Chief Executive Officer's report
"Our focus on organic growth, backed by consistent investment in near-mine exploration, has allowed us to map our own destiny to the benefit of our stakeholders."
This past year will always be remembered as a time when Covid-19 caused major losses and upheavals to our personal lives while disrupting business-as-usual for many companies worldwide. Our experience at Gold Fields was no different, and, tragically, the pandemic took the ultimate toll on many of our people. As at 29 March 2021, 10 of our colleagues had tragically passed away due to Covid-19-related illnesses. My condolences go out to their families, friends and colleagues. Other colleagues were ill for weeks, and all of us had our personal and professional lives severely disrupted by the stringent regulations and protocols implemented to mitigate the worst impacts of the pandemic.
Following a second wave of infections around the world in early 2021, it seems inevitable that these disruptions will continue for some time to come. We are currently looking at strategies on how we can continue keeping our people safe and how to ensure we make vaccines available to them as soon as is practical. We are seeking advice from medical experts and are working with governments, industry forums and our peers on the best solution for a vaccine roll-out and an eventual return to business-as-usual.
Covid-19 inevitably affected the Company's 2020 operational performance, albeit marginally. Attributable gold-equivalent production of 2.236Moz in 2020 was 2% higher than 2019 production and within the revised guidance range of 2.200Moz – 2.250Moz. However, we had to revise our original 2020 guidance of 2.275Moz – 2.315Moz in May to take into account the 78koz lost due to Covid-19-related shutdowns at South Deep (32koz) and Cerro Corona (46koz).
All-in costs (AIC) for 2020 were US$1,079/oz, 1% higher than 2019 (US$1,064/oz) and within the revised guidance range. All-in sustaining costs (AISC) for the year were US$977/oz (2019: US$897/oz), again within the revised guidance range. These costs were slightly above the original 2020 guidance as our operations spent approximately US$30m on Covid-19-related initiatives and interventions. This includes investments in testing equipment and facilities, specialised camp accommodation, additional labour costs and transport facilities. It also included donations to governments and host communities to assist them in their fight against the pandemic.
However, on the whole, Gold Fields managed these disruptions well and continued on its growth trajectory of the preceding years. The higher gold price – a consequence, in part, of the economic fallout from the pandemic – certainly helped. The average gold price of US$1,768/oz during 2020 was 27% higher than the average price received in 2019. But, equally important, our management teams dealt with the challenges of the pandemic extremely well, maintaining sustainable and profitable production while at the same time safeguarding the health and safety of our employees and contractors.
Our mines in Western Australia, which did not report any positive Covid-19 cases, exceeded 1.0Moz of gold production for the first time since 2015. Our Ghanaian operations, including the Asanko JV, boosted output by 3%. Even South Deep and Cerro Corona, which had to close or curtail mining and processing activities for several weeks due to government-imposed restrictions, reported stable production levels and lower costs during 2020.
Our 2020 financial performance reflected these solid operational efforts and higher gold price. Our mines generated cash-flow of US$868m (2019: US$552m), while net cash-flow reached a record US$631m (2019: US$249m). Net debt reduced by almost US$600m to US$1,069m, resulting in a net debt:EBITDA ratio of 0.56x at end-December 2020 (2019: 1.29x). Historically our target level for the net debt:EBITDA ratio has been around 1x. However, we have been opportunistically reducing our debt given higher gold price of late and could well be at or close to net zero within 18 months
Our Value-Creation Strategy
Gold Fields' growth over the past 10 years has been driven by an integrated value-creation strategy aimed at delivering our vision of global leadership in sustainable gold mining. This strategy is captured in our BSC and comprises four overarching focus areas – organisational capacity, internal business processes, stakeholders and financial performance.
While our operating environment over the past decade saw some significant changes, we remained committed to these focus areas regardless of the challenges we faced and, in doing so, unlocked the potential of our globally diversified business. With the Group BSC at the centre of our strategy, we subsequently identified seven strategic pillars that drive our performance across the Company. Each pillar has specific key performance indicators linked to our BSC to ensure we create holistic and sustainable value for our stakeholders.
On Safety and wellbeing of our people, we look at each of these pillars in our strategic journey and track the key operational, financial, stakeholder and sustainability trends of the past 10 years.
The key corporate milestones in our strategic journey are highlighted in the share price graph below.
GOLD FIELDS SHARE PRICE 2010 – 2020
During 2020, our share price on both the JSE and NYSE improved by 46% and 42% respectively, on the back of respective increases of 94% and 88% during 2019. While the shares have retreated from their record highs reached in August 2020, when the gold price hit its all-time high of US$2,070/oz, we are still offering shareholders substantive returns and healthy dividends. Shareholders who owned 1,000 Gold Fields shares on 1 January 2010, held on to the 1,000 Sibanye Gold stocks (now Sibanye-Stillwater) they would have been awarded after its unbundling in February 2013, would have been rewarded with a total return of 105% by 31 December 2020. That is an annual return of 7% on their investment.
Headline earnings increased more than four-fold to US$729m (2019: US$163m) and normalised profits more than doubled to US$879m (2019: US$343m). Shareholders received a total dividend of R4.80/share, three times our distribution of R1.60/share in 2019. Our total value distribution to stakeholders increased to US$2,849m from US$2,577m in 2019.
The pandemic did not disrupt the continued improvements to the quality of our portfolio of mines and projects. Four years ago, and in contrast to the consolidation activities among our peers at the time, Gold Fields embarked on a US$1bn investment drive to ensure that our portfolio continued to generate cash sustainably by lowering AIC and extending mine life while preserving a sound balance sheet. In 2019, we saw the benefits of our investment programme for the first time in the form of improved profits and cash-flows, as well as lower costs. This trend continued strongly into 2020.
The key elements of the programme were essentially two new mines, Gruyere in Australia and the Damang Pit Cutback in Ghana, which contributed US$66m and US$76m respectively to Group net cash-flow in 2020. In 2018, we also acquired a 45% stake in the Asanko mine in Ghana for US$185m, with our JV partner Galiano Gold, which manages the mine, holding 45%, and the Ghanaian government the remaining 10%.
In February 2020, our Board decided to go ahead with the construction of the Salares Norte project in Chile, with construction proceeding as planned during the year, and set for completion in late 2022. Once operational, which is expected in 2023, Salares Norte is expected to add 450koz gold-equivalent production per year for the first seven years at AIC of US$465/oz - one of the lowest in the industry. A successful equity raise of US$250m in February 2020 positions us to comfortably fund the project within our debt targets.
Another important element of our growth strategy was the continued investment in near-mine exploration at our Australian mines and, more recently, at Tarkwa and Damang in Ghana. As a result, we have been able to consistently replace and exceed the volumes of depleted Mineral Reserves. Over the past five years, since the December 2015 declaration, the Group has replaced 11.5Moz in depleted Reserves and added a further 4.5Moz through its successful exploration activities, technical studies and project investment. Gold Fields' attributable gold-equivalent Mineral Reserves were 50.3Moz at the end of 2020, an increase of 2% from 2019, with our Australian mines replacing 8% of depleted Mineral Reserves. Attributable gold-equivalent Mineral Resources were 116.0Moz (2019: 116.0Moz).
The final pillar of our portfolio strategy was to set up our South Deep mine in South Africa for safe, sustainable and profitable production. While South Deep was the one in our portfolio hardest hit by Covid-19-related restrictions, it continues to report real progress and a strong financial and operational improvement. In 2019, South Deep stemmed its decade-long cash-burn by generating US$15m in net cash-flow. With 2020 production up 2% to 227koz and AIC unchanged at US$1,260/oz, net cash-flow improved even further, increasing by 123% to US$34m. My cautious optimism last year has been replaced by strong confidence that the mine is on the right track to generate long-term, sustainable cash-flows and profits.
I want to reiterate my statement from last year: Gold Fields is now a senior producer in the top 10 league of global gold miners both in terms of Reserves and production. We are in a strong position to maintain production of 2.0Moz – 2.5Moz per year for the next 10 years, of which over 2.0Moz will be outside of our South African base. This is a level of production our mines in Ghana, Australia and Peru achieved in 2019 and 2020. Furthermore, once Salares Norte comes on stream, expected in 2023, we will have a portfolio of 10 mines – a size we consider optimal as it allows management to properly focus on operations.
As we have shown over the past few years, we do not require expensive mergers and acquisitions to achieve sustainable and profitable growth for our shareholders. Instead, our focus on organic growth, backed by consistent investment in near-mine exploration, has allowed us to map our own destiny to the benefit of our stakeholders.
Our commitment to safe production continues to underpin our operational performance. During 2020, we sought further improvements in terms of our safety leadership, processes, systems and culture. Tragically, we lost one employee at South Deep, Abel Magajane, after an underground mining incident. I would like to again express my condolences to his family.
We also reported six serious injuries (2019: four) across the Group. Our total recordable injury frequency rate (TRIFR) regressed to 2.40 per million hours worked (2019: 2.19). However, this remains below the industry norm of 3.20 (ICMM members – 2019 average). The physical distancing restrictions we imposed because of Covid-19 slowed down the roll-out of Courageous Safety Leadership (CSL) – our flagship safety programme – but we expect to complete this during 2021, having already trained over half of our employees.
One of the few positives emerging from the Covid-19 crisis has been the strong focus on the health of our employees and host communities. Safety has always been our number one value, but the pandemic forced us to give equal attention to the health and wellness of our people. Once the crisis is over, what we will retain going forward is the ability to test our workers for occupational and non-occupational diseases, as well as understanding their mental wellbeing, and support them through any recovery processes.
Furthermore, the pandemic served as a catalyst to work more cooperatively with our key stakeholders – trade unions, communities, industry peers and governments. With Covid-19 threatening the livelihoods of employees and the tax income of governments, we found more common ground with these stakeholders. In most of the countries where we operate, governments declared mining an essential service, allowing us to continue operating when other sectors' activities were curtailed. In return, we and other mining companies actively supported governments by providing facilities, health resources and much-needed funding. During 2020, our mines donated well over US$3m in medical and sanitary equipment and other services to host communities and governments.
In 2020, we continued to focus on driving our in-country and host community economic impact. Of the US$2.85bn in value created during 2020 (2019: US$2.58bn), US$676m, or 28%, remained in our host communities through wages, procurement spend and investments in socio-economic development. Approximately 53% of our workforce, 8,752 people, are employed from our host communities. In addition, we created 672 (2019: 504) non-mining jobs through our community investment programmes. Over the past five years, we have created between US$600m – US$800m in community value every year. Cumulatively, this amounts to over US$3.54bn which, we believe, presents a significant investment in the economic wellbeing of our host communities and their estimated 435,000 residents.
This year, we strengthened our commitment to diversity and inclusivity among our workforce. We aim to have a workforce profile that reflects the demographics of the countries and communities in which we operate. While we have made progress in this regard – particularly at South Deep, where Historically Disadvantaged South Africans (HDSAs) now comprise 73% of the workforce, and women 23% – we are falling short when it comes to broader gender diversity across the Company. Only 20% of our Group workforce and leadership teams are women.
During 2020, we rolled out a Group diversity and inclusion dashboard that not only measures the representation of women at all levels in the Company but also evaluates lead indicators in the areas of inclusivity, recruitment, talent management, employee retention and corporate culture. As we improve these lead indicators, we believe that more women will join and remain at Gold Fields.
Climate change is undoubtedly one of the defining global challenges society is facing today. Gold Fields has made considerable progress in mitigating our contribution to climate change. Our efforts are led by energy savings and efficiency initiatives, which enabled us to save 804kt CO2e in emissions over the past six years – with the added benefit of cost savings for our operations.
Similarly, our recent investment in renewable energy projects not only secured stable and cost-effective energy supplies for our mines, but also reduced their carbon emissions. During 2020, we commissioned renewable microgrids, supported by battery storage, at our Agnew and Granny Smith mines in Australia. Agnew became the first gold mine in the world to derive over 50% of its power from renewable energy sources, mostly wind turbines supported by a solar plant and low-carbon gas. We have furthermore advanced plans to introduce renewables at Gruyere and St Ives, as well as Salares Norte when it starts operating in 2023.
In February 2021, South Africa's national regulator approved the electricity generation licence for South Deep's 40MW solar plant, following a three-year application process. Once approved by the Board, construction of the plant is set to take a year. The project will provide up to 20% of South Deep's average electricity consumption and significantly reduce the mine's carbon emissions.
Haulage diesel for our mining fleet accounts for half of the Group's energy consumption. We are increasingly focusing on initiatives to reduce this, such as diesel-gas hybrid vehicles and, more ambitiously, looking at ways to introduce electric vehicles underground. Through the International Council on Mining & Metals (ICMM), we are working with our peers and equipment manufacturers to accelerate the development of electric vehicles for our primary fleet which, once rolled out, will have the added benefit of markedly reducing Diesel Particulate Matter (DPM) emissions from underground operations.
We have also improved our transparency around climate change issues by aligning our reporting with the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). We published our third TCFD-aligned Climate Change Report in conjunction with this IAR.
Sound management of water resources is another critical issue that has taken on renewed urgency as the climate changes, particularly in South Africa, Peru, Chile and Australia, which are water-stressed countries. Water is, of course, also a critical input for our processing activities. We have no option but to use water efficiently, which requires that we reduce our demand for freshwater from surrounding catchment areas. We set two key targets to ensure we efficiently manage our water usage. These are, firstly, reducing freshwater use by 3% – 5% a year and, secondly, recycling and reusing at least 70% of our water. We achieved both targets during 2020.
Our commitment to responsibly use our water resources is integral to sound environment stewardship at our operations. During 2020, for the second consecutive year, Gold Fields again recorded no serious environmental incidents. This is an important achievement, as environmental incidents could also potentially impact the communities around us and our social licence to operate.
The mining industry's environmental practices have been in the spotlight following the catastrophic collapse of the tailings storage facility (TSF) at Vale's Córrego do Feijão iron ore mine near Brumadinho, Brazil, in January 2019, which killed 270 people. Subsequent to this tragedy, ESG-focused investors and the United Nations (UN) Environment Programme engaged the industry through the ICMM to develop a new standard for managing tailings. In August 2020, the parties officially launched the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (GISTM), strengthening current practices by integrating social, environmental, economic and technical considerations. ICMM members have until August 2025 to fully implement the standard at all their TSFs, but all facilities that have high-potential consequences will have to conform to the standard two years earlier. Gold Fields is set to complete a gap analysis at its 37 TSFs by mid-2021, after which we will commence work to close all identified gaps.
Over the past decade, Gold Fields has integrated environmental, social and governance issues into the operational management of our mines and projects. Managing safety has always been an operational responsibility.
In recent years, successfully managing ESG issues has become a critical consideration for our stakeholders, particularly investors, who increasingly expect that we transparently disclose the impact of and how we manage ESG, as well as whether these align with Gold Fields' strategy. Many of our peers have committed to performance targets, especially on climate change.
To date, Gold Fields has mostly used internal objectives to guide the ESG work we do at our operations. We have decided to integrate high-level priorities into an ESG Charter to drive longer-term goals and are finalising detailed targets for implementation by 2025. These targets will be released later in 2021.
As we have for some time, we will again be including ESG-linked performance targets in the Group's Balanced Scorecard (BSC) for this year (see Group scorecards) and in the long-term, three-year incentive plans for our senior employees (see our Remuneration Report in the AFR).
Our ESG priorities are associated with wide-ranging objectives and strategic intents, including some previous public commitments. These are outlined in the table below, with details provided in the respective sections in this IAR:
GOLD FIELDS STRATEGIC ESG PRIORITIES
Of the external strategic dynamics that inform Gold Fields' decision-making and influence our business performance, the gold price is the most significant. During 2020, the gold price continued the upturn that started early in 2019, when gold was trading at around US$1,300/oz. The metal traded at US$1,530/oz at the beginning of 2020, and hit an all-time high of US$2,070/oz in August before easing back to around US$1,800/oz at year-end and US$1,700/oz in March 2021. The average gold price received by our mines during 2020 amounted to US$1,768/oz, a 27% increase from the US$1,388/oz received in 2019.
The fluctuating gold price reflects the volatile external environment amid global economic and political uncertainties and, above all, the impact of Covid-19. Drivers supporting gold include increasing global debt, an expectation of higher inflation in key economies, continued low rates of interest, central bank support and continued geopolitical risks. This is tempered by reduced fabrication and jewellery demand for the metal.
While much of the gold price's short-term movement is driven by market sentiment and geopolitical developments, gold's role as an investment medium is still as relevant today as it has been for decades. Furthermore, primary supply appears to have peaked and years of underinvestment in the industry have set the scene for flat to lower gold production even in the face of higher prices. Mine supply, which in 2019 showed its first decline in 10 years, continued to decrease by 4% during 2020 according to the World Gold Council. Many gold market analysts are of the view that the industry has reached peak production levels given the limited number of new gold discoveries since the mid-1990s, together with the decreased levels of exploration spend over recent years. This could influence gold positively in the longer term.
We believe that capital expenditure in the industry has to increase, with companies needing to invest in new projects and exploration activities to maintain current production levels. In our assessment, the recent spate of consolidation in the industry is a response to the under-investment in capex in recent years even in the wake of higher gold prices.
Gold Fields does not seek to predict the gold price. We expect volatility and structure our business accordingly to achieve a 15% FCF margin around a planning gold price of US$1,300/oz. Beyond that, we seek to maximise value by:
- Prioritising cash-flow over production volumes
- Eliminating marginal mining
- Hedging a portion of our gold production in times of high capex and debt
Therefore, we believe the Group is in a relatively strong state to weather a sustained lower gold price at just over US$1,000/oz, and well positioned to capture the upside of the higher price as we did in 2020.
Other external dynamics that impacted Gold Fields during 2020 were:
- The Covid-19 pandemic – see Health and wellness, Supporting employees during Covid-19 and Covid-19 support
- Resource nationalism – see Value creation for stakeholders
- Social licence to operate – see Value creation for stakeholders
OUTLOOK FOR 2021
This year will see another big capital investment for Gold Fields, with total capital expenditure (capex) guidance of US$1,177m for the year, of which US$538m is sustaining capital. Of the US$639m in project capital, US$508m will be allocated to Salares Norte, which is expected to be 70% complete by end-2021. Salares Norte will have a significant impact on Gold Fields' long-term production and cost profile, as the mine will be producing 450koz gold-equivalent production per year for the first seven years at AIC of US$465/oz – one of the lowest in the industry.
In 2021, Group attributable production is expected to be higher at 2.30Moz – 2.35Moz. Given the high capital spend, AIC is set to be between US$1,310/oz – US$1,350/oz. Excluding capital spend on Salares Norte, we expect AIC of US$1,090/oz – US$1,130/oz. AISC is guided at US$1,020/oz – US$1,060/oz.
The main drivers behind production and cost guidance for 2021 are:
- A 27% increase in production at South Deep to 290koz. The mine's management team has a clear understanding of the operation and the different activities in the mining value chain. Looking beyond 2021, we are confident that a further 20% – 30% can be added to production levels over the next four years
- Damang is moving into the heart of the Damang pit ore body. As such, the mine is guiding 23% higher production at 275koz and at significantly lower AIC of US$790/oz (2020: US$1,035/oz)
- Following its first full year of production during 2020, the Gruyere team is meeting production and processing targets. For 2021, the mine is guiding for production to increase by 9% to 280koz (100% basis)
The risk of stoppages due to Covid-19 has not been factored into any guidance estimates and the extent of Covid-19 impacts on either production or costs is indeterminable at this stage.
Gold Fields' 2021 business plans are based on an average gold price of US$1,600/oz (A$2,100/oz, R900,000/kg).
NOTE OF THANKS
By the time you read this, I will have officially departed as Gold Fields' CEO, and Chris Griffith would have stepped into the position on 1 April 2021. I want to welcome Chris to the Company and assure him that he is leading an organisation that is sound, sustainable and imbued with the right values. Above all, he will be working with a formidable group of people and can take comfort in the knowledge that this team will be behind him as he leads Gold Fields into the future.
I have been with Gold Fields in a leadership position since it was formed through the merger of Gold Fields of South Africa and Gencor's gold assets in late 1997. My first 11 years were spent as CFO and, since 2008, I served as the Company's CEO. It has been an eventful and sometimes tumultuous journey but, above all, enormously rewarding and humbling.
The Gold Fields of today is unrecognisable from the company we founded 23 years ago. Most notably, the Company has expanded into a more global and modernised operation, while still retaining its roots in South Africa. I can honestly say with confidence that our current portfolio of mines is well positioned to create financial and economic benefits for its stakeholders on a standalone basis for years to come.
I am equally proud of the changes we instilled relating to our people, external stakeholders - particularly our host communities - and the environment we impact. The Company has an unshakable commitment to sustainability and our stakeholders are accruing real value from our mining activities. Environmental stewardship also enjoys a high priority among our management teams.
Our achievements would not have been possible without the full backing of the people of Gold Fields. I had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know as many of you as I could during my travels across the regions. Each and every one of you has made a valuable contribution to the success of our Company. While we have jointly experienced some difficult times over the past few years, including wide-ranging restructuring initiatives and the Covid-19 pandemic, I believe we have emerged from them stronger. I extend my most sincere gratitude to you, my colleagues, recognising your commitment, resilience and expertise.
I have naturally worked more closely with some of you more than others. Paul Schmidt, our CFO, has been my right-hand man from the day I took over as CEO. He has always been a voice of financial reason, for which I continue to be extremely grateful. I also relied heavily on the members of the Company's Executive Committee, who guided and advised me in managing a complex multinational organisation.
Finally, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my fellow directors over the past 26 years. As CFO and CEO, I have had the privilege of working with a number of visionary Chairpersons: Brian Gilbertson, Alan Wright, Dr Mamphela Ramphele and, over the past eight years, Cheryl Carolus. They each provided valuable oversight and effective governance, while mapping the strategy that led to Gold Fields' successful transformation. I want to express a special note of gratitude to Rick Menell, who has been on the Board since I took over as CEO in 2008. His guidance on our corporate transactions and strategy in particular, has been invaluable over these years.
I leave Gold Fields with one major regret – that we still record fatalities and injuries at our operations. On the day I took office as CEO on 1 May 2008, nine miners at South Deep died when the cage they were being transported in plummeted down a shaft. At the end of that year, we reported an unfathomable 47 deaths. I have prioritised safe production by making safety our number one value. While our safety performance has significantly improved since then, even last year we still recorded one fatality and six serious injuries. Our goal of achieving zero harm proved to be elusive during my tenure, but I sincerely believe we have built the foundations to achieve this in the imminent future.
Message from the incoming CEO
As I step into the CEO role at Gold Fields, I want to first and foremost acknowledge the great work done by Nick Holland, his management team and all the employees at the Company.
It is a credit to Nick that, since he took over in 2008, the Company has been fundamentally transformed from a South Africa-centric and labour-intensive operation to one that is global, sustainable and ethical. It is a company I believe embodies global leadership in sustainable gold mining.
The strong performance and reputation of the Company is built on a number of pillars, and, together with the corporate and regional management teams, I plan to build on these successes.
These include the work Gold Fields has done in the area of sustainability, spearheaded by an uncompromising commitment to safety and health. But it also includes the Company's environmental stewardship, particularly its roll-out of renewable energy, and its ground-breaking work on community value creation through host community employment and procurement.
On the operational front, all the mines are at present contributing positively to the Group's cash-flow and investing in their longevity by replacing depleted Mineral Reserves and Resources. The Group's longer-term sustainability is ensured with the prospective, low-cost Salares Norte project in Chile, currently under construction.
There is clearly always room for improvement and I will be working with the teams on enhancing their financial and operational excellence, including further implementing innovation and digital technologies to improve safety, costs and efficiencies.
Not surprisingly, many stakeholders want to know if I will fundamentally change the strategy or portfolio of the Company. I will take my time to fully understand the business, its operations and the leadership team before taking a closer look at these wider strategic issues. Having said that, the gold market is very dynamic at the moment and it would be remiss of us not to be alert to opportunities that may add shareholder value.
Taking over the helm at Gold Fields is a great opportunity – and challenge. I look forward to working with one of the industry's leading teams to build on the foundation laid by Nick. I want to thank him again for his leadership and wish him well in his retirement.