What is the importance of relying on a diversified portfolio as a mining company? And how does West Africa enable this diversification?
Our strategy is to be geographically focused to enable synergies, yet diversified across multiple assets and countries. We operate six producing mines across Burkina Faso (Houndé, Mana, Karma and Boungou) and Côte d’Ivoire (Ity and Agbaou), with four potential development projects (Fetekro, Kalana, Bantou and Nabanga) and a strong portfolio of exploration assets on the highly prospective Birimian Greenstone Belt.
The Birimian Greenstone Belt ranks amongst the world’s most prospective areas. It is the top-ranking region for discoveries over the past 10 years, with over 79 million ounces discovered and more than US$5 billion spent, making it third only to Australia and Canada. Yet key countries like Burkina Faso and Côte D’Ivoire are underexplored. They represent 60% of the Greenstone Belt, yet just 35% of discoveries in the region, so there is a lot of opportunity for us there to discover new assets. Added to this, these countries have well governed mining codes and are becoming increasingly attractive as investment destinations.
How have operations been impacted by travel restrictions and concerns over workers’ safety in light of Covid-19?
The priority for us throughout the pandemic has been our employees’ safety and wellbeing. We have implemented health and safety protocols across all our sites and offices, such as temperature checks, restricted access to sites, social distancing, increased hygiene standards and mandatory quarantine periods for employees arriving in country. We also developed an epidemiological surveillance system to track cases around each of our operations and across the three countries we operate in. This surveillance system has helped both our own efforts as well as assisting governments with their regional and national response.
We have been very fortunate at Endeavour that we have been able to keep our operations and shipments running at normal levels since lockdowns began, with minimal disruption to our business and our employees. As such, we remain on track to achieve our full year production and all-in sustaining cost guidance.
Are there any particular takeaways/lessons after these months of tumult that you would like to share?
This period has really shown us the importance of working with and supporting our communities. To take a few examples, we leveraged our global supply chain to make donations of state-of-the-art medical equipment such as mobile respirators, hygiene kits and equipment for virology and dialysis centers in Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire. We’ve also assisted with the training dozens of local health workers and have been running COVID-19 awareness campaigns in our local communities.
We have focused on providing financial support to help those vulnerable members in the communities near our mines whose activities or livelihoods have been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, for example in Côte d’Ivoire, this was through support for a microcredit program to help women whose jobs had been put on hold due to the pandemic.
Could you elaborate on Endeavour’s strategy of building on a pipeline of projects for the future through exploration?
Exploration is a key value driver for our business strategy. In 2016, we set a 5-year target to discover 10-15 million ounces of Indicated Resources by 2021 and the team’s doing a great job with over 8.4 million ounces discovered already.
During the third quarter this year, we announced several resource increases at Ity, Houndé and Fetekro as we continue towards our 2021 target. Looking at Houndé as one example, we announced an M&I Resource increase of 554,000 oz to 4.45 million oz of gold following further resource delineation in the Kari Area. Over 2.5 million oz of Indicated resources have now been discovered in the Kari Area, ranking it as the largest resource in the Houndé mine complex.
Could you tell us more about the achievements made through the Ecodev fund?
CODEV is an economic development fund established by Endeavour to support local economic growth by promoting and investing in the creation of local long-term, sustainable, small and medium enterprises. Similar to a traditional investment fund, the aim is to co-invest with other partners to create successful and sustainable businesses, which over time will allow Endeavour to exit its investments and redeploy its capital into new ventures.
In May 2019, ECODEV made its first investment of US$1 million in Mali Shi, a shea butter project in Mali. This project was chosen as it will support approximately 120,000 female shea nut growers, including in our Kalana development project area, and create the first industrial shea butter factory in Mali. The factory is expected to be commissioned during 2020, depending on Covid-19, and is targeting an annual commercial production of 10,000 tonnes of shea butter by 2025.
But, our ECODEV project is just one example of our approach to ESG. In 2019, for example, 95% of our site workforce were nationals and 75% of our mine General Managers were from West Africa. We are also focused on increasing the representation of women across the business. Procurement is another area where we have the ability to be an economic catalyst. Last year Endeavour spent US$376 million supporting 1,144 businesses in-country.
ESG is, quite rightly, one of the most important aspects of our business as it provides the foundation to our right to operate.
In terms of the environment and emissions, last year we recorded a 22% reduction in GHG emission intensity per ounce of gold produced to 388 kilograms. In terms of renewables, 77% of our purchased electricity was from renewable energy sources and we also introduced a single use plastic reduction program across our sites.