AngloGold Ashanti (AGA) says feasibility studies into its operations at Obuasi in the Ashanti Region will be completed before the end of June, this year.
The feasibility studies are expected to, among other objectives, reduce the mining lease to the appropriate size, fully delineate the operational area of the mine—fencing and access control.
It will also reduce operational support and requirements, push a community trust fund as a vehicle for ongoing programmes as well as develop a sustainable model for its non-core functions—school, hospital, malaria programme, football club and farm.
According to the Senior Vice President of AGA Ghana, Mr Mark Morcombe, there was no definite timeline on the exact date full scale operations would start because between the feasibility studies and the start of the project, there was the need for a whole set of approvals from regulators, including the Environmental Protection Agency, and mining permit approval from the Minerals Commission.
Mr Morcombe spoke to the Daily Graphic on the fringes of a visit to the mines by the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources and the Zambian Minister of Mines, Energy and Water Development, Mr Christopher in Yaluma.
The Zambian Minister is in the country with a delegation on a two-day working visit to Ghana to familiarise itself with the activities of Ghana’s mining sector and to share ideas and experiences.
The Obuasi mine has been in business for 118 years but AngloGold merged with the Ashanti Goldfields Corporation in 2004.
After 10 years in charge of the mine, the company laid off at least 6,000 workers last year in a redeployment exercise, ostensibly to save the AGA from total collapse as factors, including falling gold prices, a bloated workforce and obsolete infrastructure, conspired to rob the company of its needed profit.
Although the mine has been closed down and mine workers who are not Obuasi indigenes have left the town, a 700-workforce remains, currently involved in care and maintenance to turn around the fortunes of the company.
Prospects of mine
In spite of its challenges, Mr Morcombe observed that the mine had still got a very good future.
“It has got a lot of possibility and we are going to need everybody to play their part.
“In my words, it is a mine that has been abused by a lot of people over a long time because it was a very rich and forgiving mine, and also because of the grade of the ore. That is not the case anymore and the capital investment it requires is significant,” he said.
He said the company was looking, at least, at a 20-year life span for the mine when full-scale mining begins.
Apart from the rehabilitation works in the mine itself, which is expected to end in 2017, the company, Mr Morcombe stated, had also invested in a pollution to water plant that ensured liquid waste generated by the company was treated before being released into the environment.
On the challenges, he said apart from the usual problems with the mine and the community respecting each other’s space, the cost and availability of power was also a problem.
“You’re hoping that there is no theft and corruption from within the mine. You’re hoping that after spending the money to rebuild the infrastructure, you can mine at a production rate and grade and have recovery,” he stated.
Addressing the media, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Nii Osah Mills, said he was impressed with the pace of work at the mines.
“Not only are you following the approved plan but you are going faster than you have suggested you could go,” he observed.
He also commended the company for the safety regulations in place to ensure that the lives of its workers were not in danger.
Nii Mills said Ghana would continue to champion sustainable mining practices to ensure that future generations did not suffer for today’s bad practices.
The Zambian Minister of Mines, Energy and Water Development, Mr Christopher Yaluma, while commending the AGA for its strict safety regulations, also said there was a lot the two countries could share to improve mining beyond their borders.