There have been a number of recent positive developments in West Africa’s mining industry, such as in Mali, where two new mines are scheduled to be commissioned by the end of this year.
This is according to engineering and scientific consultancy SRK Consulting Ghana country manager John Kwofie, who notes that there have also been positive signs in Burkina Faso, where an indication of the optimism in the country’s mining sector is evident in the work it has been undertaking there recently, including the design of openpit mines at six different mining sites.
He points out that, while gold appears to be the main area of growth, his expectation is that there will be a general uptick in the minerals sector by year-end, which will create favourable conditions for a more “bullish” approach by miners, thereby driving activities in a range of minerals.
Kwofie highlights that SRK has also been engaged in aspects of iron-ore projects in Cameroon, bauxite in Guinea and diamonds in Sierra Leone and Guinea in recent years.
“Gold has remained the dominant focus, where we, together with our affiliate offices worldwide (SRK Global), have provided mines with technical support ranging from mineral exploration and environmental assessments to operational input and mine closure,” he says.
Kwofie comments that SRK’s recent activities in Ghana have mainly entailed working on tailings dam management through the company’s local office, which has been responsible for conducting independent quarterly audits.
He elaborates that SRK’s team reviews the operations at these dams, making recommendations where required to ensure compliance with international best practice. Kwofie adds that earthworks-related quality assurance has also been provided for tailings dam raises.
“We also draw on the capacity and expertise of other SRK affiliate offices worldwide, and have collaborated with our SRK colleagues in Australia in the past year to complete a study into the possible expansion of tailings dams at another gold mine in Ghana,” he states, adding that the study considered different options for increasing storage capacity at existing tailings facilities.
Further, Kwofie says that another country that has raised interest recently is Guinea, where SRK is involved in a geotechnical feasibility study for a new gold mining project involving a borehole-drilling and laboratory testing programme that provides data for the design of openpits and waste dumps. The company has also been involved in a slope stability project in that country.
He also notes that, in other West African countries, such as Sierra Leone and Mali, where mining operations are under way, SRK has conducted openpit slope stability studies and provided mine planning support where openpits are being optimised.
Additionally, Kwofie says that, with social and political conditions having improved in Côte d’Ivoire following years of unrest, this has reopened doors for mineral development in the country.
He comments that, earlier this year, SRK was able to support a gold mine in Côte d’Ivoire with a prefeasibility study to provide a client with optimum slope design parameters. The study involved the mapping of selected pit walls, geotechnical core logging, rock mass classification studies, slope stability analyses and hydrogeological studies.
Kwofie highlights that mining companies will need to focus on ensuring more constructive relationships with governments and communities.
“The question of mines’ social licence to operate recently became a core concern, as mining-affected communities often feel robbed and cheated of their nonrenewable resources,” he emphasises. Kwofie believes that this may in part be due to the absence or ineffectiveness of mining operators’ corporate social responsibility programmes, cautioning that these programmes will certainly need more attention in future.