Top Guide: The mining sector in Ghana has long been one of the greatest contributors to the economy. How do you assess the state of the sector currently?
Joshua Mortoti: The contributions of the mining sector to Ghana’s economy cannot be underestimated. From corporate income taxes, employee pay-as-you earn, dividends to government and other social investments, the mining sector continues to be one of the major pillars of the economy. The sector no doubt remains strong and working together with the government to ensure that it thrives. With the government’s commitment to support the sector and ensure a conducive environment for mining companies to operate and grow, we see the sector maintaining its strong position as an enabler of the economy, while creating maximum value for stakeholders, including government and host communities.
Top Guide: As one of the biggest long-term players in the country, what has been the impact of Gold Fields on the sector in particular and the economy in general?
Joshua Mortoti: Over the past 29 years, Gold Fields has contributed massively to Ghana’s economy and maintained our position as a leader in the mining industry in Ghana. We continue to set high standards in responsible mining, environmental stewardship, national and host community development, as well as local enterprise development. We honour our legal and financial obligations to the government through prompt payment of corporate taxes and royalties, employee pay-as-you-earn, as well as dividends to the government, which owns a 10 per cent free carry interest in our mines as required by law.
In 2021, we made a total contribution of USD320.2 million to the government, being payments for corporate taxes and royalties (USD244 million) employee pay-as-you-earn (USD28 million) and dividends (USD48.2 million). Our robust local content and host community procurement and employment strategies support the development of local businesses and the hiring of indigenes to work with us. In 2021, approximately 92 per cent of our total procurement spend went to local suppliers, 45 per cent of which was dedicated to host community suppliers. We do this to ensure that more jobs are created in our host communities. We have also constituted employment committees made up of host community members and company staff, which select qualified community members to fill vacancies. At present, 70 per cent of our total workforce of employees and business partners are from our host communities.
TOP GUIDE: How much of a threat is illegal mining and how is the sector
responding to it?
Joshua Mortoti: The threat of illegal mining is high due to the dynamic nature of the practice, which has shifted from a low-tech enterprise to a highly mechanised business with huge foreign investments. Apart from the enormous negative impact of illegal mining activities on the environment, mining companies often have to deal with encroachment on our concessions by illegal miners. The Ghana Chamber of Mines has been supporting the government’s effort to sanitise the illegal mining sector to make it safe for those engaged in it and protect the environment. To support the government’s community mining scheme, Gold Fields Ghana ceded a portion of our concession, the Abosso Deeps, to the state. The site is now being operated as a community mining site by the youth of Abosso and surrounding areas. We also have in place an Artisanal Small-scale Mining (ASM) strategy, which directs us on how to adequately tackle illegal mining activities on our concessions. Our strategy encourages proactive engagement with key community stakeholders of our Tarkwa and Damang mines, including the youth and local government officials to create the necessary fora to promptly address illegal mining concerns. The strategy also focuses on the creation of viable, non-mining jobs to address youth unemployment in our host communities. It is important to mention that our strategy is underpinned by enhanced security and respect for human rights, guided by the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights.
TOP GUIDE: Ghana has stated that it wants to become a mining hub in the region. Do you think the country has the capacity to achieve this and how is Gold Fields contributing to this vision?
Joshua Mortoti: It is not impossible for Ghana to become a mining hub. Increasing production, adopting smart ways of mining and expanding the value chain through the development of suppliers and local businesses will enable the mining industry to grow. Other sectors which depend on the mining industry will also benefit from the growth of the industry. Most importantly, the business environment should be conducive to encourage more investment in the mining sector. As an industry leader, Gold Fields’ strategic intent is to increase gold production to one million ounces annually without any injury. To achieve our production and safety targets, we have begun a mod ernisation journey by adopting technologies which will enable us to increase production and lower operating costs, whilst mining safely and responsibly. The future of mining will rely heavily on automation. Through the application of new technologies such as geological data analytics, remote control and smart automation, the mining industry will be able to operate sustainably. Modernisation and smart mining will be vital to realising our vision to become a mining hub in the region.
TOP GUIDE: Gold Fields Ghana is known to be very active in corporate social responsibility. How do you choose which projects to undertake and what do you think are some of the highlights of your involvement in CSR?
Joshua Mortoti: The Gold Fields Ghana Foundation was established in 2004 to fund socio-economic and developmental projects and programmes in the host communities of our Tarkwa and Damang mines. This is to ensure that the communities benefit from the value we create. The Foundation has so far invested over US$84.4 million in shared value projects and initiatives, focusing on education, health, water and sanitation, agriculture and infrastructure. Some of these projects and programmes include scholarships, Youth in Horticulture Production (YouHoP), community apprenticeship, Graduate Traineeship, as well as construction of roads, schools and clinics. The Foundation is focusing on shared value projects with measurable impact on host communities, with the construction of the 33km TarkwaDamang asphalt road, which has eased transportation and improved road safety. The road was built by four local contractors and cost US$27 million. The Foundation is currently constructing a 10,400-capacity international standard stadium in Tarkwa. The cost of the project is US$16.2 million and is expected to make Tarkwa a football hub in Ghana’s Western Region and unearth football talent in our host communities. The Foundation encourages active participation of our community stakeholders in the development agenda of our host communities. Every year, an assessment is done to ascertain the development needs of the communities. During this assessment, community members and institutions request for projects and programmes to be implemented. At the quarterly Tarkwa and Damang mines community consultative committee meetings, the requested projects and programmes are discussed. Once it is agreed, the requests are submitted to the Foundation Trustees for approval. We understand the importance of beneficiaries to participate in the selection process to ensure that the projects implemented by the Foundation are what they need. TG: Gold Fields recently launched its new Purpose and Vision statements. Explain what they are and what they mean to you and your stakeholders.
Our Purpose defines why we exist as a company and that is “creating enduring value beyond mining”. This is the first time Gold Fields has had a purpose statement. Our purpose guides and directs our decisions. What this means is that we create value that is sustainable and last beyond our mining activities to benefit our stakeholders. In essence, our business goes beyond just mining gold, but rather, building something positive and sustainable for all stakeholders. Our new Vision is “to be the preferred gold mining company delivering sustainable, superior value”. Until recently, our Vision was “to be the global leader in sustainable gold mining”. We believe we have already achieved this vision, which served the company well and was firmly focused on sustainability. Now, our focus is to be the gold mining company that investors, the government, communities and people prefer and choose because we deliver sustainable and superior value that lasts.
TOP GUIDE: Companies globally are focusing on environment, safety and governance (ESG) to assure stakeholders that they are socially responsible. What are Gold Fields’ ESG commitments and priorities?
Joshua Mortoti: Building on our leading commitments to ESG is one of our three strategic pillars, which help us deliver on our purpose. We understand that ESG is increasingly important to investors, employees, communities and governments. For us, this is about mining responsibly, taking care of the environment and making meaningful investment in our host communities. To address the impact of climate change on our people, host communities and the environment, we have committed to reducing carbon emissions by 30% by 2030 and net zero by 2050. We have also committed to zero serious environmental incidents and increasing water recycling and reuse. Safety is our number one value and through several safety interventions, such as the Courageous Safety Leadership programme, we are building a safety-conscious workforce and empowering our people to speak up against unsafe acts and conditions. Another key priority is to increase women’s representation in our workforce, especially, in core mining and leadership roles. We have been deliberate about the recruitment of women and we are implementing strategies to build our female talent pipelines.