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Australian firm wins $109m compensation against Tanzania
The East Africa | 18th July 2023
By Bob Karashani
The International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes has ordered Tanzania to pay more than $109 million to a group of companies fronted by Australian miner Indiana Resources Ltd in compensation for the controversial 2018 expropriation of a nickel mine project in Tanzania.
An ICSID ad hoc tribunal on July 14 ruled that the Tanzania government had breached the UK-Tanzania Bilateral Investment Treaty when it seized the Ntaka Hill Project held by UK-registered Ntaka Nickel Holdings and Nachingwea UK along with Nachingwea Nickel, a Tanzania-registered firm.
Indiana Resources, as a 62.4 percent majority shareholder of the three companies’ combined holdings, was responsible under their joint venture agreements to handle the arbitration proceedings which have dragged on at the ICSID since 2019.
The total award amount of $109.5 million includes interest already accrued to the claimants plus $3.859 million in legal costs to the claimants and the ICSID’s own costs.
Under ICSID rules, Tanzania has 120 days to file an application for annulment of the order. However, efforts to get immediate comment from Tanzania government officials after the award order was made public through an Indiana Resources statement on Tuesday did not bear fruit.
Indiana Resources company shares meanwhile went up by a reported 143.9 percent, their highest level since March 2021, on the Australia stock exchange (ASX) in a few hours following the announcement.
According to the company’s executive chairman Bronwyn Barnes, the award amount reflected the "substantial investment that has been lost by shareholders through Tanzania’s unlawful expropriation of the Ntaka Hill project.”
“We now move to the enforcement phase. The ICSID Convention has been ratified by 158 member states of the World Bank - including Tanzania." Mr Barnes added. "This means that any award issued by an ICSID tribunal is enforceable in any one of those 158 member states as if it were a judgment of one of their own courts."
"We have consistently said that we would look to enforce an award against Tanzania, and that work will commence now."
There are already growing concerns in Tanzania that this enforcement may including moving to seize aircraft operated by national carrier Air Tanzania, a ploy that has been tried before by other winners of international arbitration proceedings against Tanzania and which Indiana Resources has previously threatened to pursue.
The claimants sought arbitration at the Washington DC-based ICSID after the Tanzania government, during the tenure of former president John Magufuli, cancelled their mining retention license and took over ownership of the Ntaka Hill project in January 2018.
According to Indiana Resources, the ICSID tribunal had "unanimously" found that the expropriation was "unlawful." The license revocation was carried out under new mining laws adopted by the Magufuli administration in 2017 with the stated intention of safeguarding Tanzania’s sovereign control over its mineral resources.