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ESG intrinsic to long-term mining success, Gold Fields AGM hears

Solar power panels at South Deep gold mine.

Gold Fields chairperson Yunus Suleman.

Gold Fields social, ethics and transformation chairperson Jacqueline McGill.

Solar power at South Deep.

Solar power at South Deep.

31st May 2024

By: Martin Creamer

Creamer Media Editor

     

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JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Managing environmental, social and governance (ESG) aspects is intrinsic to the long-term success of mining, Gold Fields chairperson Yunus Suleman highlighted at this week’s AGM of the Johannesburg- and New York-listed gold mining company.

“We have a critical role to play in addressing some of these key challenges facing society at large. The commitment to reducing our carbon emissions by investing in renewables projects is a case in point.

“The projects can be capital intensive, but the board reviews their financial parameters, and we believe that these projects deliver both bottom-line improvements as well as broader strategic and operational benefits – improving our cost effectiveness, ensuring energy reliability, mitigating long-term security of supply risk and reducing our impact on the environment.

“Thanks to our new solar plants at South Deep and Gruyere, we derived 17% of our electricity from renewable sources in 2023,” Suleman stated in a release to Mining Weekly.

South Deep’s 50 MW solar plant, 50 km south-west of Johannesburg, may soon be augmented by wind power, and the Gruyere joint venture (JV) gold mine is located 1 200 km north-east of Perth.

“We expect that our electricity from renewable sources will continue to improve. In February 2024, the board approved the construction of a $195-million renewable power project at St Ives, which is set to generate up to 73% of the mine’s electricity requirements and will support the long-term growth and sustainability of this cornerstone asset. Construction of the plant has commenced,” he said. St Ives gold mine is located 630 km east of Perth.

HOST COMMUNITY VALUE CREATION

Suleman regards investment in near-mine communities as being critical to ensuring a social licence to operate and value creation for host communities last year topped the $1-billion mark, driven by community employment, procurement, and social investments.

"Mines cannot be an island in a sea of unemployment and poverty. This is why we seek to create enduring value for our host communities.

“We believe that these projects deliver both bottom-line improvements as well as broader strategic and operational benefits.

“Aside from the wider societal value that these investments and initiatives provide, they also have a direct and positive impact on the performance of our mines,” Suleman added.

Gold Fields social, ethics and transformation chairperson Jacqueline McGill reported that since 2016, Gold Fields has created more than $6.3-billion in value for the estimated 750 000 people that make up the group's host community complement.

In addition, host governments last year received $540-million in taxes, royalties and dividends, with 95% of procurement spend remaining in-country.

Transparent ongoing dialogue with government enables the company to inform policy development and address areas of disagreement, McGill pointed out.

SILENCE OBSERVED TO REMEMBER FATALITIES

The AGM observed a moment’s silence to remember five fatalities. Last year, two fatalities took place at the Tarkwa gold mine in Ghana, where a contract worker for the Gold Fields Ghana Foundation was also fatally injured at one of its projects, and two fatalities have already occurred in the first four months of this year, one at South Deep in January and the other at St Ives in April.

There have also been two serious injuries in the year to date, in addition to last year’s six, and nearly complete is an independent review of safety processes, standards and systems.

“We’ll collaborate with management to assess the findings of this review and implement the recommendations as soon as possible,” Suleman promised.

Commitment to safety and wellbeing extends to psychological safety and mental wellbeing, issues brought into focus last year by the independent Elizabeth Broderick & Co workplace review, which provided insight into the experiences of employees across the business.

Since the release of the report, management has introduced new policies and practices, which are monitored every quarter.

The Gold Fields Way, launched last year, is targeting a workplace characterised by care, respect and inclusivity.

“Management is focused on translating this work into concrete actions that foster a positive workplace culture felt by all our people and stakeholders,” said McGill.

“We know that our mining activities have the potential to impact our people and members of our host communities and we therefore strive to understand, mitigate and manage this risk.

“During 2023, the focus of our human rights work was the evaluation and implementation of the key findings of the respectful workplace survey, upholding the rights of Indigenous Peoples at our Australian and Chilean operations, and oversight of management’s approach to managing the risks presented by illegal, artisanal, and small-scale mining,” McGill added.

EXPLORATION PARTNERSHIPS

In addition to near-mine and district exploration, Gold Fields will pursue greenfield exploration, development projects, bolt-on acquisitions, as well as strategic JV partnerships, such as those entered into with Osisko Mining at Windfall in Quebec, Canada, and with AngloGold Ashanti at Tarkwa/Iduapriem.

South Africa, Ghana, Australia, Chile and Peru are the countries providing Gold Fields with gold-equivalent production of 2.3-million ounces a year, as well as proved and probable gold mineral reserves of 46.1-million ounces.

As three of the group’s nine operating mines were severely impacted by extreme first-quarter weather events, 2024 production volumes of the 23 000-plus employee and contractor company are expected to be second-half weighted.

Interestingly, Gold Fields’ research on chinchillas over the past decade has contributed to the conservation and care of these mountain rodents.

The research is informing their current capture and relocation at the new ramping-up Salares Norte gold mine in Chile, which produced its first gold in March.

Salares Norte is located 4 500 m above sea level in one of the world’s driest deserts and chinchilla protection is taking place in collaboration with the regulator and independent environmental experts.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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