Accra — Gold Fields’s unit in Ghana says it will dismiss 1,500 of its staff as it is hiring a contractor to operate its biggest mine in the West African nation.

A contractor would take charge of the Tarkwa operations from early 2018 as the deposit’s remaining lifespan was too short to replace ageing mine equipment, Gold Fields Ghana vice-president David Johnson said on Tuesday.

Tarkwa produced about 550,000 oz of gold a year and had about five to six years left for its current design, he said. "When it’s contracted, the mining contractor already has their fleet so they will handle their fleet and maintain it," said Johnson. "We acquired our current fleet in 2004."

In 2016, Gold Fields announced a $1.4bn reinvestment plan for its Damang gold mine in Ghana that extended the operation to 2024.

Mine exploration

Ghana is the continent’s biggest gold producer after SA and accounted for a third of Gold Fields’ revenue in 2016.

"Exploration and processing will continue at Tarkwa," Johnson said.

"When we find resources in commercial quantities we can extend the mine life. It’s very possible" that Gold Fields will again operate the asset in future, he said.

Gold Fields engaged in tough talks with the Ghanaian government around the future of Damang, which it had pencilled in for closure if the mine was not granted tax breaks and investment incentives.

Gold Fields is also investing heavily in the Gruyere gold project in Australia and in exploration around its mines, shoring up its position as Western Australia’s second-largest gold producer.

Bloomberg, Staff Writer 

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