Executive Director of Corporate Affairs at Harmony Gold, Harry Ephraim “Mashego” Mashego reveals the strategy at the heart of their growth.
What led you to your current career path? And what led you to join Harmony Gold?
My career path actually started in teaching. Life had other plans for me because I later joined Eskom as a Human Resources Manager and progressed in the field at Atlantis Diesel Engines and Foskor, respectively. The field of Human Resources has always been close to my heart because I believe human capital is the backbone of every successful organisation.
I joined Harmony in 2005 as the Group Human Resources Development Manager and was later promoted to General Manager at Evander operations. I was appointed as the Human Resources Executive in 2007, and in 2010, as Executive Director. I also sit on a number of boards including the Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA), Enactus, and the Rand Refinery where I’m also the chairman of the social and ethics committee. I have qualifications from the University of the North, University of Johannesburg and GIBS.
How was Harmony Gold established? What are the core services that you offer?
Harmony Gold is a gold mine that conducts its activities in South Africa and in Papua New Guinea. In South Africa, we have nine underground operations located within the world-renowned Witwatersrand Basin. We have one operation in the Klerksdorp goldfield, two in the West Rand and six in the Free State, in the southern portion of the Witwatersrand Basin. In addition, we have an open-pit mine on the Kraaipan Greenstone Belt, as well as several surface treatment operations.
In Papua New Guinea, Hidden Valley is an open-pit gold and silver mine. Our significant gold-copper portfolio includes a 50% stake in the Wafi-Golpu project in the Morobe Province, through a 50:50 joint venture with Newcrest Mining Limited (Newcrest). Harmony was established on 25 August 1950 and with over 70 years of experience, Harmony is currently South Africa’s largest gold producer.
Our core business activities cover the entire gold mining value chain – from exploring for prospects, conducting feasibility studies and developing, buying and operating mines, through to closing and rehabilitating mines at the end of their production lives.
Harmony is also greatly involved in social impact initiatives in the communities where we have operations. We believe that our host communities are part of our extended family and as such, we run various programmes that uplift and develop communities and local businesses.
What has contributed to Harmony Gold being the leading producer of
gold in South Africa? What has been some of Harmony Gold’s recent successes?
Our aggressive acquisition strategy has been at the heart of Harmony’s growth. Harmony, over the years; has also shown its ability to rehabilitate economically viable mines and further increase their shelf life. We believe in buying assets that drive our growth continuously and this has been our guiding principle in every business transaction that we engage in.
Some of our recent successes include the recent acquisition of AngloGold Ashanti’s remaining assets in South Africa. The sale was concluded in September 2020 and as a result, we acquired Mponeng mine and Mine Waste Solutions. Mponeng is the world’s deepest gold mine located in the West Wits mining district south-west of Johannesburg.
What are your core functions as Executive Director of Corporate Affairs?
The Corporate Affairs division is responsible for taking care of the non-financial functions of the company. My division is responsible for not only Corporate Affairs, but Stakeholder Relations too. My role includes establishing and maintaining relationships with government from a National, Provincial and Regional level. I also work on the ground within our host communities to establish and maintain relationships with different structures, like community forums. I also have the immense responsibility of ensuring that brand “Harmony” remains in good stature, is embraced by those it touches and also creates a lasting positive impact for all stakeholders.
How has your department contributed to the economic sustainability of Harmony Gold? Any financial highlights of the past year?
Harmony regularly releases results of our performance from Q1 – Q4 and I’m proud to say that Harmony has remained financially stable, in part because of the relationships that we enjoy with government, the business community and our host communities.
List some of the greatest challenges you have faced as Executive Director of Corporate Affairs, and how you dealt with these. Which skills have stood you in good stead?
These will include having to deal with expectations by the communities that Harmony will resolve all their societal and economic challenges. The expectation was that Harmony would offer all the unemployed youths jobs, give all the entrepreneurs in the communities opportunities to do business with the company and resolve all health issues as well as the community infrastructure challenges. This we found to be real, in both South Africa and PNG.
We established community engagement structures which assist in communication flow between the company and the communities. We also have regular meetings with the different structures of government to identify and jointly find solutions to the societal challenges through partnerships. I found that being a good communicator and being resilient assisted me in dealing with these challenges. It is very important for me as well to ensure that the team I work with in these communities remain empowered and know that they can always count on me for support when things get heated.
How would you describe your leadership style? Any important leadership
lessons learnt in your career thus far?
My leadership style is inclusive leadership. I believe that every member of the team is important and completes the picture puzzle. I think my team knows that I have high expectations from them, in terms of innovation, excellence in the work they produce and their ability to be solutions-driven during challenging times.
As a leader, you need to know which qualities are required of you at any given time. I’ve learnt that at times, it’s important to lead from the front and take the bullets for your team, but at other times, you have to allow them to shine and be a supportive structure leading from the back.
Which goals have you set yourself as Executive Director of Corporate Affairs?
To have the Harmony brand recognized and respected by all stakeholders within and beyond our footprint by being actively present within the communities
To ensure that we have sound relationships with all the relevant stakeholders to promote a healthy coexistence which will lead to the creation of value for the same
What is Harmony Gold’s stance on doing business in Africa?
Although Harmony does not currently have any operations in the rest of Africa outside of South Africa, we believe that Africa has a lot to offer to the mining industry because of its richness in mineral resources. We therefore remain optimistic that Africa, as our mother continent, has potential for our growth.
How has Harmony Gold responded to events and changes in the industry e.g. the difficult economic climate, the COVID-19 pandemic, retrenchments, relationships with communities affected by mining activities, revisions to legislation, new technologies etc.?
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the most challenging periods in the company’s history and required us to adjust to a rapidly changing environment. We had to adhere to government regulations during the tough level 5 lockdown and send a majority of our workforce home, resulting in operations shutting down for the most part. Only essential workers who had to maintain critical parts of operations that could not close down were allowed to work. As lockdown regulations gradually lifted, we also had to adjust quickly to ensure as much stability to the company as we possibly. We followed a phased-in return to work strategy that allowed us to return to work in line with government regulations.
The pandemic also created a social crisis as host communities were hit hard economically. Through our CSI division, Harmony stepped in and provided much needed social relief in the form of food parcels, face masks, hand sanitizers, antiseptic soaps and mattresses to temporary shelters.
How does the road ahead look for Harmony Gold?
For now our focus is on continuing with the business of gold mining. With our new acquisitions now fully under Harmony, our focus is on ensuring that we continue to produce safe, profitable ounces and increase our margins.