By Aaron Templer
We were waiting in a Newmont conference room on site at the Ahafo mine. On the agenda: a briefing from Newmont’s General Manager in Ahafo Jay Bastian. He’s going to try and tell us what it’s like to run a place like this. The pressure for profitable production amid the wildly unpredictability that is Africa.
Jay’s running late, so we wait. And I think of Amanda Pollock. She’s with the other group of students who just left Ahafo and heading to Akyem—where our group just was.
Amanda’s rare. She’s one of the strategic brains behind the class but also the person who makes it go. Relationship purveyor. Hotel booker. Curriculum advisor. Fixer.
She’s also well travelled in Africa. She studied it in grad school and married a South African. She’s been all over the continent.
This is my first trip to Africa, but I’ve been to other international locales that are similarly challenging to get around and do things. Its a shared perspective that I think is bringing Amanda and I closer on this trip. Places like Ghana can seem capricious. Seemingly random problems with seemingly easy solutions that you are totally unqualified to help solve, even if you’re convinced you are. Patience is vital. Adaptability primal.
Jay arrives. It seems that there was a multi vehicle auto accident involving a large goods carrier truck. It happened outside of the fence line, but right in front of the expat village. There might have been a death. Certainly there are serious injuries. Newmont isn’t obligated to help (although their health care and emergency response infrastructure has significantly more resources that the surrounding municipalities). But there were Newmont employees involved. So Randy dispatched some vehicles.
As is the custom in places like Ghana, where police are rare and ineffective and laws are vague points of reference, some of the Ghanaians were taking matters into their own hands. Exacting a bit of justice. The at-fault driver had abandoned his car and fled into the woods. It was a mob scene, and escalating.
Jay tells us about this quickly as if to get it out of the way. I don’t think he noticed the looks on our faces, the degree to which our jaws had dropped.
“Anyway, I think we have the Newmont folks in a safe place. Sorry I’m late. I thought I’d begin the presentation with some photos of the mine site. Is that okay?”
I instinctively look for Amanda. That’s not okay, Jay. But that’s Africa, baby.