VAT taxes and environmental protection fees.
Bersas tax arrears have added up to around VND350 billion ($17.5 million), according to Quang Nam’s tax department which froze the company’s accounts and ceased issuing VAT refunds (around 10% per transaction) to its customers in April.
The punishment prompted Besra to stop work at its two gold mines on July 23, shortly before its COO Darin Lee requested a reprieve, saying the closure of the mines had left more than 1,000 workers jobless and had the potential to expose the mines to thieves.
A representative from Quang Nam’s Tax Department said they wanted to be tough on the company, but the provincial leadership kept ordering them to ease up on Besra.
Now it looks like the Finance Ministry has taken the same view.
Besra, which is owned by three brothers, has developed an infamous reputation in Quang Nam where local businessmen say they hope to recoup VND30 billion from the firm.
Le Dinh Thuc, the director of a local fuel company, stole the stage at a press briefing organized by Besra and Quang Nam officials on August 7.
Thuc publicly demanded the gold producer pay VND 6.6 billion ($311,000) it owed his firm.
Last December hundreds of people, including food vendors, hotel owners, and Bersa's primarily local contractor (who claimed to be owed more than half of the outstanding sum), staged a protest in front of the Phuoc Son mine.
The next day the company promised to pay its debts, claiming its operations had been strained by falling gold prices, rising mining fees and tropical storms.
Bersa shifted its tone in January, when it announced it would not pay back its main contractor, the Quang An Company, and blamed it for organizing the one-day protest that stopped movement in and out of the mine.
Besra claimed the protest had caused $850,000 in losses.

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