Gold Fields says carbon reduction spend paying dividends

Staff reporter

Gold major Gold Fields had a “defining year” in 2023 on its way to a 2050 net-zero carbon emissions target, CEO Mike Fraser said in the company’s latest climate change report.

Gold Fields, which sold US$4.5 billion of gold last year from its mines in Australia, Ghana, South Africa and Peru, said circa-US$150 million of investment in no and low carbon power at its sites in the past eight years or so delivered a 5% year-on-year reduction in scope 1 and 2 emissions in 2023. Total emissions were 4% below the company’s 2016 base line level, it said.

Gold Fields derived 17% of its electricity from renewable sources in 2023, versus 13% in 2022. It said its energy spend per ounce was down 1% yoy.

In February this year the company committed to spending a further US$195m on a solar and wind microgrid at the St Ives gold mine in Western Australia. Gold Fields’ three mature WA mines are expected to produce about one million ounces a year for the group over the next decade.

“Through this [St Ives] microgrid, 73% of the mine’s electricity will be sourced from renewables – reducing the group’s future scope 1 and 2 emissions by approximately 6% a year,” Fraser said.

Gold Fields, which earned cUS$900 million from its 2023 attributable production of about 2.3Moz, will get a decarbonisation boost in a few years when its 50%-owned, 100% hydroelectric-powered Windfall project in Quebec, Canada, starts producing about 300,000ozpa for at least a decade.

But the biggest gains are expected to come from mine and infrastructure technology shifts over the next 10-to-15 years.

“The diesel equipment used in our mines – particularly our vehicle fleet – contributes approximately one-third of the group’s scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions,” Gold Fields said.

It aims to cut diesel usage by about 20% by 2030 and eliminate the use of diesel vehicles before 2040.

“The trials indicated that current BEV prototypes are not as technologically advanced as required, resulting in lower availability levels, frequent battery changes or charges, and lower productivity compared with diesel vehicles”

As well as GHG emissions, Gold Fields wants to cut diesel particulate matter (DPM) and believes it can improve productivity and safety, and reduce costs, with battery-electric and/or hybrid vehicles.

Management says BEV trials have so far yielded “valuable insights”.

“During 2023, we completed trials of four different BEVs at St Ives – loaders, LHDs and tool carriers – which demonstrated limited decarbonisation benefits with variable production performances,” the company said in its report.

“Similarly, trials involving light vehicles and haul trucks at Granny Smith and Agnew helped us further develop our understanding of the operational capabilities and potential decarbonisation benefits of BEVs.

“The trials indicated that current BEV prototypes are not as technologically advanced as required, resulting in lower availability levels, frequent battery changes or charges, and lower productivity compared with diesel vehicles.

“Due to the novelty of BEV technology, we also face challenges relating to longer repair times and increased frequency of repairs.

“Trials of BEVs were not successful at deep underground levels at South Deep [in South Africa].

“We observed that underground BEVs could make a material difference when combined with potential energy savings derived from reduced ventilation.

“Gold Fields plans to continue deploying and trialling reduced and zero-emission vehicles, including diesel-electric LHDs, e-drive diesel-electric trucks, battery electric light vehicles, and further ancillary trials with OEMs and partners.

“We are partnering with Epiroc to develop the next generation of electric drive hybrid underground mine trucks, with a prototype scheduled for testing in 2024.

“Many of the BEVs required for mine production will only reach maturity stage by 2025 at the earliest and to achieve the benefits of these technologies, full digital infrastructure will have to be developed at our mines.

“Hybrid diesel-electric vehicles may serve as a short-term solution until suitable zero-emissions alternatives become more mature and cost-effective.

“Meanwhile, the group is developing cleaner, safer vehicle group standards and supporting roadmaps for each of our mines.”

Gold Fields aims to cut its total scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions from a 1.7 million tonne C02-equivalent base line in 2016 to 1.2Mt CO2e by 2030.

“About half of our planned reductions will derive from the use of renewables with electrification of diesel equipment, energy efficiency initiatives and transitionary abatement programs making up the remainder,” it said.

“Had we not developed our decarbonisation strategy – which is driven by a well-researched program – our scope 1 and 2 carbon footprint would amount to 2.4Mt CO2e by 2030.

“On an emissions intensity basis, we were already 14% lower at 656kg CO2e/oz by 2023 against our 2016 baseline, with a target of 423kg CO2e/oz by 2030.”

Gold Fields’ report said its group-wide energy spend in 2023 was US$476 million, or about 18% of  its group operating expenditure, versus $424 million in 2022 (21% of opex) and $341m in 2021 (14%).

Diesel consumption in Australia, its major operating base, went up from 64 million litres in 2021 to 66Ml in 2022 and 68Ml in 2023. Over the same period group diesel use dropped from 193Ml to 183Ml.


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