AAMEG Africa Awards 2020: Innovation in Corporate Social Development Nominee – Resolute Mining
By AAMEG | 5 November 2020
PROTECTING BIODIVERSITY & RESTORING BALANCE IN SENEGAL
Resolute is a successful gold miner with more than 30 years of experience as an explorer, developer and operator of gold mines in Australia and Africa which have produced more than 8 million ounces of gold. The Company trades on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) and the London Stock Exchange (LSE) under the ticker RSG.
Resolute owns three West African gold mines with a Global Mineral Resource base of more than 13 million ounces of gold. These assets include the Syama Gold Mine in Mali (Syama), the Mako Gold Mine (Mako) in Senegal and the Bibiani Gold Mine in Ghana (Bibiani). Syama and Mako are currently in active operations while Bibiani is on care and maintenance subject to the outcomes of a strategic review.
Resolute’s revised guidance for FY20 has been set at 400,000 to 430,000 ounces of gold at an All-In Sustaining Cost of US$980 per ounce.
Resolute’s Mako Gold Mine in Senegal shares a lease boundary with the south-east area of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Niokolo-Koba National Park (PNNK), the second largest national park in West Africa. The PNNK is of global significance as it one of the last remaining safe harbours for a variety of highly threatened and critically endangered mammal and bird species in West Africa. These species include the Wild Dog, Western Giant Eland, Western Chimpanzee, African Elephant and Hippopotamus. The PNNK is also home to the last known African Lion population in the far western part of West Africa.
Sadly, the PNNK is under significant threat from illegal poaching, artisanal gold mining, illegal livestock grazing, farmer encroachment, bush fires, water scarcity and invasive plants. These pressures have resulted in measurable declines in wildlife and habitat degradation in recent years. The Senegal Department of National Parks (DPN) recognises that increased funding and protection is required to better manage the PNNK.
Resolute respects and values the significance of the environmental sensitivities present in the areas surrounding Mako and, as signatories to the Responsible Gold Mining Principles, will seek to ensure there is no net loss of critical habitat as a result of the development and management of the mine.
As such, Resolute has established a Biodiversity Offset Program which aims to create biodiversity gains for residual impacts associated with the mine. Recognising the vital importance of the PNNK and the fact that the DPN requires additional support, Resolute has partnered with Non-Government Organisation (NGO),Panthera, and the DPN to significantly improve wildlife protection efforts within a 1700km² area withing the PNNK known as the intervention zone (IZ). This partnership was formalised via a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that was signed in 2016.
PNNK conservation efforts represent one of the two key project streams that underpin Resolute’s Biodiversity Offset Program. The primary objectives of this conservation initiative are:
- Develop and implement effective protection across the entire national park.
- Map and assess all natural water points within the park and identify which ones are threatened.
- Assess and strengthen key technical skills of the park authority staff – e.g. rangers, guards.
- Build / maintain critical park infrastructure – e.g. vita access roads, ranger posts.
- Improve communication in the park, particularly for the mobile brigades.
- Expand the wildlife monitoring system to measure population trends for key species.
- Increase economic opportunities based on the non-consumptive use of the park’s wildlife.
This program is based on a ten-year timeframe, extending beyond Mako’s life of mine. Conservation activities commenced within the IZ in 2016 and remain ongoing.
The initial challenge at Mako was demonstrating to the competent authorities and local NGO’s that the Company has genuine intentions of operating ethically, responsibly and in a sustainable manner. Through ongoing stakeholder engagement, open dialogue and a genuine desire to meaningfully contribute to the improved protection of the PNNK, this conservation initiative was born.
The PNNK conservation program is novel in its approach as it consists of a Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) between Resolute, the Senegal Government (DPN) and Panthera, with each party offering its own unique contributions.
Specialist conservation expertise is provided by Panthera and, to a lesser degree, the DPN, which is used to guide in-park activities and the establishment of effective wildlife monitoring systems / practices. The DPN hold the regulatory authority, are the conduit to the Senegalese government and employ the mobile brigade units that patrol the park. This partnership ensures conservation and protection strengthening efforts are delivered in accordance with applicable law and are aligned with the national conservation agenda. Resolute mobilises a significant proportion (55%) of the financial (circa USD265,000 per annum), logistic and other capital required to meet the various program objectives.
This partnership ensures a wholistic conservation approach is pursued supported by a robust and scalable management structure that can grow over time as new conservation partners are identified. This governance structure has resulted in the effective management of initiatives, to date, which has resulted in improved conservation outcomes in the IZ (e.g. increased sightings of endangered species, the detaining of illegal poachers etc). Similarly, this program utilises local labour and local business for multiple facets of the program (e.g. infrastructure construction) which is contributing to improved socio-economic outcomes for the host community.
The PNNK Conservation Program demonstrates exemplary ESG leadership on behalf of Resolute as it demonstrates the Company is willing to invest significantly to improve conservation / biodiversity outcomes outside of the mining lease for the direct benefit of the local community and Senegal more broadly.
Yes, these activities strengthen the Company’s license to operate however, this is not the primary driver of this work. Rather, it demonstrates that Resolute understands its role in delivering meaningful and sustainable outcomes in the jurisdictions in which it operates and is committed to meeting these accountabilities in a responsible and ethical manner.
This is consistent with Resolute’s commitment and pro-active efforts to align with the Responsible Gold Mining Principles and contribute meaningfully to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Both of which form the foundation for Resolute’s Sustainability Approach.
The Resolute CEO and Executive Team hold corporate oversight of this program and progress is reported to the Sustainability Committee of the Board regularly.
Collaboration and Engagement
As outlined, Resolute formed a PPP with the DPN and Panthera, via a tripartite MoU, to deliver improved conservation efforts within the PNNK. In addition, Resolute has engaged Conservation Capital to facilitate the development of a long-term strategic partnership agreement between Resolute, the DPN and Panthera to support conservation activities in the PNNK over the next five (5) years. The finalisation / signing of this agreement has been delayed by COVID:19 however it has not impacted in any way the progress of the conservation program. Finalisation of the long-term strategic partnership agreement is anticipated in Q1 2021.
The Senegal Ministry of Environment (MEDD) has been invited to comment on this agreement prior to being finalised to ensure the terms of reference align with the national conservation agenda and the Senegal governments specific plans and aspirations for the PNNK.
The DPN and MEDD were directly engaged to identify the main threats and primary needs of the PNNK and this was subsequently incorporated into the program objectives.
An Advisory Panel consisting of international subject matter experts has been established to provide independent technical oversight of PNNK conservation efforts. The Advisory Panel meet at least bi-annually to review program performance, resourcing, stakeholder engagement / participation, regulatory and other challenges.
Engagement with the local host community has been undertaken to raise awareness of this conservation program and its objectives. Members of the mobile guard patrols are sourced locally where possible and are trained in human rights to mitigate any adverse impacts on the local community.
A Stakeholder Complaints & Grievance Procedure is in place and has been disseminated across stakeholder groups to ensure mechanisms for redress are available in the rare event that unanticipated consequences of the program result in negative impacts.
As a result of open and consistent engagement with stakeholders and the dissemination of annual workplans that govern program activities, stakeholder expectations have been effectively managed and all complaints kept to a minimum.
Detailed progress reports are provided to all key stakeholder groups at least annually.
Bricks and mortar programs typically commissioned by mining companies in Africa can quickly produce tangible and photographable outcomes (e.g. schools, clinics etc) that are often used as indictors of program success. However, this is often a misleading and short-sighted view of program efficacy.
In contrast, the PNNK Conservation Program is an initiative that is slowly restoring ecological and social balance to the area in various ways. Threatened and critically endangered species are given an opportunity to replenish which attracts other native mammal and insect species, deforestation of critical habitat is abated, illegal mining stops, water sources are more effectively managed, soil fertility improves, local jobs are created to manage / maintain the PNNK and the park is better positioned to attract future scientific and philanthropic support.
As this program matures it will enable the local community to better address, and be resilient to, the challenges associated with climate change and will help open up new economic opportunities associated with tourism that will positively contribute to local livelihoods while not negatively impacting conservation efforts.
These outcomes are meaningful and take time to achieve which is why a ten year program timeframe has been established. As the PNNK conservation program matures, new participants will be invited to join the existing partnership arrangement to ensure the program continues long after the Mako Gold Mine closes.
Performance is measured across several key areas as outlined below:
Security / Mobile Brigade
- Training and equipping of mobile brigades to safely execute their ranger duties in the IZ
- Mobile brigade numbers, coverage of IZ and frequency of patrols
- Number of illegal miners / poachers detained
- Number of illegal miner / poacher camps shut down and equipment confiscated
- Program office and training facilities built
- Ranger / guard posts (re)built across the IZ to accommodate increased guard numbers
- Road infrastructure constructed to enable mobile brigade activity during all weather conditions
Mapping & Photography
- The following are recorded using a SMART software data collection interface:
- Wildlife sightings by species, numbers, location and frequency within the IZ
- Illegal mining activity
- Illegal roads and other infrastructure
- Water sources
- Invasive weeds
The current focus of conservation efforts in the PNNK are contained within the IZ however, this program is highly scalable and with appropriate levels of support can be easily extended to cover larger areas of the park. Measurable evidence has been recorded since 2016 that indicate conservation efforts have been successful in increasing the biodiversity within the IZ and this success is vital to raise the profile of conservation efforts and to attract further support.
Progress is being regularly reported to the Senegal Government, to NGO’s and donor agencies via the PPP in an effort to attract new participants to this program. Given the endangered status of the PNNK, the positive results recorded to date, and the fact that significant outcomes can be achieved with modest levels of investment then it anticipated that new partnership opportunities will be imminently realised.
That said, Resolute will continue to invest and actively participate in this program for the full 10 year program term with significant biodiversity gains anticipated in this time. Post closure mine rehabilitation planning at Mako will also consider ongoing financial and in-kind support of this program for a defined period.
Resolute has significantly advanced its sustainability credentials in recent years with efforts guided by leading practice. People, Health & Safety, Biodiversity, Energy & Climate Change are (some) key focus areas that will be prioritised for future resource allocation and action.
The PNNK Conservation Program is a key sustainability initiative for Resolute which is generating shared value for all stakeholders while securing Senegal’s cultural and ecological capital. Resolute’s ultimate objective is, via PPP’s, to increase the biodiversity and security of the PNNK to the point where it is no longer classified as ‘in danger’ by UNESCO.
The rigour of the PNNK Conservation Program (i.e. robust governance structures, formalised partnership agreements, Advisory Panel etc) and the achievements realised to date are impressive but even more so when you consider the Mako Gold Mine has only been in commercial operation since 2018.
Other useful supporting information
Please see below for a high-level summary of the 2019-20 achievements of the PNNK Conservation Program:
- Mobile brigades have been trained in human rights, tactical patrol, self-defence, first aid, team building and logistical preparations
- Mobile brigade teams equipped with field gear, communication devices and navigation equipment to safely conduct their activities
- Mobile brigade numbers significantly increased with three brigades now patrolling the IZ
- Mobile brigades were on active patrols for 86% (314 days) of 2019 covering 54% of the IZ
- Eight (8) Illegal miners and poachers detained,
- Forty-seven (47) illegal miner / poacher camps have been shut down and all equipment confiscated under the authority of the DPN and Senegal Government.
- Ranger / guard posts have been (re)built across the IZ to accommodate increased guard numbers
- Forty-three (43) kilometres of roads have been built in the IZ to enable deep penetration of mobile brigades during all weather conditions – local labour utilised
- Training facilities and program base established
- Brigade camps constructed
- Access control established within IZ
Observations & Mapping
- Wildlife mapping system established and evolving to monitor population trends / movements
- In excess of two hundred (200) water sources have been identified / mapped most of which were previously unknown to park managers
- Frequency of wildlife observations for all critical species is increasing indicating growth in populations
- The elephant has been sighted in the IZ for the first time in a decade