The future of embattled gold mining group Petropavlovsk was once again thrown in to doubt on Monday when auditor PwC firmly rejected the chance to work with the company following a major boardroom coup this summer.
At the end of July, PwC refused to audit the company pending a general meeting intended to provide clarity on board positions.
Now, the company has confirmed its decision to cut ties with Petropavlovsk, citing the "recent significant changes in the composition of the Board of Directors, namely the removal of the majority of both independent and executive directors."
PwC voiced its concerns over the "governance environment and the lack of clarity as to the future direction of the Petropavlovsk group."
This follows a decision by fellow accountant Deloitte to stop doing Petropavlovsk's accounts, a move that has left the company without an auditor.
This may in turn delay the release of the firm's financial results, the mining group warned last month.
A high-profile shareholder skirmish has led to concerns at PwC over transparency at Petropavlovsk, in particular the "consequent lack of clarity as to the identity of those charged with governance".
It comes as gold prices smash new records, driven by investor fear about coronavirus. On Monday, gold hit $1,944.68, its highest price ever.
But since early July, shareholder infighting at Petropavlovsk has marred gains made from soaring gold prices.
Shares in Petropavlovsk plunged after the company became embroiled in a bitter boardroom row in late June, losing many of the board members who had presided over the company's rapid growth.
This led to asset manager Prosperity - which owns about 20pc of the business - accusing fellow shareholders UGC and Everest Alliance of conspiring to secretly vote the old guard off the board and take over the gold miner.
The company's largest investor UGC has a 23pc stake in Petropavlovsk, while Everest owns about 7.5pc. Both deny the allegation.
At a general meeting earlier this month called at the request of shareholders, Prosperity and the FTSE 250 mining group's old guard were defeated on several key issues.
Prosperity had argued that the ousted directors should be reappointed to the board, but all were overwhelmingly voted off.
But the outcome of the general meeting was not enough to convince PwC to audit the mining company. On Monday, the firm wrote a letter to Petropavlovsk, informing it that "it does not intend to accept its proposed appointment."
For years, Petropavlovsk was buffeted by shareholder unrest and multiple changes of ownership, but more recently looked to have turned a corner.
The company, which mines gold in the far east of Russia, finished 2019 as one of the best performing stocks in London.
"The Board has today commenced work on identifying a new auditor and a tender process is underway. A further announcement will be made in due course," Petropavlovsk said in a statement on Monday.