‘[Mponeng Deeps] is not through the gate yet. But this is an orebody you want to develop’
HARMONY Gold’s fortunes were lifted in 2023 by the gold price, which scaled record highs of over $2,100 an ounce as investors sought safe havens in an uncertain global economy riven by rising geopolitical tensions. Combined with a weaker rand currency, this double whammy flowed straight to the bottom line of Harmony Gold’s South African mines, which account for about 90% of its production. High grades at its Mponeng and Moab Khotsong operations helped, while Hidden Valley in Papua New Guinea (PNG) also performed well.
The company said in November it was confident of hitting full-year production guidance for its 2024 financial year, which ends on June 30, of between 1.38 and 1.48 million oz. The improved revenue line also enabled Harmony to resume the dividend last year despite having R6.5bn in sustaining capex due.
For 2024, most of the action will be around resource replacement and growth. Harmony has a brimming pipeline of projects including the expansion of Mponeng Deeps. This will take the world’s deepest mine – which extracts gold at depths of up to 3.8km – even further below the surface. We think Steenkamp definitely wants this project but technical and safety challenges, as well as its multibillion-rand price tag, have been pause for thought. A potentially significant delay in the development of the firm’s Eva Copper project in Australia, key to Harmony’s diversification into copper, could however pave the way for Mponeng.
Then there’s the longstanding prospect of Wafi-Golpu, an enormous gold/copper project in PNG. The project is back on track following a memorandum of understanding with the PNG government. The takeover of Wafi-Golpu shareholder Newcrest by Newmont means Harmony has a new partner in the project – which could make life interesting.
LIFE OF PETER
Steenkamp cuts an affable demeanour. He is a mining engineer with over 30 years’ experience in the gold and coal sectors. Such technical know-how will be brought to bear on decisions such as the potential expansion at Mponeng. He has also had senior positions at African Rainbow Minerals and Sasol. In a move he no doubt would like to forget about, he was briefly CEO of failed junior miner Pamodzi Gold, which collapsed on his watch. He returned to Harmony as CEO in 2016.