Shanta Gold is a UK-registered company whose mining operations are exclusively located in the African state of Tanzania. When it was founded back in 2000, it was a pure exploration company and its success in that field led to it moving into gold production in 2012, on the back of resources that it had discovered.
We recently caught up with the company CEO, Dr. Toby Bradbury, to discuss the company and its operations in Tanzania, why it considers itself a pioneer in holistic mining practices, and some of the company’s plans for the future. Dr. Bradbury has been CEO since 2015, and his background makes him quite an interesting candidate for a role in this industry – it turns out that he is a keen advocate of environmental principles, both at Shanta Gold and away from work.
“I personally designed and built an eco-house for my family back in 2002, just a few hundred kilometres north of Sydney in Australia. That house was completely self-sufficient in terms of water, power and waste. We put our service power back into the grid and the house made a profit and paid for all of our rates and other services. That gives you a sense of where I’m coming from.” It’s a philosophy that Bradbury is keen to bring to Shanta Gold – as much as responsibilities to shareholders will allow it.
Shanta gold produced 88,000 ounces of gold in 2016, 82,000 in 2015 and 84,000 in 2014. It operates an open pit mine,, but is currently transitioning into an underground mine, which will demand progressively more power, the further the company reaches underground. As Dr. Bradbury says: “In 2015, when we made the decision to go underground, we knew we were going to have to upgrade the power demand. We made the decision to change over to heavy fuel oil (HFO) that year.”
However, conscious of using extra energy and the environmental responsibility of the firm, they turned to a highly unusual – if inspired – choice of energy for a mine: Solar power. “In parallel with all this, we ran a pilot project for a solar plant of 63kw – pretty significant. It was working very successfully and we were paying per unit of electricity consumed. That helped us reduce the fuel consumption that we would otherwise have to provide using HFO.”
“With this new solar power plant coming in, our new partners Redavia gave us a proposal. They helped us design the optimum style of a plant which would be worth putting in from a solar perspective. We can’t completely rely on solar, because even in daytime, the clouds come over, and this kind of operation has to have a stable supply of energy. That’s how we’ve come up with a 700kw facility, and in the 2nd quarter of this year, we hope to have a solar source of energy coming on stream as well.”
In the short-term, the lack of suitable alternatives in Tanzania has meant that Shanta Gold has source its partners entirely outside the country. As well as the aforementioned Redavia Solar, whose role in the solar plant has been fundamental, it also works with Swedish mining giants Sandvik, Healthy Mining, an international firm which ensures best practice in terms of health and safety and mines across the globe, and the Digim Group, a key partner in Tanzania.
Sustainable investment in Tanzania
The solar plant employed by Shanta Gold will form a central part of the company’s strategy over the coming years. As Dr. Bradbury explains: “For me, it’s not just sustainable business, it’s also very good business. We have demonstrated that we can do this and improve our bottom line at the same time. These solar products are coming down in price all the time. The competition is driving down price and it’s getting easier and easier to support solar operations.”
In a country where most rural residents don’t have access to the regular electricity grid, it has also provided a platform for Redavia, Shanta Gold’s partner on the project, to expand into the country and begin finding solutions to the current electricity shortages. The company is also continuing to look for new opportunities in Tanzania, where it can make an impact. “We’ll certainly apply the same lessons that we learned with the solar plant at new operations.”
Bradbury says: “Our relationship with communities where we are located is our number one imperative. Unfortunately, however, a lot of what we need doesn’t exist in Tanzania, not even in the capital city. A lot of the stuff is imported: capital equipment, fuel, all the parts and spares for the machines that we use. So when it comes down to local procurement, by far the biggest contribution we can make is to employ local people and develop their skills. Including all of our subcontractors, we have 1,100 people and about 96% of that is Tanzanian.”
‘The second most important industry’
Dr. Bradbury has an infectious way of speaking about mining and it’s hard not to be enthused about having such a proponent of sustainability working in the industry. He tells us: “Mining is the second most important industry to man after agriculture. Once we’ve got ourselves fed, we have to find some shelter and keep a roof over our heads. So much of our everyday lives, we take for granted, but it all comes from mining. If you go back in time, mining has defined ages in our history – the stone age, the bronze age and the iron age.”
Shanta Gold’s solar power project continues to receive praise all over the globe and hopefully opens the door not just to further solar power projects but maybe even a new way of looking at providing power more sustainably to mining projects. In the meantime, Tanzania, a country whose FDI hasn’t always been beneficial, has truly struck gold. Now all the mining industry needs is more CEOs with the same genuine passion for sustainability that Dr. Toby Bradbury of Shanta Gold has.
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