JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – The cooperation between the government and mines at regional level is very good, but where it falls down is at national level, Gold Fields CEO Nick Holland said on Thursday.
Responding to Mining Weekly during a media roundtable at the JSE, Holland said that at the national level, there was unfortunately still the mining charter and ownership dispute. (Also watch attached Creamer Media video.)
“The bottom line is it’s just keeping investors away,” said Holland, after presenting a superb set of financial results that saw the company’s mines in the Americas, Australia and West Africa outperforming its only South African mine in both value and volume.
“We go on an international road show and we get asked these questions and we are South African. We want to defend the country, but it’s hard to do that when we’ve got these kind of things hanging over us.
“You want stable and consistent laws because we have to make long-term decisions. I think we need to find an urgent solution because the bottom line is that the money just won’t be spent.
“So, that’s the choice we have as a country,” he said.
The problems of State electricity utility Eskom had been allowed to deteriorate for far too long.
“We’ve been trying to get a renewable energy project approved for 18 months and there is a dire need to actually help the country. We’ll go and spend the money. Just give us the approval. There are 1 500 MW lined up and waiting, so why do we end up in this situation. That’s what we’re puzzled about. We’re scoring too many own goals here.
“We’ll do whatever we can to help as industry, but I think we need to make decisions and we need to get consistency in the rules.
“We don’t want to see another mining charter. Let’s stick to what we’ve got. Rules in other countries don’t change like this so often, so why do we need to keep changing the rules,” he added.
RED CARPET NOT RED TAPE
Responding to Mining Weekly on which government of the five countries in which Gold Fields operates provides the positive benchmark, he replied: “In Australia, the authorities are very helpful.”
He has met the state minister, the state premier a number of times.
“I think they’re very helpful. They want you to make investments. They want to facilitate the process, within reason. They’re not just going to sign for nothing. They are very rigorous on safety. If you have fatalities in Australia, they’ll shut you down, make no mistake. If you have serious injuries, they could shut you down.
“They’ll be tough on you there, but they also want to facilitate investment and they want to make sure they can make it competitive for you. They were thinking about putting up royalties but they didn’t put them up,” he said.
Holland was part of the group that made the representations to the state in Perth and they decided against increasing royalties.
“I’ve been saying for five years that, in South Africa, government, industry and organised labour need to get together and work for the common good and unfortunately that’s not happening,” he said.
RENEWABLE ENERGY QUICK IN AUSTRALIA
The Australians were not only quick to grant permission for Gold Fields to generate renewable energy but they even gave the company money towards it.
“They gave us funding of about $15-million. It has to be paid back, but over a long lead time. That helped the project. There is an abatement system. If you come in under your carbon targets, you get credits. You can actually trade those credits against other mines.
The company has already commissioned its 23 MW renewables project at Agnew, in the middle of the outback, 1 100 km from Perth, but has still not received the go-ahead to put up a 40 MW solar plant at the large mechanised South Deep mine in Gauteng.
“If ever there was a time to just tear down all of these barriers, it’s now. If we’re having difficulties with power, what about these big platinum companies with big smelters that chew up a lot of power?
“Let’s fix it. We all want this country to do better, and we can do better. We’ve just got to do the right things,” Holland told Mining Weekly at the roundtable event.