Canadian gold explorer Asante Gold has offered Ghanaian communities employment opportunities and the restoration of agricultural land in exchange for their support of its Keyhole gold project’s drilling programme, aimed at identifying a high-grade underground mineable gold deposit. The first drilling results are expected in March.
Asante CEO and president Douglas MacQuarrie explains that gold mineralisation in Ghana is localised on vast deep-seated structures, with the Keyhole asset centred at the intersection of three major structures – one of which is of a continental scale that stretches from Peru to the Horn of Africa. About 150-million ounces of gold resources are located in Ghana along these three structures and he notes that local alluvial miners’ working intensely in the Keyhole area for the past 30 years is a good indication of its value.
Following the results of a series of ground geophysical induced polarisation (IP) surveys, Asante started a 1 200 m diamond drilling programme in the area in February. The company’s initial target is to test an old gold showing, only a few metres off the main road, which reportedly had high grades over significant mining widths in a quartz reef system in the 1930s and has never been drilled. Six other initial targets have been selected and, based on their results, additional targets will be selected. A much expanded geophysical programme will also be implemented to cover the full 6 km length of Keyhole.
The Keyhole area – formerly a major cocoa production region – has been severely damaged by unregulated, haphazard alluvial mining over the past 30 years. Following the communities’ cooperation with Asante’s drill programme, the company has committed, based on successful exploration, to implementing the methodical restoration of the damaged land to its productive agricultural state. “Mining and agriculture can be mutually sustainable if there is a will and a plan,” MacQuarrie tells Mining Weekly.
In addition, MacQuarrie highlights that the company’s entire drill crew is Ghanaian, adding that other employment opportunities on the project for the local communities include security, general labour, drivers, catering staff, diamond saw samplers, geologists, geophysicists, geophysical technicians and IP crews. He stresses that such partnerships between mining companies and local communities are crucial in driving mutually beneficial development in African mining domiciles.
“Africa is a continent with immense potential and the future for gold production is bright. However, one of the biggest challenges is the creation of jobs for its huge and predominantly young workforce.
“In that lies a reality that must be addressed by mining companies – technology is great; however, if it means you hire only half of the potential workers, perhaps it’s a technology Africa does not need at this time.”
MacQuarrie adds that African mining domiciles, which are generally subject to higher-risk fiscal and regulatory regimes, as a result of high taxation, inflated user fees, high royalties and local race-based investment criteria, must also focus on implementing strategies to encourage foreign investment.
“Mining requires long-term investment and that, in turn, requires long-term fiscal and regulatory stability. To mitigate the higher risks in Africa, higher potential returns are required to attract investors. “Policies must be changed to guarantee investors a significant piece of the pie after all mine expenses – governments must be paid when investors are paid and in fair proportion.”
In addition, he suggests that governments consider granting economic credits to companies that maximise local hiring and incorporate positive socioeconomic elements for local communities into their operations.
However, he adds that mining companies must also stop applying blanket first-world thinking to emerging economies.