Gold Fields highlights progress, areas of improvement in report to stakeholders

3rd May 2023 By: Tasneem Bulbulia - Senior Contributing Editor Online

Globally diversified gold producer Gold Fields interim CEO Martin Preece says the company still has significant work to do, particularly with regard to workplace safety.

"During 2022, we tragically suffered one fatal incident and five serious injuries. We also need to work on advancing diversity and inclusion, as the demographics of our workforce is not yet reflective of the countries in which we operate, particularly with regard to female representation.

"We also need to make inroads on ensuring women and members of other under-represented groups feel both physically and psychologically safe in our workplace,” he outlines in the company's 'Report to Stakeholders', published on May 3.

The report is the final in the suite of reports under the Integrated Annual Report that provides the company’s stakeholders with an overview of Gold Fields’ performance and strategy implementation during 2022.

It outlines Gold Fields’ relationship with key stakeholder groups, the contributions it makes and the impact its operations have on them.

They address the increased information expectations of the company’s stakeholders, including its shareholders, and reflect its commitment to transparent disclosure of its environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance, opportunities and risks.

The second pillar of Gold Fields' strategy is building on its commitment to ESG, requiring the company to strengthen relationships with its stakeholders, engaging them in a proactive and transparent manner and creating enduring value beyond mining.

Gold Fields’ ESG journey is also guided by its 2030 targets for its six sustainability priorities, namely safety, health, wellbeing and environment; diversity; stakeholder value creation; decarbonisation; tailings management and water stewardship.

Three of these targets are focused on its people and stakeholders, while the latter three deal with the potential environmental impacts of the company’s mines and projects.

Preece says Gold Fields will intensify and broaden its effort to pursue zero harm.

“While we have traditionally focused primarily on physical safety, and will continue to do so, we have expanded our approach to ensure employees and contractors are protected from all forms of harm – both physical and psychological,” he informs.

Preece says the company can also do more for its external stakeholders.

“As a responsible corporate citizen, we face many of the challenges that society does, and we need to collaborate with our stakeholders to address them: the changing climate impacts us all, including our host communities; the challenges of diversity and discrimination of minority groups is unfortunately endemic to many of the societies in which we operate; and our mines cannot operate sustainably if they are surrounded by disadvantaged communities,” he says.

Preece highlights that the company has strategies and initiatives in place to address these challenges.

“Our ESG targets relate to improving the conditions faced by our people, communities and the environment, and improving the value we create for our stakeholders, particularly our host communities,” he indicates. 

The report outlines Gold Fields’ 2022 ESG performance against its 2030 targets.

As alluded to, one fatality was recorded, against a target of 0.

However, Gold Fields achieved a fourth consecutive year of zero serious environmental incidents.

Against a 30% target, there was a 23% improvement in gender diversity, tracked via a number of criteria, headlined by overall gender representation, which improved from 22% in 2021.

Gold Fields created $913-million in value for its communities via host community employment; procurement; and sustainability, equity and diversity investment.

Gold Fields’ 2030 target to reduce absolute emissions from a 2016 baseline (Scope 1 and 2) is 50%. In 2022, this was 18%.

Further, 75% of total water used was recycled or reused in 2022, keeping the company on target to reach 80% in 2023.

Outlining its human rights progress in 2022, the report indicates that with regard to its employees, Gold Fields achieved 23% group-wide female representation (against a 2030 target of 30%).

It also continued to incorporate gender diversity as a metric in its long-term incentive programmes; conducted an independent review of gender and ethnicity in South Africa regarding pay parity, with findings being addressed; adopted living wage methodologies and publicly committed to paying a living wage; and started an independent, group-wide review to identify additional measures for safe, inclusive and respectful workplace environments.

In terms of the company’s business partners (contractors and suppliers), Gold Fields registered its second Modern Slavery Compliance Statement with the Australian federal government; continued to implement a new cloud-based supplier sustainability solution at its Australian operations to enhance its responsible sourcing programme; included business partners in its health and safety management systems; and continued to improve payment times for small and medium-enterprise host community suppliers.

For its host communities, Gold Fields dealt with 92 community grievances; resolved 84% of grievances within the agreed timeframes; undertook no resettlements at its operations; aligned its Australian sites’ plans with the region’s Aboriginal Engagement Strategy and Cultural Heritage Management Standard; and continued the roll-out of its Artisanal and Small-scale Mining Strategy at its Ghanaian operations.

With regard to its security providers, Gold Fields recorded no incidents of human rights abuse by private security or public law enforcement at its operations; ensured that training of security officers at South Deep meets the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Providers; and resolved 32 minor illegal mining incidents at its Ghana operations peacefully, among others, the report outlines.

In South Africa in 2022, national value distribution was $454-million; host community procurement was $53-million (20%); host community employment was 3 097 (63%); and women in leadership was 28%.

Also, in South Africa, Gold Fields has to comply with broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE) verification obligations from JSE Listings Requirements. An external BBBEE verification process was completed for the 2022 reporting year, and the company’s South Deep in the country improved its overall score from 77.68 (Level 5) in 2021 to 83.61 (Level 4) in 2022.

Moreover, ahead of submitting the 2023 – 2027 Social and Labour Plan (SLP) to the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, the South Deep mine consulted extensively with the Rand West local municipality, local ward councillors and impacted communities, the report indicates.

The consultations aimed to align South Deep’s local economic development spend – proposed at R42-million between 2023 and 2027 – with the municipality’s and communities’ local economic development priorities.

The municipality identified the following major socio-economic issues: inadequate employment opportunities, violence and crime, lack of reliable electricity supply, and inadequate housing.

As a result of the engagements, the SLP’s investments will focus on infrastructure support for schools and community amenities; skills development for women, youth and people living with disabilities; support for farmers; job opportunity creation; and the rollout of renewable energy facilities to communities.

Finally, in line with the group’s 2030 ESG commitments, South Deep puts an emphasis on managing and engaging on its tailings storage facilities and protecting biodiversity.

For the former, facilitated by the Federation for Sustainable Development, South Deep started hosting sessions in 2022 to ensure relevant stakeholders – including local emergency services, surrounding communities and landowners – are informed of and provide input on the emergency plans. These sessions will continue in 2023.

For the latter, during 2022, South Deep finalised its biodiversity management action plan, based on its biodiversity assessment, operational activities, closure plans and relevant regulations.

Also, 100 indigenous trees were planted during the year.