By Nana Ekua Sekyiwa Darko
Challenged by poor underground infrastructure and the falling price of Gold, AngloGold Ashanti Obuasi mine is implementing strategies to ensure not only the survival of the operation but maintain once Ghana’s leading foreign exchange earner.
The operation’s gold output was less than 300,000 ounces last year and the current goal is to around the mine to enable it produce 500,000 ounces in the next three to four years.
Mark Morcombe, Senior Vice President of Obuasi Operations said this at Obuasi Townhall Meeting for its business and its external stakeholders in the Obuasi municipality. More than 350 key stakeholders, including chiefs, government representatives, mine worker unions, suppliers and miners wives associations participated.
Outlining the strategy to uplift the 117 year old underground mine, Mark Morcombe said management is placing emphasis on new technologies, which include mechanisation of the underground infrastructure, underground development and underground mining, adding that new jumbos and scoops were being imported to fast track the operation. The company, which prides itself as the world’s number one user of the Biox technology to process gold, is also investing heavily to ensure increase gold recovery.
Obuasi is also reducing numbers given the fact it is producing less than 300,000 ounces at over $1600 per ounce, with a labour force of 8000 Ghanaians. Unlike other mining companies, with current gold price of about $1200/ounces as against $1770 a year ago, the fundamentals of the company are getting worse by the day.
On his part, Managing Director of the Obuasi mine, Kwesi Enyan, pleaded with the company’s business and social partners to continue their education of illegal miners who are still violently operating on the company’s concession to stop. “They are violently mining on the concession with impunity creating holes, using gas and petrol powered stoves and generators with total disregard for the safety of the people in the communities, AGA employees and the safety of their own”, he said.
He made it clear any individual or group or company other than AngloGold Ashanti exploring, mining or processing gold bearing ore In Obuasi is practicing illegal mining, suggesting that the Minerals Commission has not licensed any small scale miner in Obuasi, neither has the commission granted licence to people to buy gold in Obuasi.
Mr Enyan cautioned some of the chiefs and politicians involved in illegal small scale mining to stop to avoid embarrassment; and commended the government for its ‘flush out’ exercise, which has reduced the number of illegal mining operators in the Obuasi municipality by 90%.
In his earlier presentation Steve Rickman, Senior Vice President Business Effectiveness and Ghana, said AngloGold Ashanti is undergoing changes with view to increase gold production and reduce cost in order to maximise cash- flow from the company’s portfolio to meet its commitment to stakeholders and also maintain the integrity of the business.
This includes using prudent capital allocation to drive strategy, improving the quality of the portfolio, preserving strategic long term opportunities, while being decisive to ensure delivery on key objectives.
Dr Tony Obeng, Chief Executive of Ghana Chamber of Mines, who chaired the function, commended the collaboration and cooperation between the company and the host communities, adding that “we need such cooperation to ensure the growth of Obuasi and the sustainability of the interest of the company and the people”