Newmont Mining Africa: Creating a golden future in Ghana

The past couple of years have been a turbulent time for Africa’s gold miners and geographical diversity has certainly played its part in helping to overcome the challenges that have manifested.

One company that has ridden out the storm has been US-based Newmont Mining Corporation, one of the world’s largest producers of gold.

The Colorado-headquartered company has active mining operations in Nevada, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Ghana and Peru. Holdings include Santa Fe Gold, Battle Mountain Gold, Normandy Mining, Franco-Nevada Corp and Fronteer Gold. Newmont also has many joint venture relationships.

Next year sees the centenary of a company founded in 1916 in New York by Colonel William Boyce Thompson as a holding company to invest in worldwide mineral, oil, and related companies. According to company lore, the name “Newmont” is a portmanteau “New York” and “Montana”, reflecting where Thompson made his fortune and where he grew up.

In 1929, Newmont became a mining company with its first gold product in by acquiring California’s Empire Star Mine. By 1939, Newmont was operating 12 gold mines in North America.

The company’s first involvement in Africa came when it acquired interests overseas around the middle of the 20th century, by which time Newmont had a controlling interest in the Tsumeb mine in Namibia and in the O’Okiep Copper Company in Namaqualand, South Africa.

By 1987 Newmont’s growth became fast-tracked and a series of acquisitions over the next two decades reinforced the company’s strength.

newmontWithin Africa, the company runs the Ahafo operation, (which it owns 100 per cent) and which is located in the Brong Ahafo Region of Ghana, approximately 180 miles northwest of Accra.

Commenting on its operations, the company website explains its history in Ghana:

“Newmont’s presence in Ghana includes the Ahafo mine in the Brong-Ahafo region and the Akyem operation in the Eastern region near New Abirem. Newmont began working in Ghana with the acquisition of Normandy Mining in 2002.

“Production commenced in 2006 at our Ahafo mine and at our Akyem mine in 2013. We are also pursuing profitable expansion projects of our mines and mill in Ahafo.”

Ahafo is located along the Sefwi Volcanic Belt, a northeast-southwest trending volcanic belt in western Ghana and is an open mine, with one underground portal.

According to the company website, Ahafo has 2 primary ore zones: Ahafo South and Ahafo North. Mining is currently underway at Ahafo South and as of December 2013, the operation was producing 570,000 ounces per year.

Newmont’s Akyem operation is located in the Birim North District of the Eastern Region, approximately 111 miles northwest of the capital city of Accra. Newmont obtained the mining lease for Akyem in 2010 and began commercial production in 2013.

The company believes that investing in its people will create a lasting legacy. To that end, Newmont released a study in October 2014, called its ‘Shared Value Initiative’, as the corporate website describes:

“Done right, mining and natural resource development can be catalysts for economic and social progress in developing countries, as well as poor and subsistence communities. In a study released in October, the Shared Value Initiative identifies pathways for the oil, gas and mining industries to deliver positive social outcomes by tying business success to the prosperity of host communities and countries.

“Ahafo 2014 apprenticeship program benefits graduates and continuing students. While the downstream products and services of these industries create tremendous benefits for society in the form of energy and minerals, the report focuses on the communities where the minerals come from and establishes a framework for identifying ways to address societal issues and deliver real business value.

“The report highlights a number of best practices from across these industries, including Newmont’s worker apprenticeship programs in Ghana. These programs at our Ahafo and Akyem mines deliver business value by creating a local workforce that can fill jobs that require high technical skills, such as electricians, mechanics, mine maintenance and operations technicians, and welders.

“All graduates of the program are offered employment in a variety of roles including control room operators, process operators, tradesmen, welding and maintenance. Since the program began in 2005, virtually all of the graduates have been employed by the company.”

Newmont is acutely aware of the need to forge long-lasting ties with the local population and in October 2014, in the wake of the terrible outbreak of Ebola disease afflicting West Africa, Newmont Ghana provided a medical support package valued at GH¢220,000.00 to assist with the country’s preparations for any potential outbreak of the disease in Ghana. 

The medical support package includes 2 isolation facilities for the Brong Ahafo and Eastern regions, provision of personal protective equipment, thermal scanners, educational awareness materials and training of hospital staff. The package was allocated to support the Ghana Health Service at the district and regional levels and the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital.

Speaking at a short ceremony in Accra, the Regional Senior Vice President of the company, Johan Ferreira, said as a responsible corporate citizen, Newmont Ghana stepped forward to contribute to the country’s Ebola preparedness plan.

“Newmont is taking the Ebola outbreak in West Africa very seriously and has embarked on a sustained community awareness campaign in our mining areas,” said Mr. Ferreira. “We have been working with the Ghana Health Service at the National, Regional and District levels to coordinate our activities and identify how we can provide support. In addition, our Ebola Management Team has visited and audited the readiness of the hospitals in the communities where we operate to determine what further assistance is required.”

The company also has designed and tested a phased response and contingency plan that details the steps to be taken to manage a potential outbreak of the disease near its operations. This includes setting up screening facilities at its mine sites and acquiring personal protective equipment and other medical equipment and supplies. 

“The health and safety of our employees, contractors and communities remains our foremost priority. As part of our efforts to support the country’s preparedness efforts, we have embarked on a sustained education campaign to create awareness around Ebola prevention among our employees, business partners and surrounding communities,” added Mr. Ferreira.