While Harmony was accomplishing this, it also acquired and created the world’s largest gold resources of a potential 528,6-million ounces.
To quote this year’s annual report: “Our R3,4-billion expansion programme to access mineable reserves of 17,9-million ounces will yield an additional 1,5-million ounces of gold per annum.
“That’s equivalent to expenditure (including capex, exploration and acquistion charges) of US$29/oz.” Harmony’s success has come through the process described by the cliched term, ‘lean and mean’.
However, Harmony is quick to point out that ‘lean and mean’ in no way translates into ‘cheap and nasty’.
It is rather a measured approach to mining as a business, which has translated into old mines having greatly extended lives, and new mines being brought into profitable operation.
And while the company has restructured recently, it is still one of South Africa’s major employers with a workforce of 46 000 people.
Mining Weekly was invited by Harmony to see three of its growth projects firsthand in the company of operations director Bob Atkinson.
The first call was on the Doornkop project, where project manager Peter O’Toole is completing the infrastructure which Harmony acquired from JCI.
This project had been stopped under its previous owners, however, Harmony, with its innovative business approach, is completing a mine that will be a stable and safe employer of 2 800 people.
While the life of mine is projected to sustain until 2018, the mine possesses a number of areas of ground which could see this mine continuing well beyond this date.
Harmony estimates that, when the mine reaches peak production in November 2008, the mine will produce gold at a cost of R64 063/kg.
The second call was Harmony’s Elandsrand operation near Carletonville, where mine manager Leon le Roux outlined how the mine would phase out its depleting upper levels, and bring in the lower levels, creating, in effect, a new world-class long-life mine.
The new Elandsrand is deep and, with this depth, hot.
However, Le Roux and his team believe that, in spite of this, a mine environment does not have to test it workers to the limit.
When challenged by Mining Weekly that this stope was ‘dressed up’ for tourists only, mining manager for Elandsrand, Beyers Nel, was emphatic that “all the new mine stopes were either as good as or nearly as good as, the stope we were in”.
While Elandsrand does not spend on mown lawns and elaborate security on surface, the cash has been laid out in the haulages in the form of rail and other support infrastructure that will serve the mine for the next two decades.
The third mine was the Phakisa operation near Odendaalsrus.
Here, the mine manager showed Mining Weekly what a combination of the principles of the ‘Harmony Way’ with a fair dash of innovation will do.
While the offices on surface are housed in prefabricated buildings, real money is being spent underground on top-class infrastructure.
The Rail-Veyor system for transporting ore is a world first, and demonstrates the type of creative thinking that the ‘Harmony Way’ encourages.
Once again, this mine will provide work for 2 500 people over a life of mine of 17 years.