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09.09.2005 Regional News

Newmont lifts up community's lives


Kenyase (B/A) Sept. 9 GNA - Although it expects to pour its first gold in July next year, the preparatory operations of Newmont Gold Ghana Limited at its Ahafo project area in Brong Ahafo region has already witnessed an appreciable improvement in the lifestyles of the people.

Two principal communities, Kenyase, where the company has its current offices and Ntotroso, the plant site, are bathing in economic activity with local entrepreneurs engaged in all sorts of economic ventures, including the sale of vehicles, with compensation monies paid to them by Newmont.

The dull and unexciting situation in the area in the past has literally vanished with the advent of Newmont, one of the world's leading gold mining companies.

Newmont Ghana Gold, in its determination to attain its vision of "creating value in communities" in which it operates, has as its objective to help the people to lift up their living standards as a social responsibility.

The various programmes introduced by the mining company depict its focus of "teaching the people how to fish" on a sustainable basis, as it is just not possible for it cater for the people perpetually. "Newmont Ghana Gold is ensuring that it develops its mining activities in Ghana in line with its social responsibility policy and is committed to sustainable development, protection of human life, health, the environment and to value addition to the communities in which it operates", a company brochure states.

The company brochure stated that from the beginning of its activities in Ghana, the company had sought to understand the way of life of communities that would be impacted by its operations. An extensive Livelihood Survey, independently undertaken by the Opportunities Industrialization Centres International (OICI) in September 2003, examined, among other things, the existing socio- economic levels, including literacy and gender statistics and characteristics of communities in the Ahafo Concession area. Based on the data from the Survey and intensive consultation and engagement with local stakeholders, a comprehensive and sustainable community development programme, the Livelihood Enhancement and Community Empowerment Programme (LEEP) was developed by OICI on behalf of Newmont Ghana Gold.

"The programme is intended to enhance the livelihood of people in the concession area and has been finalized by a community advisory committee, consisting of representatives of the communities, government agencies and NGOs, as well as OICI and Newmont Ghana". The objectives of the programme are to enhance the livelihood of an estimated 2000 households in income generating activities, alternative livelihood and improved farm techniques, aimed at increasing economic opportunities for target groups through improved agricultural methods and non-farm income-generating activities vital to ensure food security, especially of the vulnerable, relocated or resettled communities.

The company says more intensive farming and improved husbandry, promoting livestock/crop integration, increasing crop diversification and facilitating access to technical expertise, inputs and agricultural technology and credit would feature in the means of attaining this objective.

Activities in the concession area indicates that Newmont Ghana Limited, as a responsible and sensitive global company, is on track towards the attainment of these goals.

Newmont has not lost sight of seeking the convenience and comfort of people displaced by its operations in the Ahafo concession area and has continually sought advice and engaged in negotiations with chiefs, representatives of the local people, government agencies and other stakeholders in taking decisions on issues concerning its operations.

The company has so far paid approximately 13 million US dollars crop compensation to 3000 displaced people in the Ahafo concession, the rate of payment agreed on by a Resettlement Negotiation Committee that included elected representatives of the people and the rates are subject to a yearly review.

A total of 170 houses have been completed by the company and ready for occupation by the displaced people, 136 of them having been taken over already by some households.

Mr. Dave Ingle, General Manager, explained in an interview with newsmen that the houses were put up in accordance with the country's building code.

He said each household was also paid 500,000 cedis as mobilization allowance for incidental expenses in the people's movement to their new homes, whilst the company provided transportation of their belongings.

Mr. Randy Barnes, External Affairs Manager of the company said "the company respects and values the cultural and religious beliefs of the people and is determined to sustain cordial and sustained relations with the communities for our mutual benefit". The advent of Newmont has no doubt opened the floodgates for Both skilled and unskilled employment for the youth, most of them engaged by private contractors working on the construction phase of the project.

Statistics made available to newsmen showed that the total local labour employed on the project as at the end of June this year was 1,554.

It showed that local labour represented more than 42 per cent of the people currently employed on the project and the total local unskilled labour of 597 was 92 per cent of the quota of 650. Mr. Ingle gave the assurance that the number of unskilled non-local people engaged was being investigated with the objective of minimizing this number to meet the quota targets for the locals wherever possible.

He explained that following discussions with the impacted communities on the mining lease, Newmont in early 2004 agreed to a quota of unskilled labour to be provided for the construction phase of the project.

"Initial estimates of this sector of the workforce were 400 jobs but in April 2004, this quota was increased to 650 as construction activities commenced.

"This quota was for the 14 villages directly impacted by the project, plus an allowance for a number of resettlement personnel and protocol jobs. No commitment was made for skilled employment during the construction phase", Mr. Ingle added. The general manager said the company was pleased that significantly more local people were employed on the project than originally anticipated, adding recruitment for operations personnel was underway and some 200 people would be recruited for these positions by the end of the year.

Aside of this direct employment, the company, under the LEEP programme is assisting interested people to train in other vocations including animal rearing and vegetable and fruit cultivation.

Mr. Barnes and Ms Mawuena Dumor, Communications Manager, took newsmen to a co-operative farm near Ntotroso where Lycopodium company has put four out of 10 acres of land it has acquired under fruit and vegetable cultivation. The bulk of the produce is purchased directly by ATS company, which provides catering services for Newmont. Mr. Samuel Owusu Oware, Community Relations Officer of Lycopodium said the company would also engage in piggery, poultry, sheep and goat rearing.

A female beneficiary of the crop compensation scheme has constructed a cozy Francisca guest house at Kenyase, giving credence to Newmont's objective of creating opportunities for wealth creation in its operational communities. Newmont is also providing a number of facilities in the Ahafo Project area to help raise the quality of life of the people. These include a mechanized water system in addition to a 90 cubic metre water storage tank at Kenyase to augment the existing 180 cubic metre water storage tank provided by the government under the small town water project.

Other projects are the construction of public places of convenience at Ntotroso and Kenyase Numbers One and Two, the rehabilitation of existing water systems at Ntotroso, Gyedu and Wamahinso, as well as the installation of a tower at Ntotroso to facilitate mobile communication in Asutifi District. Newmont recently presented eight computers and accessories worth 100 million cedis to OLA Girls Senior Secondary School at Kenyase at which Mr. Barnes said it was one of many investments the company had made in the education of children in the community.

"Newmont Ghana is looking forward to having a very successful partnership with all organizations within the local communities to continuously achieve positive development and investment in the community", he added.