Regrettably, South Deep recorded one fatal accident during H1 2020. On 3 June 2020, Mr. Abel Magajane a shaft timberman lost his life while doing repair work on the Shaft orepass shoot, by falling down the ore-pass and subsequently succumbing to his injuries. Our sincere condolences go to his family, friends and work colleagues.
A Group Exco COVID-19 Crisis Management Team has met regularly since mid-March 2020 to coordinate actions to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on operations. Support to employees and contractors on how COVID-19 impacts them, with continued attention to their health and wellness, have been a key focus. Regional and site committees have performed similar roles. The table that follows provides an overview of the number of COVID-19 infections at our mines to date, as well as recovery rates and other data.
* Note: 'Awaiting results' and 'Active cases' and 'Hospitalised' refers to the current figures; the numbers include COVID-19 cases at Galiano Gold/Asanko.
As at 17 August 2019 Gold Fields has had a total of 1,443 COVID-19 positive cases among employees and contractors. Currently active cases are 658, of which 13 are receiving care in hospitals. The relatively large number of positive cases reflects the high prevalence rate of the pandemic in neighbouring communities at our operations in Peru, Ghana and South Africa. Testing among our workforce is also more stringent than in public health facilities in these countries. There have been no cases to date at our Australian mines.
One employee at Cerro Corona and one contractor at South Deep have died as a result of their COVID-19 infections. We cannot name them - for personal and regulatory reasons. It is also with deep sadness that we report the passing of our JV partner Galiano Gold's Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Josephat Zvaipa, as a result of complications associated with a COVID-19 infection. Our heartfelt condolences go out to the families, friends and colleagues of these three men.
Attributable gold equivalent production for the six months ended 30 June 2020 increased marginally YoY to 1,087koz (H1 2019: 1,083koz), with the contribution from Gruyere and increased production days, largely offset by the impact of COVID-19 stoppages at South Deep and Cerro Corona, as well as the impact of the lower copper price at Cerro Corona, which resulted in lower gold equivalent ounces.
The increase in production days relates to a decision that was taken, during Q2 2020, to align the production month-end with the calendar month-end, which resulted in an extra 10 production days in H1 2020. These 10 extra production days also impacted Q2 2020. This once-off adjustment has no impact on H2 2020.
The impact of the extra production days is estimated at 45koz, while the lost production from COVID-19-related stoppages is approximately 42koz, comprising South Deep at 24koz and Cerro Corona at 18koz. The impact of the lower copper price on Cerro Corona is estimated at 13koz for H1 2020.
All-in sustaining costs (AISC) for the Group for H1 2020 of US$987/oz, compared to US$891/oz in H1 2019, an increase of 11% YoY, driven by an increase in net operating costs (mainly driven by a move of waste tonnes from capital to operating costs at Damang following intersection of the main orebody), sustaining capital expenditure and royalties (approximately US$15/oz) as well as lower by-product credits (due to the lower copper price). COVID-19 related costs are estimated at approximately US$20/oz for H1 2020 and are embedded in the AISC.
All-in cost (AIC) for H1 2020 were 4% lower YoY at US$1,065/oz (H1 2019: US$1,106/oz) as project capital was US$137m lower in H1 2020 compared to H1 2019, which more than offset the increases relating to AISC, discussed above.
We are pleased to report that Gold Fields delivered the higher gold price to the bottom line. Normalised earnings for the six months ended June 2020 more than doubled YoY to US$323m or US$0.37 per share compared to US$126m or US$0.15 per share for the six months ended June 2019.
In line with our dividend policy of paying out between 25% and 35% of normalised profit as dividends, we have declared an interim dividend of 160 SA cents per share which compared with the 2019 total dividend of 160 SA cents per share
Strong cash generation and further improved balance sheet
The benefits of the new projects as well as the higher gold price were clearly evident during the first six months of 2020. During H1 2020, Gold Fields, generated net cash flow of US$320m for the six month period (after taking into account all costs in the business including debt service costs and all project capex), which compares to the net cash flow of US$80m in H1 2019. Looking at the core operations, the group generated net cash flow of US$405m in H1 2020, which compares to US$229m in H1 2019.
As reported in 2019, Gold Fields adopted the new lease standard (IFRS 16) on 1 January 2019, which impacted the reporting of net debt and the net debt to EBITDA ratio. There was a further decrease in the net debt balance during H1 2020, with the net debt balance at the end of June 2020 at US$1.24bn and a net debt to EBITDA ratio of 0.84x. This compares with a net debt balance of US$1.66bn and a net debt to EBITDA ratio of 1.29x at the end of December 2019. Excluding lease liabilities, the core net debt was US$876m at the end of H1 2020.
In July 2020, US$870m of the US$1,200m bank facilities were extended by one year. The facilities will run as follows:
Tranche A: US$600m up to 25 July 2022 then US$435m from 26 July 2022 to 25 July 2023;
Tranche B: US$600m up to 25 July 2024 then US$435m from 26 July 2024 to 25 July 2025.
Total production decreased by 4% to 420koz for the six months ended 30 June 2020 from 438koz for the six months ended 30 June 2019 mainly due to decreased production at Damang following the completion of the Amoanda pit in H1 2019. Encouragingly, mining in the main Damang pit transitioned through the bulk of the Huni Sandstone during H1 2020, with minimal volumes of Huni Sandstone remaining. Mining at Damang will therefore be concentrated in the higher-grade and more consistent Tarkwa Phyllite deposits during H2 2020, which should result in a notable increase in production at the mine during the second half of the year. The percentage ore mined from the Tarkwa Phylite deposits increased to 35% in the June quarter from 20% in the March quarter, and is expected to be at 30% in the second half of the year.
All-in cost increased by 9% to US$1,093/oz for the six months ended 30 June 2020 from US$1,007/oz for the six months ended 30 June 2019.
The region produced net cash flow (excluding Asanko) of US$139m for the six months ended 30 June 2020 compared to US$72m for the six months ended 30 June 2019. Gold Fields received US$37.5m on the redemption of preference shares from Asanko for the six months ended 30 June 2020, which if included, brings the total cash flow for the region for the six months ended 30 June 2020 to US$176.7m.
Gold Fields' Australian operations delivered another strong operational performance in H1 2020. Gold production increased by 14% to 494koz in the six months to 30 June 2020 from 435koz in the six months to June 2019, mainly due to the inclusion of Gruyere where commercial levels of production were reached at the end of September 2019.
All-in cost (which included capital expenditure on Gruyere) decreased by 13% to A$1,463/oz (US$960/oz) in H1 2020 from A$1,677/oz (US$1,185/oz) in H1 2019.
The region reported net cash flow of A$317m (US$208m) for the six months ended 30 June 2020 compared with A$130m (US$92m) for the six months ended 30 June 2019.
The Cerro Corona operation was significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic during H1 2020, particularly during the June quarter. Equivalent gold production decreased by 31% to 108,700oz for the six months ended 30 June 2020 from 157,100oz for the six months ended 30 June 2019 underpinned by lower gold and copper grades processed due to the COVID-19 restrictions (18Koz), together with a lower price factor (13Koz), as well as lower grades mined in line with the current year plan.
All-in cost per equivalent ounce increased by 41% to US$984 per equivalent ounce for the six months ended 30 June 2020 from US$698 per equivalent ounce for the six months ended 30 June 2019 due to lower equivalent ounces sold and higher capital expenditure.
Despite the challenges, Cerro Corona generated net cash flow of US$49m for the six months ended 30 June 2020 compared to US$52m for the six months ended 30 June 2019.
South Deep was also severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and related lockdown restrictions during H1 2020, with most of the impact felt during the second quarter. The mine was placed on care and maintenance for the first month of Q2 2020 and operated well below its full labour complement for the remainder, in compliance with government-imposed restrictions. Despite this, South Deep showed improvements in most measures during H1 2020 compared to H1 2019, largely due to the fact that H1 2019 was subject to organisational realignment post the labour restructuring and industrial action in H2 2018.
Gold production at South Deep increased by 10% to 3,123kg (100,400oz) in H1 2020 from 2,851kg (91,700oz) in H1 2019. All-in cost decreased by 6% to R654,537/kg (US$1,234/oz) in H1 2020 from R698,982/kg (US$1,529/oz) in H1 2019 driven by higher gold sold and lower capital expenditure.
Despite the impacts of the COVID-19 lockdown, South Deep generated a net cash inflow of R79m (US$5m) for the six months ended 30 June 2020 compared to an outflow of R238m (US$18m) for the six months ended 30 June 2019.
Update on Salares Norte
The Salares Norte project was relatively unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic and largely stuck to the project schedule during H1 2020. At the end of June 2020, engineering progress was 74.7% compared to plan of 76.0% and is on track to be at 100% by the end of the year. Phase 1 of the camp construction was 80.8% complete at the end of the end of June 2020 versus plan of 84.3% and is on schedule to be completed during Q3 2020.
In addition to the Phase 1 camp construction, various construction activities were initiated during H1 2020, including fabrication of the SAG and Ball mills, which began in May. The mass earthworks contract was awarded at the end of May and construction of the diversion channels started in June. The mining contract was also awarded during the quarter.
At the end of the June quarter 61% of the project Estimate at Completion (EAC) budget (excluding remaining contingency) had a fixed and firm price (excluding inflation factors) through contracts and purchase orders awarded, significantly reducing the risk of price differences.
In total, 8,458 metres were drilled as part of the District exploration programme during H1 2020 compared to plan of 9,084 metres. The shortfall in exploration metres was due to the fact that drilling activities were stopped at the end of Q1 2020 and the exploration team moved off-site in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan is to recover the shortfall during Q3 2020.
A total of US$44m was spent on the project during H1 2020. In March 2020, a total notional amount of US$544.5m was hedged at a rate of US$/CLP836.45 for the period July 2020 to December 2022
Guidance and outlook for the remainder of 2020
While we have seen new records for the gold price in recent weeks, we continue to run and plan our business at lower gold prices. For our next reserve declaration at year-end we expect to use a gold price assumption of US$1,300/oz up from US$1,200/oz used in recent years. In addition, we maintain a strong focus on cost containment and aim to continue to deliver the higher gold price to the bottom line. We expect to use the strong cash flows generated by the business to continue to delever the balance sheet; pay dividends in line with our policy; and fund the construction of Salares Norte. Our approach will continue to be reasonably cautious as we do not know what challenges await us in the post-COVID-19 world.
As reported with our Q1 2020 operating update, given the uncertainty surrounding the path that the COVID-19 virus might take going forward, together with the impact that this would have on production, we have only adjusted the full year guidance to take into account the production losses estimated for South Deep and Cerro Corona. Attributable equivalent gold production for 2020 for the Group is expected to be between 2.200Moz and 2.250Moz (original guidance: 2.275Moz - 2.315Moz).
In light of the increase in costs in H1 2020, we are increasing our cost guidance for the year. AISC is expected to be between US$960/oz and US$980/oz (original guidance: US$920/oz - US$940/oz) and AIC is expected to be between US$1,070/oz and US$1,090/oz (original guidance: US$1,035/oz - US$1,055/oz). The revised cost guidance is based on an estimated rand exchange rates of R17.00/US$1.00 and US$0.70/A$1.00 for H2 2020. Increased royalties (due to the higher gold price) account for US$15/oz of the cost increase, while COVID-19-related costs account for US$10/oz.
Potential further COVID-19 related disruptions increases the risk to Group production and cost guidance.
Business for South Africa
Gold Fields welcomes the accelerated economic recovery strategy aimed at achieving higher levels of economic growth post COVID-19, published by Business for South Africa (B4SA) in July. We believe the emphasis should be on the SA government to provide the economic leadership in a social and economic compact with business and organised labour to create a more stable regulatory and operating environment that is conducive to private sector investment. For the mining sector this means providing clarity around key aspects of the Mining Charter and associated legislation.
Chief Executive Officer
20 August 2020