What happened

Outpacing the modest 0.70% rise in the price of gold so far today, shares of Harmony Gold Mining (NYSE:HMY) are looking a lot more lustrous in investors' eyes. Shares of the South African gold miner were up 9.9% as of 12:37 p.m. EST on Thursday.

The source of the bulls' enthusiasm seems to stem from the company's first-quarter 2022 operational update -- results that the company stated were "underpinned by a diversified and de-risked portfolio."

Large trucks parked at a mining operation.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Reporting gold production of 413,714 ounces in the first quarter of 2022, Harmony achieved a 32% year-over-year increase thanks to higher gold grades and metric tons milled, which contributed to improved production at several sites. And the company allayed investors' worries that gold production would falter in the coming quarters. Management reiterated 2022 gold production guidance in a range of 1.54 million ounces to 1.63 million ounces. For context, Harmony reported gold production of 1.54 million ounces in fiscal year 2021.

Investors are likely also celebrating the company's stronger financial health. After reducing its net debt by $9 million in the quarter, Harmony now has net debt of $30 billion on its balance sheet. This, in turn, contributed to the company reducing its leverage. Whereas it had a net-debt-to-EBITDA ratio of 0.1 at the end of the fourth quarter of 2021, it now has a ratio of 0.05.

Now what

While Harmony is a familiar name among gold-focused investors, the stock has hardly glittered in the long term. Over the past 10 years, for example, Harmony's stock has plunged 70% while the price of gold itself has risen nearly 3%, suggesting gold investors might want to dig deeper and consider one of the many other gold investment options available to them.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.