Sunday Times

‘Shocked’ Gold Fields acts on bullying


● Gold producer Gold Fields, which reported more than $1bn (R19bn) in free cash flow from operations in the financial year to endDecembe­r, is implementi­ng the recommenda­tions of a consultanc­y firm that found widespread workplace bullying at the company last year.

In its independen­t review into workplace culture at Gold Fields operations around the world, Elizabeth Broderick & Co found that half of the participan­ts at the company were bullied, 23% of women and 7% of men had been sexually harassed, and 15% had experience­d racism.

The research followed a similar exercise at Rio Tinto in Western Australia a year earlier, which found systemic bullying and sexism at the company’s operations. Half of the workforce reported being bullied.

Delivering Gold Fields’ financial results, CEO Mike Fraser said it was a shock when the report was presented.

“Clearly when the findings were released it was deeply disappoint­ing that people were experienci­ng that kind of harassment and behaviour in the workplace.”

Change starts with leadership and the mining industry has its work cut out to address workplace behaviour, he said.

“Tragically this is not a Gold Fields problem, it is a problem in our industry, and it is something that we have to stamp out if we truly want to be respected as an industry.”

Gold Fields, one of the best-performing shares on the JSE last year, rode the wave of a strong bullion price. It received prices of $1,942/oz in 2023, up from $1,785/oz a year earlier.

Financial highlights included $900m normalised earnings, up from $860m a year earlier. The group has slightly more than $1bn in free operating cash, up from $855m in 2022. It declared a total dividend of R7.45 a share for 2023, unchanged from 2022.

Production output from operations, excluding Asanko, was 2.244-million ounces (MOZ), representi­ng 99.7% of the guided range of between 2.25MOZ and 2.3MOZ, while sustaining costs were at $1,295, beating the guided range of between $1,300/oz and $1,340/oz as weaker exchange rates provided some reprieve.

The group expects output to increase 20% over the next two years as its Salares Norte operation in Chile ramps up and South Deep, its sole South African mine, builds up to 380,000oz a year by 2026.

Fraser said the focus at South Deep was on ramping up safely and sustainabl­y. “We have had many challenges with S outh Deep over the past years and we want to make sure we do this safely and sustainabl­y. It is the biggest issue.”

He said problems at South Deep were compounded by a shortage of key skills.

“We have seen a few undergroun­d projects emerging in South Africa, and one of the key core skills has been around longhaul stopes and drill operators. We have had periods of tension about trying to retain and attract those skills. That has put us at risk in terms of our developmen­t and production. That hurt us.”

The skills shortage extended to Western Australia.

“It is a super hot market for labour at the moment. Unemployme­nt is trending below 4% and attracting people is not that easy. Everyone in Western Australia works on flytype work arrangemen­ts, and rotational work arrangemen­ts. Everyone leaves from the same airport and it is easy to change your place of work. It is competitiv­e, but I think we are getting over that.”

Fraser, who began his tenure this year, took over from interim CEO Martin Preece, whose predecesso­r Chris Griffith quit after the company’s failed bid to acquire Canadian precious metals miner Yamana Gold in 2022.

 ?? Picture: Philip Mostert ?? Gold Fields’ South Deep mine. The company has reported good results thanks to a strong price for the precious metal.
Picture: Philip Mostert Gold Fields’ South Deep mine. The company has reported good results thanks to a strong price for the precious metal.

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