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Asanko mine: Collaboration worth its weight in gold

Ghana’s Asanko mine is benefiting from Seequent’s innovations. (Image source: Seequent Central)

Using Seequent Central to improve the organisation of data, ideas and geoscience models for stakeholders across multiple countries has helped achieve record hauls for a gold mine in Ghana’s Asankrangwa Belt gold region

Ghana’s Asanko Gold Mine is a significant source of gold and employment. In 2019, it hit records for production – more than 250,000 gold ounces – and employed 2,400 people, 99 per cent of whom are Ghanaians. The flagship joint venture, between Galiano Gold and Gold Fields, with a 10 per cent stake held by the government of Ghana, is thought to have 4.8 million ounces of reserves

While the Asankrangwa Belt, where it is based, is one of Ghana’s most prospective gold regions, it’s one of its most underexplored. Delivering these levels of production so quickly – Asanko only began pouring gold in 2016 – involved a collaborative, global effort. One of the most important steps in moving smoothly from exploration to production is to build accurate 3D computer models of the reserves and their geology to direct the drilling locations.

The pressure is always on to discover new resources to replace those depleted by mining, so they need to manage geoscience data accurately, precisely and rapidly. But traditional modelling has a particular weakness. The data is often gathered and held in a number of locations, so teams may be working with an incomplete picture or old versions. It’s not unknown for data to be passed on with no record of who’s seen it, or what version they are working on as it drifts out of date. This causes models to be redrawn too often and frequently unnecessarily, at best, delaying production and, at worst, sending it in the wrong direction.

To avoid this, Asanko turned to geoscience solutions provider Seequent, who has been partnering with the mining industry since 2004. In January 2019, its Central software was introduced across the project to bring together all the geoscience data, creating a ‘single source of truth’ that could be accessed by a global team. All stakeholders were able to check in with operations and collaborate, confident that they always used the latest data.

“I’d estimate we probably cut the amount of time we spent modelling by half,” said Benjamin Osei Tutu, senior exploration geologist for Asanko. “Using Central, we were able to add value and de-risk our projects from the outset. People from different parts of the world were able to look at the same project in real time, and when the model updated, everyone could comment and refine. It not only improved our decision making but simplified workflow and cut work time significantly.”

Stakeholders could be involved earlier enabling the best ideas to be incorporated at the right time: “Before Central you’d produce the model and give your outputs to the next team. They’d come back with changes – sometimes entirely different ideas – that would cause delays while those new ideas were taken on board.”

Clashing versions of the model were eradicated. A detailed audit trail of the data was established, making it easier to create final reports and aid peer review.

Paula Ogilvie, Galiano Gold’s senior resource specialist, believes the use of Central helped the modelling team reach a best-fit, refined, consensus model quickly: “The Central Platform allowed us to test a range of different structural and mineralisation scenarios, each of which had critical implications for the resource estimate, pit design and ultimately the economic feasibility for each deposit.” Being able to work on models remotely meant geologists did not have to be in Ghana, saving time and overcoming visa constraints.

Seequent’s Senior Project Geologist, Africa, Andre Hanekom said: “We areo now working with Galiano Gold on new ways to capitalise on their use of remote analysis, for example by using Central for borehole planning. This adds real value, enabling remote sites to provide much more efficient feedback and receive instant help in making time-critical decisions.”

Galiano Gold’s SVP technical services, Mike Begg, said that Seequent Central enables them to hold an entire project in a centralised space, but the benefits go beyond easier collaboration: “This is not just better security, data integrity and housekeeping, but it improves overall decision making and our confidence in it.”

Central has enabled Asanko Gold to achieve these goals – Version control; Auditable updates; Use of annotations; Locking of models during updating; Permission-based access; Collaboration between stakeholders globally; and centralised storage of projects.

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