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Vietnam blocks exports by foreign gold miner over huge back taxes
By Thanh Nien News -
 Bong Mieu gold mill in the central province of Quang Nam. Photo credit: VnExpress
Two major foreign-invested gold mining companies in the central province of Quang Nam will not be allowed to resume exports until they pay VND387 billion (US$16.93 million) in back taxes, a government spokesman confirmed at a press conference on Friday.
Nguyen Van Nen was responding to a question about the central bank's recent proposal to let Bong Mieu and Phuoc Son export 375 kilograms of gold so they could have money to pay taxes.
Producing a total of 6.9 tons of gold since 2005, the Vietnam operations of Canadian miner Besra have faced a number of shutdowns since April last year, when Quang Nam's authorities started imposing punitive measures to force them to pay the tax dues.
But local media reported that even after the companies have their bank accounts frozen and value-added tax refunds withheld, the companies did not pay the taxes. They also owed local businesses a total of VND30 billion ($1.31 million).
Quang Nam Province said it has attempted to confiscate their assets but the assets have already been used as security for loans. 
A representative with Besra was quoted as saying on news website VnExpress that it does not have any gold in stock at the moment to pay the province. It wants to secure an export license before resuming its production, the representative said.
Besra is negotiating with a local bank to sell its shares in Phuoc Son, local media reported.
Phuoc Son was licensed with an initial investment of $73.4 million, and Bong Mieu $40 million. Their combined reserves were estimated at 20 tons.