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South Deep gold output well down as Gold Fields implements recovery plan

Gold Fields CEO Mike Fraser

Gold Fields CEO Mike Fraser

7th May 2024

By: Martin Creamer

Creamer Media Editor

     

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JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – With first-quarter gold production down 34% at South Deep gold mine, Gold Fields is focusing on setting up the well-endowed long-life Gauteng operation for longevity, quality ounces and sustainable production increases.

The challenging quarter of the bulk mechanised mine near Westonaria, west of Johannesburg, which has been built to extract one of the world’s largest gold deposits, is focusing the resolve of the Johannesburg- and New York-listed Gold Fields to increase backfill tipping points, increase long-hole stope drilling and improve ventilation, road conditions and service utilities underground.

In the three months to March 31, Gold Fields’ overall attributable production from all of its mines was 464 000 oz at an all-in sustaining cost (AISC) of $1 738/oz and an all-in cost of $2 115/oz, of which South Deep contributed only 56 300 oz.

Impacting South Deep’s operational momentum was the fatal injury to a trackless engineering supervisor in an incident involving trackless mining equipment underground.

On the 23 000-employee company’s commitment to ensure safety, new Gold Fields CEO Mike Fraser stated in a release to Mining Weekly: “We have fallen far short of our commitment.”

A second fatal incident occurred at Gold Fields’ St Ives mine in Australia when the employee of a contractor was fatally injured in a mobile equipment-related incident at a construction site on the mine.

An independent review of the group's safety processes, systems and practices is being conducted by DSS+, formerly Du Pont.

Salares Norte gold project in Chile, which Gold Fields has taken from discovery to production in 13 years, is progressing slower than anticipated with 2024 gold equivalent production now expected to be between 220 000 oz and 240 000 oz.

Salares Norte has a payback period of less than three years at current gold prices and extensive exploration drilling is under way to identify further opportunities to extend the Salares Norte life-of-mine.

Meanwhile, in Ghana, a joint venture (JV) proposal between Gold Fields’ Tarkwa mine and AngloGold Ashanti's neighbouring Iduapriem mine has the potential to create Africa's largest gold mine.

In addition to leveraging operating efficiencies to unlock higher grades and enabling an extension of life to at least 18 years, the JV, which has still to be approved, creates compelling shared value for all stakeholders.

In Canada, the Windfall project in Quebec, which is a 50:50 JV with Canada's Osisko Mining, is expected to decide on mine construction in late 2024 or early 2025.

Gold Fields reports that its investments in renewable electricity projects are paying dividends in the form of greater energy supply security, reduced energy costs and lower carbon emissions.

Construction of the renewable power project at St Ives at a cost of $195-million is under way to become operational towards the end of 2025.

Female representation is at 25% and $3.8-billion worth of value has gone to economies in West Africa, South America, Australia and South Africa. Of this, 33% of the total was shared with host communities through employment and procurement.

The process to transition the operating model from a three-layered organisation – group, region and asset – to a two-layer global functional guidance model of group and assets is expected to provide stronger functional leadership, guidance and support to the assets.

With the regional layer removed, the group's Australian and African operations will report into Martin Preece, who has been appointed as COO.

Stuart Mathews, who was previously executive VP Australia, has retired from Gold Fields, and Joshua Mortoti, who was previously executive VP: Ghana, has left the company.

Both executive VP roles will not be replaced as the company transitions to the new operating model.

The Cerro Corona and Salares Norte mines in South America will continue to report to the executive VP South America.

The search for a new CFO is in the final stages with VP corporate finance Alex Dall acting as CFO in the meantime.

Mariette Steyn has been appointed to replace retiring Naseem Chohan as executiveVP sustainable development from June 1.

This year’s group attributable gold equivalent production is expected to be between 2.33-million ounces and 2.43-million ounces, with gold production weighted to the second half of 2024.

Group AISC is expected to be between $1 410/oz and $1 460/oz while and all-in cost is guided at between $1 600/oz and $1,650/oz for the year.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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