Owere Mines – An emerging glory

Owere Mines Limited (OML) is evaluating investor bids to assist in reviving the medium- and long-term operations of the mine, which is estimated to have a lifespan of between 15-20 years.

The mine is estimated to have a variable Joint Ore Reserve Committee (JORC) compliant resource of about 1.6 million ounces of gold.

The B&FT understands that strategic partners that will successfully win the bid to assist with the revival of the mine, for both the medium and long term, will come in either as off-takers or equity participants – and that the issue of a total sell-out has not been discussed yet.

The mine will be considering partners with capital, technology and skills to mine the project – and not the stock exchange.

It seeks to create reliable and stable employment and not deprive local content and community participation. The Mine is currently considering investors.

Over 1.6 million ounces of gold has been produced in the past at a head grade of 11.8 grammes per tonne from a maximum depth of 844 metres in a few areas as well as from shallow surface pits.

These pits have been tested to have mineralised extensions at depth of transition sulphide material and sulphides.

B&FT’s sources have revealed that there are several exploration targets, of which 16 have been extensively drilled.

It has been described by industry watchers as an extensive mining project, covering over 125 square kilometres of contiguous 12Kilometre strike within the Ashanti Gold belt. The project contains 16 known old deposits. It is located at Konongo in the Ashanti Region and hosts over 18 communities with varied social needs.

Owere Mines has in the last 18 years invested approximately US$92 illion into its core exploration and mining activities, as well as various community support programmes, compensation, royalty payments, labour and taxes among others.

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Available information shows that an approximately 30 tonne/hour gravity project is being developed as the short-term plan, ahead of a medium-term plan to exploit the oxide and transition material and a long-term plan which should see going underground and constructing a sulphide ore treatment plant. All permits have been secured to date

Care and Maintenance

Owere Mines Ltd., which had been undergoing care and maintenance since March 2013, ceased trial mining activities and reverted to an aggressive exploration programme to fast-track an assessment of the more extensive high-grade refractory sulphide gold ore underground. It commenced a scoping study shortly before attaining care and maintenance status.

Its existing processing plant, which has an annual processing capacity of 320,000 tonnes, has since been put on care and maintenance.

The Acting General Mines Manager, Dr. Michael Ampim-Sackey explained: “We were losing over a US$1-1.5million every month, so the Board thought it wise that we pause production and concentrate on exploration to understand and develop the ore body”.

The mining lease will expire in 2023, and as such the firm is committing to an aggressive and extensive exploration programme with an expectation to extend the life of mine to 15-20 years.

Redundancy programme

In 2013, about 330 employees were laid-off as part of measures by management of the gold mining company to realign and restructure its operations, thus placing the company on ‘care and maintenance’.

The affected workers, who were predominantly junior staff employees, were served with redundancy letters which took effect from March 31 of the same year. Some senior staff workers, including some in managerial positions, also followed suit.

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The retrenchment exercise left behind less than 100 workers out of the total of about 482 employees, including casual workers, to carry on with the company’s shift in strategy.

That development paved the way for OML’s major shareholding company – an Australia-based outfit that had taken over management of the company – to proceed with a technical ‘life of mine’ study to accelerate assessment of the Konongo Gold Project’s underground mining potential.

Dr. Ampim-Sackey indicated that the company has concluded discussions with the Ghana Mine Workers Union on the redundancy package, and that a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed.

“We expect to finish with the redundancy process within the next six months. The programme covers 39 junior staff and 11 senior staff,” he said.

Owere Mines Limited was a Ghanaian/Australian-owned mining company that started full operations in 2009 at the Asante Akyem North Municipality of the Ashanti Region.

In 2011, the Australian company was bought out by LionGold Corp of Singapore, which subsequently in a Rights Issue in favour of the then-minority now holds 0.01% stake in the mine.

Over the few years of its operations in the region, the company has undertaken several corporate social responsibility initiatives to better the lives of people in its host community, as well as other institutions and organisations outside the company’s operational areas.

Despite current challenges, the company has pledged to continue rendering its support to the various communities and institutions on its corporate social responsibility scheme within the 18 communities.

It is clear that Owere Mines is embarking on a total restructuring drive. There’s a paradigm shift in the company’s focus, as it is exhibiting good industry-approved standards to achieve success.

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