By Leon Louw, founder and editor of WhyAfrica
11 May 2021 – Mining company Golden Star’s flagship and award-winning social initiative in Ghana is a good example of a sustainable project and provides us with a glimpse of the future. It shows extractive industries how to incorporate other sectors in their thinking and how to develop creative programmes to empower local communities.
In a world where sustainability and ESG investments have become pivotal to the success of any extractive economic activity, it is an informative exercise to study and compare different environmental and social development programmes across Africa. For many years, local African communities, and the environment from which the resources were extracted, stood last in the queue when profits were distributed between important stakeholders.
This has become an important rallying point for a younger generation and a new breed of international investors. Being responsible and operating in a sustainable way that benefits not only shareholders in the short term, but the environment and communities in the long term, is what these investors look at when deciding to part with their capital. They do not want short term success, they want their money to make a difference in the world, they want to improve the living conditions of people, and maintain, rehabilitate, and restore ecosystems and promote sustainable living.
When the “soft issues” like social responsibility and environmental management became compulsory to be awarded licenses to operate, extractive companies had to start ticking boxes, and creative ways of developing programmes to really make a difference, was few and far between. How many schools were built in far-flung communities that until today remain empty, or are used for other purposes?
It is therefore imperative that all alternatives are considered in developing environmental and social programmes. When developing and implementing such programmes, it is useful to study and get a good working knowledge of a range of different sectors, economic activities in the surrounding area of operation and the ecology of the natural systems. However, most of all, it is critical to involve the local communities and to determine what their needs are. Through proper research, and in-depth interviews and conversations, one can then develop a strategy that would benefit all stakeholders, most of all, local communities.
In my research I came across the mining company Golden Star’s impressive sustainability and social enterprise initiative in Ghana where Golden Star develops and operates oil palm plantations in communities proximate to the company’s gold mining operations, located in the Western Region of Ghana, for the benefit of members of the host communities.
According to Andrew Wray, CEO of Golden Star, the programme commits to ensuring that there is zero deforestation during the creation of a high value agribusiness on former subsistence farms and land that has previously been used for mining activities. Since its inception in 2006, the Golden Star Oil Palm Plantations Limited (GSOPP) has developed plantations on over 1500 hectares of land, which support more than 700 families at levels of yield three-times the small holder average in Ghana. The activities of GSOPP also align with the company’s wider sustainability goals of establishing high value post-mining land uses, self-funding revegetation and creation of biomass to act as a carbon sink to offset operational emissions.
Golden Star operates the Wassa underground mine in the Western Region of Ghana. The company is listed on the NYSE American, the Toronto Stock Exchange and the Ghanaian Stock Exchange. Golden Star was the winner of the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada 2018 Environmental and Social Responsibility Award.
Leon Louw is the founder and editor of WhyAfrica. He specialises in natural resources and African affairs. WhyAfrica provides you with business intelligence that matters. Africa is our business, and we want it to be yours too. To subscribe to WhyAfrica’s free newsletter or digital magazine, and for more news on Africa, visit the website at www.whyafrica.co.za or send a direct message.