JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – South Deep gold mine in Gauteng, where a 40 MW solar power project was initially announced, will now have a 50 MW solar plant as a result of the procurement of more efficient solar panels.
Mining Weekly can report that the construction of the R715-million solar power plant at South Deep will provide the mine with about a quarter of its power requirements and save it over R120-million a year in electricity costs.
“We’ve been able to increase the 40 MW and today we announce that that will actually be a 50 MW solar plant that’s under construction as we speak. The first panels will arrive in the first or second week of January,” Gold Fields CEO Chris Griffith said at the company’s presentation of 2030 targets for its most material environmental, social and governance (ESG) priorities.
A number of Gold Fields mines already have renewables in wind, solar and storage and an equivalent-sized wind plant at South Deep is also planned.
The targets include a commitment to reduce its Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by 30% on a net basis and by 50% on an absolute basis by 2030. As a signatory to the Paris Agreement on climate change, Gold Fields is committed to net-zero carbon by 2050.
The company expects to spend $1.2-billion in the next ten years on going green.
The Johannesburg- and New York-listed company has also set new goals for its water and environmental stewardship, the management of its tailings facilities and to creating value for its stakeholders, particularly host communities. For its employees, Gold Fields is seeking to further improve safety, health and wellbeing, and to achieve greater inclusion and diversity, by targeting a 30% female workforce by 2030.
“Gold Fields has already made significant progress in many ESG priority areas, and we now have to build on this to meet our commitments to stakeholders and the environment,’’ said Griffith.
Gold Fields has, therefore, embedded ESG as one of the three pillars in its strategy. The three pillars are:
• maximise potential from current assets through people and innovation
• build on commitment to ESG; and
• grow the value and quality of its portfolio of assets
Furthermore, Gold Fields has developed new purpose and vision statements that reflect the strengthened commitment to ESG. The new vision, which replaces the previous commitment to leadership in sustainable gold mining, is to be the preferred gold mining company delivering sustainable, superior value.
The company’s purpose statement is to create enduring value beyond mining.
Gold Fields’ new ESG Charter is built on the substantive work that the company has carried out since 2016, including investing $400-million in energy projects, largely funded through power purchase agreements (PPAs), already ensuring that two of Gold Fields’ Australian mines are partially powered by renewable energy.
The percentage of women in the workforce has been increased from 15% in 2016 to 21% at present.
It is also ensuring that 30% of the value Gold Fields creates remains with its communities through a focus on host community employment and procurement.
It intends curtailing serious environmental incidents, recycling over 70% of the water its operations use in their processes and limiting freshwater usage by its mines.
Gold Fields has committed itself to reporting progress against these targets as part of its annual results reporting each year.
“In finalising these targets we ensured that they were informed by detailed programmes, strategies and budgets. These targets are ambitious, but we realise that without this commitment to creating enduring value beyond mining and positively impacting our local stakeholders we cannot guarantee the long-term sustainability of our assets where we operate,” said Griffith.
The investment in decarbonising Gold Fields will total about $1.2-billion until 2030, of which about a quarter will be financed by the company, with the remainder being funded through PPAs. All projects are expected to be net-present-value positive.
The capital investment required to ensure even safer tailings storage facilities (TSFs) at operations and reduce the number of upstream facilities to three is estimated at $325-million. A further $25-million is required to achieve compliance of TSFs with the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management, or GISTM.
SHORT-TAILED CHINCHILLAS IN CHILE
Meanwhile, Chile’s Environmental Regulator (SMA) has begun sanction proceedings against Gold Fields’ Salares Norte gold project owing to alleged infringements in the process of relocating short-tailed chinchillas residing in the project area.
The sanction proceedings will not impact the commissioning of the Salares Norte mine in the Atacama region in northern Chile, which is scheduled to be completed in the first quarter of 2023, as the mine and processing plant construction is not taking place in an area of known Chinchilla habitation.
SMA halted the rescue and relocation programme carried out by Salares Norte following the death of two of four chinchillas relocated in October 2020, Gold Fields has informed Mining Weekly in a media release.
Based on the scenario and risk assessment performed, Gold Fields expressed the belief that Salares Norte had, at all times, sought to act responsibly and in line with the process outlined in the project’s Environmental Qualification Resolution (RCA).
Even though Salares Norte considered that it could possibly take some of the charges presented by the SMA on review, Gold Fields stated that it had accepted them and would now submit a new compliance programme to the SMA for its approval.
The programme would, it said, propose a range of actions to strengthen the process of capturing and relocating the chinchillas in line with RCA requirements. These, it believed, would minimise the risk to the chinchillas while at the same time ensuring the long-term continuity of the project.
“We will also continue to contribute to strengthening the research and enhance the scientific knowledge base about the Chinchilla as part of our long-term commitment to the conservation of the species and the overall environmental wellbeing of the area,” Gold Fields stated.