LISTED Perth company Westralian Sands suspended its operations at the Austinh Ilmenite sand mine in central Vietnam this week 10 years ago after ties deteriorated with local partners and a $US2.2 million fine was imposed on it by the Ha Tinh provincial government. Westralian Sands managing director Malcolm Macpherson said he had ordered expatriate staff out of Vietnam as problems with its Vietnamese partners had "destroyed commercial viability". Mr Macpherson said Westralian partners, also members of the provincial government, had reneged on agreements made after a similar dispute a year ago and production had dropped to low levels due to "interference". The dispute concerns Ha Tinh resistance to international auditors inspecting financial irregularities by Westralian. The fine imposed by the Vietnamese Government covered the value of equipment, seized from 40 containers at the beginning of the year-long dispute. The equipment was for a planned mine upgrade abandoned in the breakdown, with Westralian insisting the upgrade was written into the $18 million investment agreement signed four years prior.
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