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Aureus Mining Inc. has survived the Ebola crisis to produce its first gold in Liberia, the West African country that had no gold mine until the Canadian company arrived.
Aureus, which trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange and on London’s AIM market, poured the first gold from its New Liberty open pit mine in Liberia’s northwest Friday evening. The $172-million (U.S.) mining project will be in full production in the autumn, when it will become one of the desperately poor country’s largest private employers.
David Reading, 59, the company’s Canadian-trained, British chief executive officer, said he was worried at one point that the Ebola crisis would doom the company’s Liberia plans. Liberia was one of the countries hit hardest by Ebola last year, with 10,666 reported cases and 4,806 deaths by the end of February, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
“You go through sleepless nights as management,” Mr. Reading said. “If we stop everything, the company would go bankrupt. But if we keep going and we lose someone, we’d never forgive ourselves.”
Aureus kept going, but put in place a formidable set of Ebola screening procedures. The mine site was cordoned off. Anyone entering the site was stopped at a checkpoint, where their temperature was taken. “We had a roll call every few hours and everyone’s temperature was taken again,” Mr. Reading said.
“We had health professionals on site, including two doctors. We also had a special ambulance and an isolation chamber.”
In the end, none of the mine’s 1,000 workers – direct employees and contractors – contracted Ebola. The outbreak, however, delayed the project by at least two months and cost the company $18-million in direct costs, such as the screening procedures, and indirect costs, mostly forgone revenue.
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