Business News of Saturday, 31 December 2016
“Ten years ago, Newmont Ahafo Mine made a significant transition from a greenfield exploration project to pour our first gold. To think that one out of 10 of the world exploration projects develops into a mine, 10 years of mine’s existence and producing five million ounces of gold in the process is such a significant milestone that cannot be overlooked.”
This is how the General Manager of the Newmont Ghana Ahafo Mine, Mr Joep Coenen, summed up the achievements of the company when it marked its 10th anniversary at Kenyasi No. 1 on Thursday, November 24, 2016.
It was, therefore, a moment of joy when staff members and management of the company, as well as the chiefs and people of the 10 host communities of the company gathered to celebrate this milestone in a grand style.
The Ahafo Mine became part of the Newmont portfolio following the acquisition of another mining company, Normandy, in 2002.
In 2003, a Newmont geologist, Ms Cindy Williams, was asked to come to Ghana to evaluate the Ahafo property with the intention of selling it.
However, within six months, she was able to convince authorities of the company to rethink their decision to sell the mine.
That advice enabled the company to embark on an aggressive drilling programme that moved the initial ore reserves from 3.3 million ounces of gold to 17 million ounces by 2006 when the company poured its first gold.
“We have ridden on the vision, instinct, innovation, can-do-spirit and hard work of the past and present employees to lay the foundation of a mine that is creating tremendous value and improving the lives of many,” Mr Coenen said in his address during the celebration.
Even though the relationship between any mining company and its host communities cannot be perfect, the establishment of the Newmont Ahafo Development Foundation (NADeF) has come to relieve and solve some of the pressing developmental challenges facing the host communities.
NADeF is the outcome of the relationship, employment and the foundation agreements signed between the company and its 10 host communities. The communities are Kenyasi No. 1, Kenyasi No. 2, Ntotroso, Gyedu and Wamahinso in the Asutifi North District, as well as Yamfo, Susuanso, Afrisipakrom, Terchire and Adrobaa in the Tano North District.
The agreements were signed in 2008, following two years of engagement with the Ahafo Social Responsibility Forum (ASRF), a key stakeholder of the Newmont Ahafo Mine.
NADeF is funded by the Newmont Ghana Gold Limited (Ahafo Mines) based on contributions of one dollar of every ounce of gold sold and one per cent of annual pre-tax profit of the mine.
As of March this year, the total contribution of the company into the fund amounted to GH¢50.5 million.
Out of this, GH¢31.8 million has been spent on various projects across the 10 host communities, including more than 80 infrastructural and social amenities, micro-credit loans to 1,287 businessmen and women and scholarships to 6,973 senior high school and tertiary students, as well as apprentices.
Currently, the NADeF Endowment Fund, which will be used after the end of the lifespan of the Ahafo Mine, stands at GH¢25.09 million.
After operating surface mining for the past 10 years in the Ahafo area, Newmont Ghana is ready to go further to do underground mining.
“The Subika Underground project marks a significant chapter in our growth story as we seek to develop our first underground mine in Ghana,” acting General Manager of the Newmont Ghana Ahafo Mines, Mr Joshua Mortoti, said in his remarks at a public hearing organised by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to seek views from the people about the new project.
As a requirement of the EPA Act, Act 490 (1994) and LI 1652 (1999), the EPA must hold a public forum before a final permit is issued to mining companies to enable them to operate such mining ventures.
The Board of Directors of Newmont will consider approval for funds for further development of the project after the EPA has issued a permit to pave the way for the beginning of the construction of the project in 2017.
Commercial production from the Subika Underground project is estimated to begin by the third quarter of 2018 if everything goes on well.
When the project comes on stream, it is estimated to produce about four million ounces of gold, extend the Ahafo Mine’s lifespan to 2033 and increase NADeF by $17 million to $25 million and provide about 600 permanent job opportunities at its peak, in addition to increasing the amount of royalties to the government.
At the public hearing organised by the EPA, it was obvious that the people were in support of the project but were anxious about the employment opportunities and how the company intends to mitigate impacts on their water sources in future.
Both chiefs and individuals who had the opportunity to contribute to the discussions did not mince words about the need for the company to provide employment opportunities for the youth in the host communities of the company.
They were assured by consultants of the projects and officials of the EPA that proper assessment had been done, while adequate measures had been taken to cater for any potential impacts that might occur as a result of the project.