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Gold Fields Australia boss douses FIFO chatter

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Gold Fields’ Australian boss has rebuffed concerns Kambalda’s St Ives gold mine could shift to a fly-in, fly-out workforce amid ongoing community concerns the benefits of local employment will be shifted to the coast.

Speculation locally has circled that Gold Fields could be relaxing St Ives’ traditional residential policy.

The Kalgoorlie Miner understands a number of recent job advertisements for positions at St Ives have extended offers to workers hoping to maintain a FIFO arrangement.

The former Western Mining Corporation gold camp produces about 350,000 ounces of gold a year and employs more than 400 people alongside more than 300 contractors, making it the largest mine in the South African miner’s 900,000oz pa Goldfields operations.

While he acknowledged St Ives struggled to staff some highly skilled positions from residential workers, Gold Fields Australia vice-president Stuart Mathews said it was doing all it could to keep workers in the struggling nickel town and neighbouring Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

“We’ve actually only got 12 per cent of our workforce on fly-in, fly-out, so it’s actually quite low,” Mr Mathews said on the sidelines of the Diggers and Dealers Mining Forum yesterday.

“It’s actually some of the professionals are harder to get.

“We can’t attract people to Kambalda, and I think we’d like to accommodate people in Kambalda or Kalgoorlie and we’ll definitely assist them in that.”

Mr Mathews said the miner had recently pulled its shifts in from the industry standard 12 hours to 10.5 hours without productivity declines.

It echoes the moves made on private FMR Investments’ Gordon Sirdar mine to implement family-friendly eight-hour shifts.

It comes as Gold Fields waits on environmental approvals to extend its St Ives operations to 2028.

Centred around the rich 1.4Moz Invincible deposit, where two portals to a maiden underground operation were blasted last month, it currently runs to 2020 on reserves.

Gold Fields’ Johannesburg-based chief executive Nick Holland said he was confident Gold Fields’ nearly $40 million a year exploration spend at St Ives gave it visibility to keep St Ives running long into the next decade.

“We can see a potential to certainly extend to (2028) and possibly even beyond,” he said.

“Now obviously the resolution will improve as we get more information as we drill more and improve on the models.

“But certainly we see significant potential.

“When we bought St Ives in 2001 it had about three to four years on reserve life, 16-17 years later we still have that reserve life, so we’ve been able to put back consistently what’s been mined.

“So we're pretty confident that with the kind of exploration spend and activities we’re looking not just at extensions to existing mines, but also looking at potential for new mines on the tenement package.”

Kambalda’s focus has turned to gold since the shutting of all but one of its nickel mines by early 2016.

Gold Fields, which is spending about 40 per cent of a $100 million exploration budget at St Ives this year, is aiming to hit targets along the 20km Speedway-Invincible trend, while concept studies are due by the end of the year on planning exploration and development of what could be 3-5Moz of gold locked up in paeleochannels beneath Lake Lefroy.


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