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Gold miner Gold Fields derived 5% of its group electricity from renewable sources in 2020. It plans to further ramp this up in the coming years, its 2020 Climate Change Report shows.
At its Agnew operation, in Australia, the miner derived 57% of its electricity from renewable sources, mostly comprising wind turbines and supported by a solar plant and low-carbon gas; while 10% of its Australian Granny Smith operation’s electricity demands were met by renewable sources.
Also in 2020 and closer to home, Gold Fields received its generating licence from the National Energy Regulator of South Africa for a 40 MW solar photovoltaic plant at the South Deep mine, near Carletonville. This plant, once fully operational, will provide as much as 20% of South Deep’s electricity requirement.
The miner also rolled out trials of what it says are "cleaner, safe" diesel-gas hybrid vehicles at its Tarkwa operation, in Ghana.
Gold Fields nonexecutive director Terence Goodlace says the company needed "no prodding" and has chosen the "right path", as one of the significant gold producers in the industry, in mitigating its impact on the changing climate.
He adds that Gold Fields’ board first approved the company’s Climate Change Policy Statement in 2017, updating it in 2020. This policy commits Gold Fields to identify and assess climate-related risks and opportunities, reporting and disclosing its performance through various reporting frameworks, raising the share of renewable energy, and energy and water efficiency initiatives.
Since then, Goodlace says, Gold Fields’ management has reviewed and updated a number of policy statements and guidelines, reflecting the company’s environmental priorities. "We also continue to align our energy and carbon management strategy, including our climate change reporting, to the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure."
Gold Fields has plans to align its mines with International Standards Organisation (ISO) 50001 standard certified by 2023, while all mines are currently certified to ISO 14001.
Meanwhile, in 2020, the group’s diesel consumption was reduced by 3%, to 6 788 terajoules while it also managed to reduce bought electricity by 4%, with 1.2 TWh bought.
In terms of group emissions, Gold Fields achieved 110% of its target, cutting 230 000 t of carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2e) emissions in 2020, while also achieving 126% of its target in energy savings, with 1 085 terajoules saved.
New Gold Fields CEO Chris Griffith says that, although "a long journey lies ahead", over the past five years the company has laid the foundations on which it can build a "firm path to net zero carbon, much earlier than the 2050 date that our Paris Agreement commitment compels us to".
He adds that while Gold Fields’ gold mining carbon emission intensity is among the lowest in the mining industry, it does not absolve the company of the responsibility to mitigate its impact on the climate.
"We have also advanced plans to introduce renewables at Gruyere, in Australia, and Salares Norte, in Chile, when it commences operating in 2023, and are undertaking studies at St Ives, also in Australia," notes Griffith.
With South Deep’s solar contribution, he says the company is "firmly on track" to increase the share of renewables in the group energy mix from 3% in 2020, to 15% by 2025. "Including hydropower, these percentages would rise from 11% in 2020, to 22% in 2025."
Moreover, Griffith states that although renewables will undoubtedly play a major role in the near future, at present Gold Fields’ climate change mitigating efforts are led by energy savings and energy efficiency initiatives. "These initiatives enabled us to save 700 000 t of CO2e greenhouse-gas emissions over the past five years, with the added benefit of cost savings for our operations."
Sound management of water resources is another critical issue that has taken on renewed urgency as the climate changes, he says.
In this regard, Gold Fields managed to recycle or reuse 71% of its water in 2020 – exceeding its target of 67%.
The miner also managed to reduce its water withdrawal by 17% for every tonne processed in 2020, and achieved an A ranking by global disclosure nonprofit organisation CDP.
Meanwhile, and more ambitiously, Griffith says Gold Fields is examining ways to introduce electric vehicles underground and, in collaboration with equipment manufacturers and its peers at the International Council on Mining and Metals, accelerate the development of electric vehicles for its fleet.
During the course of this year, he says Gold Fields will set and publish targets on its journey to carbon neutrality.