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In almost a decade, Gold Fields has changed senior management at its prized South Deep operation five times. Getting the mechanised gold mine to meet its potential - it has long been touted as the future of gold mining - has proved an elusive target. Gold mining in South Africa, which has historically been highly labour-intensive, peaked in the 1970s. When Gold Fields rid itself of such mines more than five years ago but kept South Deep, management's focus was on finally unlocking the potential of the mine bought 12 years ago to one day produce a million ounces of gold a year. Gold Fields sold its labour-intensive KDC and Beatrix mines to the then newly formed Sibanye in 2012. Gold Fields has underperformed Sibanye, falling 51% since that unbundling, compared to Sibanye's 53% climb. The bullion price has declined 23% over that period. To date, including its purchase price, Gold Fields has spent R29-billion on South Deep, with a further R2.3-billion budgeted to reach the mine's poten...

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