By: Kwabena Adu Koranteng
Newmont Gold Ghana limited (Akyem mines) has announced a scholarship scheme for 400 indigenous students from the ten communities surrounding its Akyem concession in the eastern region of Ghana this year .
Students will be selected from the primary, Junior High and Secondary schools and supported with funds annually to sail through the academic ladder till they complete their first degree. Selection of students would be determined by the various educational committees in the communities supported by the Newmont Akyem Development Foundation, according to Paul Apenu, head of NAKDeF.
Mr Apenu in an interview said the figure in likely to increase by about 50%, that’s 600 next year as NAKDeF receives its share of proceeds from the gold sale. The scholarship scheme comes alongside other infrastructural projects being developed to keep the Abirem towns and communities in good shape.
The Managing Director of Obaa Hotel, located in the heart of New Abirem , in an interview with this Journalist praised the management of Newmont Ghana, Akyem Mines for initiating various infrastructural academic and developmental projects in the Abirem communities.
“ we are grateful for the various roads being constructed in our communities , the scholarship programmes for students, the clinics , the hospital wards, the water projects and the rest . Besides, you have given us jobs to do. For instance I run a hotel here and its highly patronized because the communities have been exposed to the international community due to the presence of Newmont and you always see people coming in and out. Out of this we make our ends meet. We are really happy with the presence of Newmont here and what it is doing to bring development to our doorsteps. It is my hope that they stay here for a long time and give us more . Had it not been Newmont, I wonder who would have done it for us”, he stated.
As part of its educational transformation program Newmont has also renovated the Adausena Local Authority(L/A) Junior High School in 2010, constructed the New Abirem District Assembly Primary school, Afosu L/A JHS in 2012 and the Ntronang Roman Catholic primary school was also constructed by Newmont in 2010. Besides, the miner constructed the boys dormitory f the Afosu Vocatinal School at a cost of Ghc405,568, Hweakwae LA JHS at Ghc 237,608 and the Afosu Vocational SchoolGirls Dormitory at a cost of Ghc405,568..
Newmont organized the 2012 and 2013 springboard roadshow for students , youth and the community members . it also held the 2012 inter schools Edutainment programme for students in the area.
It constructed the Adausena/Hweakwae water system at a coost of GHC749,053.66, the old Abirem Water systems at Ghc 510,970 in 2012, the Ntronang water expansion project at a cost of Ghc 258,689 and the New Abirem Government Hospital water system costing Ghc86,410, and provided water supply facilities for the New Abirem , Afosu senior High School at a cost of Ghc65,317.
As of 1st June 2015, Newmont Akyem employed 763 workers, out of which 339 representing 44% are indigenes, 399, representing 52% are locals employed from various regions within Ghana and 25 representing 4% being expatriates.
In 2015 there is an ongoing scholarship scheme where Newmont is awarding scholarship to over 400 children from primary school to the university level in communities within its concession. Plans are also underway to construct one teacher’s quarters, a health centre, and classroom blocks, undertake community road improvement in three communities, build two community libraries, and provide apprenticeship to over 100 people in the area and a micro-credit scheme in 8 communities.
The Newmont Akyem Operation, regarded as the most environmentally friendly mining operation in Africa stems from its giant experience in responsible mining and safety. The Newmont Akyem mine is the safest mine in Ghana as regards the stringent measures put in place to protect the environment, the forest reserves, inhabitants, communities and towns around its concession. It is unbelievable to realize that since the Akyem Mine started operation, it has recorded zero accidents, under the ZERO HARM, the Akyem Way plan” thus earning it the winner of the best safe mine in Ghana in 2014.
The Akyem project has become very successful as it is achieving all the set targets in gold production, revenue generation, good environmental management, solid reforestation project human rights and employment creation.
“We communicate our performance and activities in an accurate, transparent and timely manner through extensive, proactive and strategic engagement and participation process. Besides, we have built a sound working relationship with all key stakeholders on a foundation of trust and mutual respect”. Stated Kelvin Moxham, General Manager, Akyem Mine. .
As part of promoting corporate community development, Newmont Akyem established the Newmont Akyem Development Foundation (NAKDeF) on 4th June 2014 and handed over a GHC225, 000 office apartment to begin operation. The Foundation has since accumulated over GHC13 Million as of May 2015. The agreement is regarded as a catalyst for sustainable community development with a contribution of US$1 for every ounce of gold sold and 1 % of its annual profit before tax into a fund to finance the activities of the foundation.
NAKDeF has a clear community focus on human resources development, infrastructure projects, economic empowerment, local grant making, sports and youth development, cultural heritage and natural resource protection , according to Oduro Kwarteng Marfo, Head of external affairs Newmont Akyem Mines.
What has contributed to the successful operation of Newmont at Abirem in Akyem is its commitment to respect human rights of its stakeholders . the mining firm has developed policies and prcesses that help to avoid being involved with harm to human rights. It helps to provide remedy for any harm with which the company is involved.
Newmont Akyem Human rights commitment involves respecting the dignity, wellbeing and human rights of employees and the communities in which it operates as well as others affected by its operations. “ our actions and and philsphies with regard to human rights are guided by the organization for economic cooperation and development(OECD)guidelines and reflects the United Nations Guiding principles on Business and Human rights due diligence process. We are committed to implementing the voluntary principles on security and human rights and to understand and respect the cultural heritage, rights and norms of the local communities through proactive engagement and training of personnel. We operate to mitigate impacts on community livelihoods and environment”. Newmont is committed to promoting health , safety and community development to improve the quality of lives of employees and local community members .
“ Newmont has also established a robust and accessible complaints and grievances mechanism at all sites as a non judicial means for addressing real and perceived harm to stakeholders including local communities and employees” Paul Apenu, head of NAKDeF indicated.
Some of the special project being undertaking by Newmont Akyem include Air Quality management where all roads and other auxiliary roads are watered regularly to minimize airborne dust . vehicular speed are also applied to minimize airborne dust and promote road safety. It also implements equipment maintenance plan to control the release of noxious fumes int the environment.
As part of the environmental monitoring programmes Newmont Akyem undertakes wildlife, Aquatic, water quality , air quality, blast and noise and meteological monitoring. It is also undertaking a concurrent mining and land reclamation programe .
Throughout the life of the operation, Newmont’s reclamation efforts are designed to accommodate sustainable, post-mining land uses. Our efforts include maintaining biodiversity and providing post closure multiple beneficial land uses.as regards the reforestation project, Newmont has commenced a 60 hector tree plantation programe within the mine area. Phase two of the project involves the redevelopment of the 257 hector kwekaru forest reserve from 2016.
On the health improvement access programme Newmont Akyem has constructed the Adausena Maternity Ward at a cost of GHC101,420, the construction of the male ward cost the miner GHC219,834, female ward,GHC221,918, doctors Bungalow,GHC114,772, Nurses quarters 112,111, 8 unit I bedroom nurses quarters at a cost of Ghc,232,418,47. The miner donated a 275 Kva generatr sets for the new Abirem Government hospital at a cost of Ghc108,619.
The Newmont Akyem Development programme has generated about US$13.2 million and the entire amount is been spent between 2013 and 2014. And more that 10 million dollars are expected to be generated by the end of 2015.
The Akyem Community Relations Unit serves as the liaison between Newmont and local communities near the mine. We regularly engage with youth associations, women’s groups, Queen Mothers, assemblymen and women, Unit Committee members, the traditional leaders from the Paramountcy, Stool land owners and the sub-chiefs in the project-affected communities.
The Newmont Akyem Development Foundation funds sustainable social investments near the mine. The established community information centers provide the local community with information on business and job opportunities, updates on project news and serve as a place for ongoing dialogue.
As part of efforts to develop Akyem, Newmont identified a number of households and individuals within some communities lost both residential and cropped land in the Mine Area.
In order to mitigate these effects Newmont constructed the Akyem resettlement community. Approximately 240 residential structures for more than 150 households. Other new structures for the resettlement community include a model school from primary to junior high school, community centre, Football Park, and three churches.
The resettlement community was developed to include modern infrastructure systems such as water distribution, electricity and commerce and transportation.Newmont has also signed an agreement with its host communities and the Birim North District Assembly on employment issues. The establishment of the Akyem Development Foundation is also on course to finance community development activities and educational scholarships, well into the future.The Akyem Influx Programme seeks to mitigate the potentially negative effects of an increased population in the communities near the proposed mine.
SanitationA 10-seater Vault Chamber toilet has been constructed for each of the project affected communities. Newmont also has invested more than 1.3 million Ghana Cedis in the provision of waste disposal facilities and the construction of a modern sanitary landfill site for local communities.
More than 1,000 community food vendors and drinking spot operators were trained in hygiene practices, to ensure safe services to their patrons. Additionally, Newmont has helped to provide training in environmental hygiene, with an emphasis on malaria and cholera prevention, to more than 2,000 community members. Prevention training included proper hand-washing aimed at reducing illnesses in the project communities. To assist community members to combat malaria, 2,500 treated mosquito bed nets were distributed in the area.
Livelihood EnhancementIn 2012, 276 project beneficiaries were trained in various alternative livelihood program (ALP) ventures including:
Cocoa hi-tech techniques; Bee keeping and honey production; Rural and commercial poultry production and management;Animal health and diseases management; Occupational health and safety; Post-harvest technology; Maize production; and Vegetable production.Also in 2012 a working shed with smokeless stoves was constructed for palm oil processing at Hweakwae. Newmont established 11 agricultural demonstration farms/ sites to aid the teaching and learning activities of agricultural technologies. The demonstration sites included cocoa hi-tech, maize, maize narrow crib and vegetables. We worked with more than 300 farmers on agricultural extension education, advisory and counseling services through on-farm demonstrations, house-to-house and farmer field day activities.
Additional youth and community training provided by Newmont in areas near the Akyem mine include:Group dynamics and leadership skill building;Heavy duty equipment operation;Bread baking and pastries production; andBusiness management skills
Akyem undertakes a number of initiatives aimed at minimizing our environmental footprint.
Community Tree planting and Medicinal Plant Farm
About 1,600 ornamental plants were planted at the Yayaaso resettlement village. Once grown, the trees will provide shade and serve as wind brakes.Currently, community members travel long distances into the forest to acquire medicinal plants. Newmont is establishing a one-half hectare medicinal plant farm to provide nearby communities easier, safer and faster access to these medicinal plants.
Newmont has trained 119 commercial drivers operating within the Akyem mine on road safety and defensive driving techniques aimed at reducing accidents on local roads. We also have trained more than 6,000 school students in local communities on road usage and safety issues.
Members of nine community watchdog committees operating in the Akyem communities participated in refresher training in community patrolling and security related issues. Members of the nine committees, consisting of nearly 80 community members were provided operational logistics support, safety helmets, wellington boots, raincoats and security flashlights, incentive support and phone credits for communication with the public security agencies.
Newmont’s Akyem operation is located in Ghana in the Birim North District of the Eastern Region, approximately 111 miles northwest of the capital city of Accra.Newmont obtained the mining lease for Akyem in 2010 and began commercial production in 2013.