Newmont Impacts Akyem Community

Gold mining remains one of the most significant economic activities for Ghana, a country once known as the Gold Coast. Not only is the mining sector the largest tax contributor of the country, it also accounts for close to 40 percent of mechanised exports, while attracting $780 million of investment as of 2011, and employing over 14, 000 people directly.

Notwithstanding the slow growth, the mining industry contributed significantly to the overall economic progress of the country in 2014. The sector contributed GHȻ1.24 billion to the national kitty through the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), representing 16.2 percent of total direct tax in 2014 relative to a share of 18.7 percent in 2013.

The fiscal proceeds mobilised by the GRA from the mining sector comprised GHȻ441.2 million, GHȻ416.5 million and GHȻ259.4 million in corporate taxes, royalties, and PAYE respectively.

According to the GFMS Gold Survey, the output of the preponderant mineral, Gold, expanded from 107.4 tonnes in 2013 to 108.2 tonnes in 2014, a marginal increase of 0.7 percent.

Despite these impressive statistics, many stakeholders in Ghana still hold unfavourable views about the gold mining sector and do not think it has a positive impact on the mining communities.

The mining communities generally tend to be in remote locations and therefore lag behind in terms of social and economic infrastructure.

The impact of the historic imbalance in developmental funding for the communities, on the one hand, and the defining roles of all relevant players and what they are expected to achieve, on the other hand, have been a peculiar bane in holistic community development in all mining areas.

The poor state of the communities continues to reflect negatively on the image of the mining industry in particular and usually fuels social tension between the residents and the mining companies.

In view of the negative opinion about the mining industry and its impact on mining communities, our Business Guide reporter joined a field trip organised by Journalists for Business Advocacy (JBA) to Newmont Ghana Akyem Mine at New Abirim in the Eastern Region to assess its operations and how it is impacting on the community.

The Akyem Mine
Newmont obtained the mining lease for its Akyem mine in 2010 and began commercial production in 2013. It ramped up production to 471,658 ounces in 2014 from 129,211 ounces in 2013.

The Akyem mine employs 766 people, of whom only 28 are foreigners. Three hundred and ninety-six of the employees reside outside the mining community while 342 live in the host community.

Social Interventions
 The company has put many social interventions in place to improve the economic lives of residents of communities in their catchment area.

The Akyem Mine’s short to medium term focus in the community has been on water expansion programmes, upgrading of educational infrastructure, sanitation and landfill site development, health infrastructure, community safety and security programmes, and additional infrastructural provisions.

Under the water expansion programmes, projects that have been done include the construction of Adausena/Hweakwae Water System at the cost of GH¢749,053.66 and New Abirem/Afosu/Mamanso Water Expansion (pump house, high level tank, redevelopment of existing wells) at the cost of GH¢1,084,973.

The rest are the construction of Old Abirem Water System (Pump House, Water, Board Office) at the cost of GH¢510,970, New Abirem Government Hospital’s water systems at GH¢86,410 and Water Supply Facility for New Abirem Afosu Senior High School at GH¢65,317.

Projects undertaken under the educational infrastructure upgrade, in collaboration with the assembly and the community, are the construction of Afosu L/A JHS, New Abirem D/A Primary School, Ntronang RC Primary School and the renovation of Adausena L/A JHS.

Newmont-funded programmes are the construction of Hweakwae L/A JHS at the cost of GH¢237,608, boys’ dormitory for Afosu Vocational School at GH¢405, 568 and Afosu Vocational School girls’ dormitory at GH¢405,568.

Under the sanitation and landfill site development, the company has provided communal waste containers, Cell 1 – Engineered Landfill Site, and administrative office.  Eight vault chambers and household latrines have also been constructed.

Under health infrastructure, the company has constructed a Maternity Ward at the cost of GH¢101,420 at Adausena and has bought a 275kva generator set for New Abirem Government Hospital at the cost of GH¢108,619.

With regard to community safety and security programmes, the Akyem Mine has built a Police Transit to Birim North District Police Command and donated a Toyota Hilux Pick-up and Tata vehicles to the Birim North District Police Command.

Additional infrastructural provisions include a bus stop for resettlement village, two smokeless stoves with working shed for oil palm processors and a NAkDeF secretariat.

Reforestation
As part of its commitment to ensuring a green operational environment in the communities it operates in, the company in partnership with the Forestry Commission (FC) is cultivating over a 60-hectare plantation made up of 30 different species of trees in Akyem.

The objective of the plantation project, according to the company, is to restore the green nature of the area as it was before their operations started.

The project is one year old and is in two phases, with the 60-hectare one being the first phase. Different kinds of species including wawa, sapele, koto, odum, mahogany and cedrella have been planted.

Workers of the Akyem Mine have been instructed not to destroy plant species that have commercial value.

However, in the event that any commercial tree is destroyed during its operations, the company replaces it by planting three times what had been destroyed. The company intends to manage the project for the next 10 years before handing it over to the FC. The second phase will begin in January.

Emmanuel Baffour Asare, an Environmental Specialist with Newmont Akyem Mine, has told journalists that it has been a long standing policy of the company not to destroy the forest reserve.

Therefore, indigenous plant species that are found to be commercial are monitored and nurtured to grow by a team of experts.

‘Every commercial tree we cut, we replace it three times unless it is not a commercial tree,’ he said.

NAkDeF
NAkDeF, set up by Newmont and the Akyem communities, has been registered as a company limited by guarantee. It is to establish and manage development projects in the mining communities.

According to Mr Felix Appoh, the Senior Manager for Sustainability and External Relations for Newmont Akyem, NAkDeF seeks to promote the type of development which responds to the people’s needs and as well represents their goals, objectives and priorities.

He said the foundation has a seven‐member Sustainable Development Committee (SDC) for each of the 10 communities and that it funds sustainable development projects, including educational scholarships to secondary, vocational and tertiary training institutions, infrastructural and social amenities, youth development and promotion of culture, business development and economic empowerment.

The foundation, which was established in 2014, has a total earning of GH¢ 12, 773,086.02, being from one dollar per an ounce of gold sold and returns on investment.

The programmes being executed under the foundation for 2015 include training of over 100 community persons with skill development and establishing a micro-credit scheme in eight of the ten mining communities.

The foundation has also, among other projects, contributed to the improvement of roads in three communities as well as the granting of educational scholarships to over 400 students, all in 2015.

Community Praise
Some of the community members who spoke to Business Guide were full of praise for Newmont Akyem Mine for the support and development brought to the community.

According to them, the community and its people have benefitted from their operations in diverse ways, stating, ‘Some of us have been relocated to new apartments. They have built schools, roads, health facilities and given scholarships to needy but brilliant kids in the community.’

Oduro-Kwarteng Marfo, the External Relations Manager, said ‘Fundamental to who we are and how we do business is our commitment to sustainable development. Innovative environmental, social investment and health/well-being programmes are in place to make a lasting and positive impact on the company’s employees and communities.’

He said Newmont Ghana shall continue to adopt and adhere to standards that drive sustainable business practices and protect both human health and the environment.

‘We shall consult stakeholders in matters that affect them and shall have in place mechanisms for resolving complaints and grievances in a timely manner,’ Mr Marfo added.

By Cephas Larbi
[email protected]


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