Gold Fields to Test New Mining Techniques at South Deep
Gold Fields will pilot two new techniques at its flagship South Deep mine, the last remaining asset in its South African home base, as it tries to unlock value from the world's second-largest gold reserve.
Chief Executive Nick Holland said at an earnings presentation that the new methods at South Deep, a fully-mechanised operation, were in a bid to meet a target of producing 700,000 ounces a year there by around 2018.
Currently, Gold Fields is using a system called "destress mining" in which horizontal cuts are made into the rock in such a way that a lot of the "stress" that can cause rock bursts underground are removed.
But it also means opening up vast areas which require a lot of support, with a lot of time and money being spent before any bullion is extracted.
Holland said the company was experimenting with a variation of destress mining as well as an entirely new way of doing things called the inclined slot method, which has been employed at its Australian operations.
The inclined slot method involves opening, extracting and then back-filling without support structures, speeding up the whole process of getting to the gold, which is done with machines rather than miners holding hand-drills.
"It is much quicker, easier and probably will be cheaper," Holland told journalists.
"It's going to be a year for us to pilot it, assimilate all the results and determine the way forward.
South Deep descends to three kilometres and South Africa, with the world's deepest mines, has over a century of experience when it comes to extracting ore far below the surface with a large, unskilled workforce.
But heavily mechanised mining is relatively virgin territory in South Africa's gold reefs, from which a third of the bullion ever mined in recorded history has been produced.
South Deep, which sits atop a mammoth 40-million ounce reserve worth around $50 billion at current spot prices, is one of the few gold mines in South Africa where sophisticated mechanisation is possible because the seam is so big; 120 metres wide in some places, making it suitable for big machines.
Gold Fields has brought in a top Australian engineering team to help overcome the technical and geological challenges at South Deep, where delays and shifting production targets have annoyed investors.
In the most recent setback, production has been curtailed by maintenance and a safety review though Gold Fields insists this "will make the mine safer and position the mine for an improved performance in 2015".
It is also a long-term project which is seen producing gold for several decades to come and the company's stable of global mines are generating a steady cash flow at the moment.
Gold Fields reported a 20 percent rise in quarterly profit as part of the announcement, despite a fall in prices and production as output increased at its lower-cost mines.
GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud
GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.
In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade.
“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.
Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.
By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.
One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.
“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.
Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs.
“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.
The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment.
The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.
One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.
“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.
“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client.
“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”