Newmont Ghana supports communities in its catchment areas in various development schemes

Newmont Ghana supports communities in its catchment areas in various development schemesMining companies in Ghana continue to have their reputation tainted as a perception persists that their contribution to sustainable development is not commensurate with the profits they make from extracting the country's mineral resources.

The need to change this perception and educate the general public about the difference between responsible and irresponsible mining is not lost on Newmont Ghana. According to Newmont's senior director for corporate and external affairs, Chris Anderson, the immediate concern is to work in a way that brings direct economic, social and environmental benefits to the host communities.

"We are aware that over one century of gold mining has left some host communities feeling marginalised, and this has led to a negative perception about the role of mining in the country. We set out to change that script," says Agbeko Kwame Azumah, Newmont's Ahafo communication manager.

"Indeed, before actual exploitation in Ghana commenced in 2006, we rolled out various interventions by which we could get the locals skilled enough to participate in construction activities, as well as others employed in mainstream mining activities later on," he added.

Since 2004, Newmont has rolled out two human resource development programmes - the Unskilled Construction Labour Pool and Semi-Skilled Metals Construction Labour Pool. These programmes were aimed at getting locals equipped as job-hands during the construction of the mining plant and, thereafter, during the operation of the mine.

The company then followed up in 2005 with its Fixed Plant Electrical Apprenticeship Programme. Under this programme, 20 locals were trained as fixed plant mechanics. These individuals were put under contract to go through a three-year apprenticeship programme and upon successful completion, awarded a City and Guilds of London certificate, issued in collaboration with Newmont. The apprenticeship programme serves as a technical pipeline to ensure access to skilled and trained mechanical and electrical specialists to support the company's operational requirements.

The first set of apprentices graduated in 2008 and all of them were hired in the Process Maintenance department. In 2008, 28 apprentices began their four-year programme which is scheduled to be completed in 2012. Enrolment for 2009 and 2010 were 15 apprentices each.

Newmont Ghana estimates the cost of training for each set of apprentices at US$225,000, with an average of US$17,000 spent on each person during the four-year training period. Graduates not absorbed by Newmont still have the opportunity to obtain high paying jobs with other companies by virtue of their newly acquired certification.

It may still be the early days, but Newmont's approach seems to be yielding good dividends. Illegal mining (popularly called galamsey) is not yet obtrusive in the company's Ahafo concessions even though there are all the makings of galamsey in the area.

Skills training and development is central to Newmont's corporate social responsibility initiatives


"We are aware that over one century of gold mining has left some host communities feeling marginalised, and this has led to a negative perception about the role of mining in the country. We set out to change that script," says Agbeko Kwame Azumah, Newmont's Ahafo communication manager.

It seems another intervention, the Ahafo Linkages Programme, a partnership between Newmont Ghana and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), based in Washington DC, is also recording positive gains. The programme is supporting the development of local small and medium scale enterprises in the Ahafo area.

Newmont Ghana and the IFC signed the agreement for the programme in February 2007 to show commitment to the miner by ensuring that local communities benefit from the Ahafo project. With the programme, Newmont expects to create opportunities for local enterprises in order to increase incomes in the communities surrounding the Ahafo mine.

Currently, more than 91 local small and medium scale enterprises are participating in the programme. Total contracts awarded to these enterprises increased from US$1.72 million in 2006 to US$5.72 million as of the end of 2009.

And the company has started earning recognition for its contribution to the country's socio-economic development. In June 2010, Newmont Ghana was awarded "Best Procurement Community Award" and "Best Supplier Diversity Project Award" in Africa by the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply while the programme coordinator was adjudged "Best Procurement Male Professional".

Newmont's capacity building programme is now viewed externally as an industry leading practice for maximising local content in the extractive industry in Ghana.

Another intervention that could set the company apart from other mining firms is the Newmont Ahafo Development Foundation, established in June 2008. This foundation was set up following years of engagement with the Ahafo Social Responsibility Forum. The foundation was designed as a community-driven initiative to manage Newmont's sustainable development commitment to its host communities.

"Since production began in 2006, we have committed to setting aside one percent of net profit and one dollar per ounce of gold produced from the Ahafo mine to support the host communities," Azumah said. "Through this foundation, Newmont hopes to leave a lasting legacy for its host communities," he added.

Undoubtedly, that translates into a tidy sum that could make a real impact on the economic and social development of the communities. Currently there are 10 communities drawn from the Ahafo North and South project areas of Newmont Ghana benefiting from the fund.

A nine member board of trustees for the foundation was appointed in 2008, comprising four community representatives and four Newmont representatives and a chairman appointed by Newmont and approved by the Ahafo Social Responsibility Forum. In 2009, a secretariat was set up for the foundation with staff to oversee the day-to-day administration. At the community level, there are sustainable development committees whose mandate is to identify projects that should be supported by the foundation.

Sustainable development focus areas, as determined by the local stakeholders and supported by the foundation, include human resource development (24%), infrastructure development (23%) and social amenities (18%). Other areas are economic empowerment (17%) natural resource protection (12%), and cultural heritage and sports (6%).

To date, the foundation has accrued approximately US$5 million of which US$1.2 million has been committed to projects including 965 scholarships, community libraries, teachers' quarters, classroom blocks, community water and sanitation facilities, and community layout and recreational activities.

Little wonder then, that Newmont Ghana and the foundation are gaining international recognition for industry leading performance in social responsibility and sustainable development. On the Ghanaian gold mining scene, Newmont seems to be doing a lot of things right. But it remains to be seen whether the mining company will succeed in significantly changing the negative perceptions about the big mining companies in Ghana.

Newmont Ahafo Development Foundation has a programme to protect natural resources

Newmont sets aside one percent of net profit and US$1 per ounce of gold mined to support host communities