Steel grinding media is a critical raw material for the mining industry, as it is used to crush the gold-bearing ore to extract the precious metal. In the past, large-scale mining companies in Ghana have imported steel grinding balls from overseas due to concerns over the quality standards of the locally produced raw material.
With calls from the Minerals Commission for mining companies to help build the capacities of local suppliers to increase local participation and investment, Newmont Ghana is leading the charge to help local grinding media manufacturer, West African Forging Limited (WAFOR), to shore up its production quality and safety standards.
The partnership has seen a marked improvement in WAFOR’s production capacity and product quality. Through regular quality assurance review meetings and exchange of knowledge and expertise in health and safety, WAFOR has become the main supplier of grinding media to Newmont Ghana, the largest gold producing company in the country.
Yaw Boadi, Technical and Marketing Director of WAFOR, acknowledged that the in-depth sharing of knowledge and expertise by Newmont’s technical team have gradually improved the company’s value and service delivery.
“Aside helping us to improve on our output and quality, we acquired our third forge plant with the support from Newmont. Currently, they are giving us the push to bring a fourth forge plant on stream to expand our capacity. Also, with the feedback from Newmont’s technical experts, we have improved on our steel quality and factory safety,” Boadi said at the second quarter supplier relationship meeting between Newmont Ghana and WAFOR.
With health and safety at the forefront of Newmont’s operations, it is keen on moving the safety value through its supply chain network. Newmont assists WAFOR with health and safety materials to educate its factory workforce on working safely to minimize injury.
Through the regular safety engagement of WAFOR, the company has now employed a health and safety officer dedicated to improving occupational safety and health, including workplace housekeeping.
“We rely on steel grinding balls that will give us higher quality mill output through sustained and consistent performance,” said George Brakoh, Manager of Local Supplier and Contractor Development for Newmont Ghana. “We work with WAFOR to ensure they meet our mines’ specification and also provide them with the technical support and resource needed to improve on their product quality.”
Although the WAFOR supplier relationship is the first for Newmont on the national level, it runs linkages programmes in its host communities in Ahafo and Akyem. Through the Ahafo Linkages Programme, Newmont has provided long-term business support and training to many indigenous businesses in the Ahafo communities to give them the competitive advantage for bigger contracts.
Based on this track record, Newmont Ghana was awarded the leader in local content development and support at the 5th Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) Awards last year, highlighting the company’s outstanding commitment and significant contribution to enhancing local content development in its host communities.
With the long-term supplier contract agreement and advice from Newmont Ghana, WAFOR secured four new trucks to enable it to meet its delivery deadlines.
“During our transport management analysis, Newmont was helpful in the acquisition of a new fleet of vehicles to make sure our supply continuum is seamless,” Boadi explained. “We have the capacity to supply all mines in Ghana with steel balls, despite others purchasing from China. Once other mines see the improvement of our quality and service, they will start contracting us.”
In the last few years, conversations around local content development in the extractive sector have been dominant. The Minerals Commission and Chamber of Mines are pushing for mining companies to tap into the opportunities local business participation presents to suppliers and the larger economy as a whole. Local content support helps indigenous businesses become more competitive and valuable to the economy.
With WAFOR being a subsidiary of Tema Steel Company, Yaw Boadi said the value addition and support from Newmont is creating a huge impact as other mining companies that purchased grinding media from China are now buying from WAFOR.
“Currently we have increased our production capacity to 40, 000 tonnes per year. We are continuously working to improve our capacity and quality rates alike,” Boadi said. “The biggest room on earth is the room for improvement and we believe we are getting the right assistance from Newmont to achieve that.”