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Zambian president wants quick resolution to tax dispute with First Quantum

Zambian President Edgar Lungu would like a quick resolution for a dispute between the country's tax authority and First Quantum Minerals Ltd. over a tax bill for almost US$8 billion, Bloomberg News reported March 22, citing Lungu's spokesman, Amos Chanda.

"We are very confident in the professionalism in Zambia Revenue Authority that it will deal with investors within the agreed parameters of tax administration," Chanda said, adding that the government does not plan to get involved unless it is "a matter of the last resort and if circumstances demand that an intervention is made."

The Zambian Revenue Authority recently slapped the miner with a tax bill for 76.5 billion Zambian kwacha, equivalent to US$7.98 billion at the time, for the alleged underpayment of customs duties, which First Quantum Chairman and CEO Philip Pascall was quick to explain.

The company held a conference call March 21 to explain that the tax relates to imports of US$540 million of equipment and consumables it brought into the country between January 2012 and December 2017 for the Sentinel mine at its Trident - Sentinel copper-nickel operation.

First Quantum paid duties of between 0% and 15%, while the Zambian tax agency believes that it should have paid a 25% duty.

The Zambia Revenue Authority recently outlined plans to conduct audits on mining companies in the country covering the last six years, which could be extended if it finds other cases of tax evasion.

Barrick Gold Corp., which owns the Lumwana copper mine in Zambia, has not received any notification from the tax authority about an audit or reassessment, according to company spokesman Andy Lloyd.

As of March 21, US$1 was equivalent to 9.72 Zambian kwacha.