Showing Africa the Way
Ghana is Africa’s largest producer of gold. We speak with Tony O’Neill, General Manager (Contracts) at PW Mining, to discuss the execution of projects for major clients in the gold mining and the oil and gas sector
Writer: Sean Galea-Pace | Project Manager: Donovan Smith
Mining in Africa is big business.
Take Ghana, for example. The mining sector consists of five percent of the country’s entire GDP, with minerals making up around 37 percent of total exports, while gold contributes over 90 percent of total mineral exports.
Indeed, Ghana is renowned for its gold, while also known for producing significant amounts of bauxite, manganese and diamonds.
And providing contract mining, civil engineering and building construction services to both private and public sector clients in a range of West African countries, is PW. The company’s mining division has worked for many of the leading firms within the gold mining space. PW Mining employs more than 1,500 staff and operates in Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mali and Burkina Faso. Its projects have often been completed on the traditional ‘employer design’ basis but are increasingly delivering on large scale civil engineering works as a full design and build package.
Tony O’Neill is the General Manager (Contracts) at PW Mining. He has worked for the organisation since 1997 across roles such as Project Manager and General Manager before stepping into his current position in 2017. Prior to joining PW Mining, O’Neill’s early career consisted of mostly engineering and management positions within the Irish construction sector.
“At that time, I decided to broaden my horizons and gain experience of living and working outside of the UK and Irish markets,” O’Neill tells us. “When an opportunity to join PW in Ghana arose, I couldn’t turn it down. There was an element of luck in that I headed off to Ghana instead of any other location.
“My initial years with PW were all on the construction and civil engineering side of the business working on airports, power and marine projects. Alongside that, the company was building and growing its mining operations and in due course, my involvement in those projects and this sector of our business grew steadily. Today, I enjoy the fact that we have involvement as a civil engineering contractor in mine construction projects and also in operational mines providing contract mining services.”
Success amidst disruption
Despite causing disruption for many, COVID-19 has acted as a catalyst for a major upturn in gold price, which has subsequently benefited many of PW Mining’s clients within the industry.
“As a result, there is an increased urgency to bring mining projects online, which is showcased from the increased volume of enquiries coming in. Usually, this would be great news. However, it can’t be ignored that this upswing in gold price sits alongside a health crisis unseen before in the modern era. The impact on Africa has been significant, however, in the advent of this disaster, there were concerns as to just how bad it might get.
“Fortunately, the worst fears didn’t materialise and long may that remain the case. The efforts being made across the public and private sector have been enormous and it was certainly an exciting time (as well as containing a good amount of trepidation) in the early days of COVID-19 as all stakeholders strove to hold operations together with all the concern and disruption that was evolving.”
As a surface mining and civil engineering contractor, PW Mining has the capability to deliver on any scale of above ground mining projects.
“Our capability covers all contract mining services, civil engineering earthworks, and related infrastructure on greenfield mine sites, mine expansions or developments,” explains O’Neill.
“The mining services provided include site clearance, topsoil stripping, overburden removal, blast hole drilling, blasting operations, load and haul, dewatering, ore-rehandling, crusher feed and ancillary works. These services are provided in new pits as well as cutbacks in existing pits. The civil engineering division are specialists in tailings storage facility construction, both starter and raise projects, plus mine site development works, such as access roads, mine site roads and infrastructure, and bulk earthworks for process plant sites.”
O’Neill has worked on a number of key projects during his time at PW Mining. He points to the construction of Cell Two of the Akyem Gold Mine tailings storage facility as being particularly influential.
“It had become time critical due to delays in implementation,” he explains. “A sustained effort by all parties and close collaboration between our civils team and the clients mining team ensured successful delivery avoiding serious tailings management issues for the client affecting mine operation.”
A proactive approach
And PW Mining is keen to avoid resting on its laurels. The firm understands the importance of pivoting and is now in the start-up phase of a major new contract mining services project for Allied Gold Corporation at the Sadiola Gold Mine in the Republic of Mali.
“It is always exciting when bringing a major new project from contract award up to its steady state production, and this one is no different,” explains O’Neill. “Elsewhere, we are keen to understand how the Obotan Gold Mine is going to pan out for 2022 and beyond. This mine has been an important element of our business since 2016 and we are obviously keen to leverage our relationship and presence on site to develop continuity of our operations.
“Additionally, having recommenced operations in southern Mali, we are aware of some attractive opportunities that should arise in that locality or in neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire. Looking at the Ghana market, the Ahafo North Project is finally coming alive for Newmont and we are very optimistic about securing work for the civil engineering side of the business on that new greenfield mine.”
PW Mining considers its partners a priority. The firm has established long-term collaborations with a number of companies that support PW’s projects. For O’Neill, he affirms that his organisation doesn’t compromise when it comes to standards relating to quality, delivery, service, safety, health and environment.
“We consider effective procurement management a priority,” he discusses. “The relevant PW policies and procedures apply to any participant in our supply chain, be it local entities or global corporations. It is our goal to enable access by local businesses to PW supply chain openings, as may be generated by our projects.
“Where possible, we use the services of major suppliers of materials, equipment, and consumables located in the countries of operation. Local procurement is of significant importance to PW. We recognise that it assists in the development of prosperous local communities, and that it has the potential to generate efficiencies in our supply chain. It is our policy to give all possible procurement opportunities to local, regional and national citizens and corporations, in line with national regulations and laws, to the maximum extent possible and consistent with safety, efficiency and economy.”
As technology begins to play a more influential role, mining is on the cusp of change. In Africa, that means opportunity, and moving forward, PW Mining has plans to scale operations and expand into Côte d’Ivoire. With a promising future on the horizon, PW Mining are poised for continued success.