Despite challenges experienced during 2021, gold miner Gold Fields had a solid operational performance, achieving both production and cost guidance for the year.
“Last year, we undertook a detailed review of the company’s strategy and determined that this was the time to build on a previously well executed strategy. We have a solid production profile above two-million ounces a year for the next decade. However, during that time we anticipate that our yearly production will grow to 2.7-million ounces by 2024 before declining as some of our mines come to the end of their lives. We believe that we must now start looking at ways of preserving the value we have created beyond 2024,” Gold Fields CEO Chris Griffith explained during the results presentation in February.
Gold Fields’ revised strategy comprises three pillars. These are maximising potential from current assets through people and innovation; building on the company’s leading commitment to environmental, social and governance (ESG); and growing the value and quality of its portfolio of assets.
Gold Fields ended 2021 on a high with the release of its 2030 targets for Gold Fields’ most material ESG priorities. At the same time, the miner also launched its new purpose and vision statements, which will guide Gold Fields into the future.
As reported by Mining Weekly Online, South Deep was the best performing mine of 2021 for Gold Fields, with production exceeding the original guidance provided in February 2021.
Gold production increased by 29% to 9 102 kg, or 293 000 oz. Total all-in cost (AIC) decreased by 1% to $1 379/oz, with the increased capital and cost inflation fully offset by the increased gold sales. AIC in dollar terms increased by 9% as a result of the strengthening of the rand.
South Deep generated net cash of R1.4-billion in 2021, 157% higher than the R558-million generated in 2020.
In December, the company announced that it had maintained its leadership in water stewardship as adjudicated by non-governmental organisation the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP).
The CDP again placed Gold Fields on its ‘A-List’ for tackling water security, one of 118 high-performing companies out of almost 3 400 that made 2021’s water security top level. This recognises Gold Fields’ demonstrable actions to protect water resources as well as transparent reporting on its water performance.
Gold Fields was ranked A-, a step below the highest possible A level it had achieved in 2020. In the preceding years, Gold Fields has been predominantly ranked in the B category. The average 2021 score among the 169 mining and metals companies surveyed by the CDP was a B- and only 12 were ranked in the leadership category.
“Water is clearly a significant input for our operations. But it also has a marked impact on the environment around us and is a resource that we share with communities adjacent to some of our mines. As such, it is critical that we manage this resource responsibly and our CDP ranking indicates that we are on the right track,” Griffith commented at the time.
Gold Fields had listed water stewardship as one of its six key ESG priorities and it announced two water management performance targets for 2030.
These two targets are ensuring that 80% of water used by Gold Fields’ operations is recycled or reused, from the current level of 73%, and reducing freshwater use by 45% from its 2018 base. It had achieved a 35% reduction from that 2018 base by 2020.
“We will require a range of new initiatives and projects, including extensive [use] of new technologies, to continue reducing the freshwater intensity of our operations and increase the level of water recycled or reused. Responsible stewardship of our water resources will further strengthen our social licence to operate with the communities in the catchment areas,” Griffith said.
Gold Fields was also ranked seventh out of 327 JSE-listed companies and 27 State-owned enterprises in the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s yearly Biodiversity Disclosure Project. Gold Fields’ score improved by 11% over the 2019 evaluation.
Further to the company’s commitment to ESG priorities and maintaining its social licence to operate, its South Deep mine has built and equipped a science laboratory at the TM Letlhake Secondary School at Simunye, in Westonaria.
Westonaria, on the West Rand, is the municipality in which South Deep is located. TM Letlhake is the only secondary school in the area and is categorised as a Quintile 3 no-fee school.
The school was not equipped with a functional science laboratory for learners to undertake practical tasks, assessments and experiments in the natural sciences.
In December, South Deep handed over a fully equipped laboratory with capacity for 50 learners to the Gauteng Department of Education and the school’s governing board.
The science laboratory created 11 direct job opportunities during construction phase.
At the handover, South Deep VP Benford Mokoatle stated: “Despite the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, we remain committed to contributing to the welfare of our communities.
“Ensuring that the future generation has a solid foundation in the natural sciences is critical to the development of our country and our business. We are directly investing in the field of science and engineering and are developing technical skills that will not only benefit South Deep but the wider economy as well.”
The TM Letlhake Secondary School project is one of a number of local economic development projects contained in South Deep’s social and labour plan.