26.09.2005 Business & Finance

Newmont's Ghana Gold Mine Construction On Schedule

26.09.2005 LISTEN

Kenyasi (B/A), Sept. 27, GNA - Construction of Newmont's 500,000 ounces/yr Ahafo open pit goldmine is on schedule to pour its first gold by mid-2006 as planned, a tour of the project site has revealed. Newmont Ghana Gold Ltd. is a subsidiary of U.S. based Newmont Mining Corp. (NEM).

External Affairs Manager Randy Barnes told reporters at the mining site that so far the company spent 250 million dollars on the project, which is complete by about 65 percent.

"We hope to commission the plant in the second quarter of 2006 and pour out the first gold in July 2006," Mr Barnes said. Newmont has planned to invest 450 million dollars in the mine, which has a lifespan of 20 years and includes a carbon in leach/pulp gold processing plant.

The Ghana News Agency correspondent and others saw the ore crusher and carbon-in-leach plant under construction. Some heavy-duty machinery, tanks and pipelines were already in place. Earlier this month about 300 houses were finished to re-house the residents of two villages and a number of hamlets, which are being resettled out of the mining area.

The company has also paid crop compensations totalling 13 million dollars to some 3,000 farmers displaced by the project, said Mr Barnes. Besides resettlement and compensations, the company is developing vocational and industrial training for eligible unskilled residents of the local communities.

A training facility has been developed at Yamfo together with an existing NVTI training centre located there, in order to make them "marketable" and "income-earners," according to management and some of the trainees who spoke with reporters.

The trainees are being drawn from an unskilled labour pool developed by the company based on a quota system with the highest number coming from Yamfo and Kenyasi No.2.

The industrial training will be on the job as well as classroom type training in electrical, pipefitting and mechanical works. The main objective is to improve the skill base in the local area so that more people there can have employment opportunities.

"The idea is to teach them how to fish" on a sustainable basis, as it is just not possible for the company to cater for the people perpetually, says Mr Barnes.

The company says all its activities have consistently been in conformity with the culture and traditional practices of the people. For instance, management had to fulfil a traditional ritual as "a sacrifice to the gods of the River" prior to the erection of its water pumps to temporarily suck water from the area's natural source. "It is part of our determination to sustain cordial relations with the communities for our mutual benefit," said Mr Barnes.

However, it's not been all smooth sailing for the company as it still grapples with a prolonged dispute with ex-workers of Normandy, a previous owner of the concession, over their demands for severance package.

The ex-workers recently blocked the company buses from conveying workers from one of the communities.

The group who blocked the road was among workers hired by Normandy, which undertook the exploratory phase of the Ahafo project. The dissatisfied workers, numbering about 120, completed their work with Normandy prior to Newmont taking over the concession. Newmont management said the action of the dissatisfied workers could be frustrating sometimes but it never affected its mutual relationship with the people. "We're hoping to put all this behind us sooner than later," said Akwasi Gyima-Bota, manager in charge of strategic community development.

He held that management was taking consolation from the much stronger cooperation between the company and the larger community.