Newmont Ghana Goldthe bottom of our Subika pit to verify the feasibility of underground mining in the area," Santti reveals. "If it proves suitable it will be our first in the country." The company is also engaged in exploration some 20 kilometres north of the new Amoma pit where it holds mining leases. The aim is to establish whether there is the potential for a further pit which would extend the life of the existing operations.Over the four years since mining began at Ahafo, the company has worked to optimise its mining methods. For example, work has been done to improve the sampling methodology and ore control. Mining software has been optimised, the most effective bench heights have been identified and the optimum speed at which mining can take place has been calculated. All of these things are dictated by the geology and characteristics of the local area. In a similar way, the mill and processing plant have been examined in detail so that the footprint, equipment configuration and processes can be optimised to achieve the most efficient throughput.The geology at Ahafo also has other distinct advantages. around 56 million tonnes of ore is mined annually from three open pits at the southern end of the Ahafo property: the Subika pit, the Apensu pit and the Awonsu pit. Together they produce around 0.5 million ounces of gold a year and the company believes the three pits will be able to sustain this rate for the next few years. The total reserves for the Ahafo concession, as of December 2008, stood at 9.3 million ounces of gold contained in 11 pits.NGGL is now focusing on developing some of these further pits. "We are in the process of developing a fourth open pit mine called Amoma, about nine kilometres north of our existing operations. This is scheduled to begin producing in the fourth quarter of this year," Santti says. When Amoma begins production, approximately 50 per cent of the ore processed at the Ahafo mill will be mined from Subika, 25 per cent will come from Awonsu, 15 per cent from Apensu, with Amoma contributing five per cent.Exploration has continued throughout the company's time in Ghana, and is likely to be a strong focus in the future. "We are just beginning an exploration decline from March 10 www.bus-ex.com 27"Of the total of 3,500 staff, over 30 per cent are local people"