"It is especially important to re-start workshops that had to stop due to the pandemic, where mining companies, government authorities, NGOs and civil society came together to define the vision of mining in Peru for 2030."
Can you give us an overview of Gold Fields’ activities in Peru in 2020?
Gold Fields´ activities during 2020 were driven to a great extent by Covid-19. Our company faced the challenge of adapting to the new reality of social distancing, PPEs, different protocols and regulations. Even though operations slowed down in March 2020, we managed to resume our activity under these new conditions, learning that it is possible to operate safely during Covid. Our priorities last year included securing metal production, securing stripping activity, and to a lesser extent, securing the cost, as well as looking at other activities such as exploration in brownfield areas. The recovery has been strong, and in December 2020, we reached a similar production level to that of December 2019.
What operational modifications and optimization work has been done at Cerro Corona?
During 2020 we reduced stripping activities. The stripping waste will be recovered in 2021. We also plan to change the grinding circuit and our 12-year-old crusher. In addition, we are implementing a gravimetric circuit to recover additional coarse gold that was going to waste in the tailings dam. With these modifications we will have the appropriate conditions to continue mining deeper and recover additional coarse gold that was going to waste because it was too heavy to be brought into the flotation circuit.
Can you provide details of the scoping study to extend the mine life at Cerro Corona to 2034?
We are using the mined-out pit as a tailings dam. This has been extremely useful to gain extra space, because our land properties at Cerro Corona are small compared to the space, we need to place waste and tailings.
Construction at the Salares Norte project in Chile started in January 2021. How significant is this project to Gold Fields and what is its timeline for development?
Salares Norte is an important landmark for Gold Fields as it is fully owned and funded by our company, and represents a present-day mine of the future. It is constructed in an extremely isolated place in a high deserted region in Atacama at 4600 m above sea level. From a technological point of view, this is particularly challenging as it is far from the electrical grid. To solve this problem, the electricity requirement for the project will be met through a diesel plant and, for the first time, we will install a solar farm which will initially cover 5% of our electricity demand and will reach 20% of our demand in the future.
Many of our activities in the pit, in the stockpiles and in the plant, will be controlled through a remote operational control center in Santiago. We have already finished 100% of the detail engineering, 25% of the project is already advanced, and the first metal is expected to come into production in Q1 2023.
How has Gold Fields been helping local communities through the economic hardship of the pandemic?
Gold Fields is currently implementing a large oxygen plant in the Bambamarca Hospital in Peru. We have also carried out several campaigns to promote the donation of oxygen, rapid testing, and food. Gold Fields has also collaborated with educational authorities to raise consciousness about the importance of handwashing and cleanness at home. In addition, we constructed two class rooms for the local school using local wood, to promote sustainable concepts in our kids.
Cooperation between government authorities, local communities and companies has worked particularly well during the pandemic. We have found that by working together with communities, it is possible to obtain better results.
Does the company intend to grow organically or through M&A activity in South America?
Gold Fields will continue to grow organically through exploration in the surrounding areas of Cerro Corona and Salares, but we also intend to be active in the M&A domain. We will keep looking for other properties in southern and central Peru, and we are open to opportunities for JV agreements.
Where would you like to see Peru’s mining industry by the end of 2021?
Hopefully, all activities will be resumed by the end of the year. It is especially important to re-start workshops that had to stop due to the pandemic, where mining companies, government authorities, NGOs and civil society came together to define the vision of mining in Peru for 2030. These dialogues were a useful initiative to establish a solid frame for mining activity and to achieve a consensus between different actors.