Resources and technology
Exploring new ways to minimise our
The resources Anglo American considers critical to achieving its strategic aims include:
- Knowledge and expertise
- Proved and Probable Reserves
Number of technology-based projects to deliver our vision for mining in 2030
Haul trucks currently being monitored remotely from a central location
We have a strong track record of greenfield discovery and in 2011, our Exploration team was recognised for their work in northern Finland. At the Fennoscandian Exploration and Mining Conference the team was awarded the 5th Fennoscandian* Mining Award for the Sakatti discovery in northern Finland. The award recognises and honours individuals and teams for an outstanding contribution and achievement within the industry.
The Sakatti project is a significant copper-nickel-platinum group elements grassroots discovery. Sakatti is located within a known mining region, 150 km north of the Arctic Circle, with excellent infrastructure including major highways and power generation facilities. The tenure to the Sakatti deposit and surrounding area is part of a contiguous extensive tenure package covering 830 km2.
The mineralised body at Sakatti plunges to more than 1,000 metres below a thin glacial cover and is open at depth, to the west, north and south. It is one of a number of mineralised intrusions discovered by our Exploration team in the region.
The current exploration drilling programme is focused on delineating the boundaries of the mineralised body and, as such, precludes infill drilling at a density required for the definition and estimation of a Joint Ore Reserves Committee (JORC) compliant Mineral Resource.
We understand the importance of the local environment and, in collaboration with our drilling partner OYKATIAB, we have sought to minimise our environmental footprint through the development of an innovative semi-closed loop drilling system that has substantially minimised our waste and water use. Our team has been working in the region since 2004, engaging with a range of stakeholders: regional and municipal governments, and local communities including landowners, reindeer herders and other land users.
Anglo American sees Finland as highly prospective and the immediate plans are to continue to expand the exploration work at the Sakatti deposit, as well as looking at other priority targets within Lapland and the broader Fennoscandia region.
- * Fennoscandia is the region that includes Scandinavia, Finland and Russia's Kola Peninsula and Karelia.
Our strong in-house technology capability provides world class solutions to Anglo American and its global operations. Mining and Technology, which comprises seven highly specialised technical groups that concentrate their expertise in specific value-adding areas, made a significant contribution to the Group on several fronts.
The Technology Development unit manages, coordinates and integrates technology development across Anglo American. A detailed technology development vision and strategy have been developed to cover all perceived technology needs over the next 20 years, across all aspects of the value chain. The vision for mining in 2030 has identified the gap between current technology and the technology that will be required in two decades' time. More than 50 projects have been identified, which have been grouped into 11 programmes. The programmes include safety, automation, rapid discovery, resource characterisation, mining methods, alternative processes, resource to market optimisation, water, energy and carbon, operational efficiency and people. The projects are all managed in terms of a rigorous prioritisation and stage-gate protocol aligned with the Projects Way.
Each project creates opportunities to advance the Group's technology base to facilitate the development of new mines that will be safer and more efficient in terms of costs, energy, carbon and water consumption – even though they are likely to be deeper, lower grade and in more remote and less accessible locations than current mines. Existing mines, too, will benefit, with the implementation of new technologies providing greater efficiencies and improved safety, while such mines will serve as the testing grounds for the technologies for future operations.
One of the projects, a system that automatically senses the condition of haul trucks, won one of Anglo American's Applaud awards for Innovation in 2011. Its uniqueness lies in it being an inexpensive, remote machine condition monitoring system capable of analysing the multi-variate data generated by equipment from different suppliers, and of producing easy to understand information upon which operations can easily act. The system was successfully implemented on a global basis, with the health of some 225 haul trucks being monitored from a central location. Significant savings have been realised as a result of the system being able to accurately predict impending failures. Such projects will support the Group in dealing with the ongoing skills shortage in the mining industry as well as the reluctance of many employees to living and working in remote areas of the world.
The four discipline centres of excellence (Mining, Metallurgy, Geosciences and Engineering), in collaboration with the business units, have developed and started to implement across the Group, a multi-disciplinary set of Group Technical Standards aimed at optimising value added to operations, improving project delivery and mitigating technical risks. These standards, with their associated guidelines, not only cover the various disciplines, but also projects, safety and sustainable development and risk, and have been designed to facilitate the sharing of best practice. The four centres of excellence continue to provide significant technical assurance to projects and asset optimisation opportunities to operations. Notably, an exercise has been launched, across the business units, to investigate the potential safety benefits of currently available technologies not yet deployed in our operations.
The Technical Solutions division, made up of experts from all the traditional engineering disciplines, as well as mining, geophysics, metallurgy, geometallurgy and chemistry, industrial engineering, materials handling, safety, occupational health, sustainable development and project engineering, supports the Group's operations, projects, business units and corporate functions. It provides leading metallurgical and process research, as well as laboratory and piloting facilities, a broad range of technical consulting, project engineering and field services, and is focused on delivering and implementing sustainable multi-discipline techno-economic solutions.
Development of a low-toxicity reagent for gold leaching
A great deal of time and effort has been saved through the application of molecular modelling techniques in the design of chemical substances. For the mining industry, this opens up many possibilities in the field of more selective leach agents, and the identification of environmentally friendly alternative chemicals.
In order to demonstrate the potential of such techniques, an in-house technical team chose as a test case the targeted development of a gold leaching chemical with low toxicity – a decision that was partly driven by our interest in the Pebble copper/gold/molybdenum project in Alaska, and the concerns raised regarding chemical pollution there.
Current practice for extracting gold from an ore generally involves the use of cyanide to dissolve the metal. While cyanide is highly effective in doing so, it is also extremely toxic and could pose a serious ecological liability. The resulting impetus to develop alternative ways to dissolve gold led to the reinvestigation of a number of historically known alternative substances by our Technical Solutions team - though these studies mostly highlighted cyanide's advantages; namely, its superior selectivity, stability, and its low cost.
A molecular modelling exercise, however, has identified a commonly available reagent with appropriate gold leaching characteristics and low toxicity. Although the solubility of the reagent is generally low, it achieved gold extractions of more than 95% on Witwatersrand gold-bearing ores.
Although we are still in the early stages of the development of non-toxic and more efficient mineral extraction compounds, the application of molecular modelling in the resources industry holds out the promise of more sustainable process technologies in the future.
Technical Solutions recently developed and implemented a haul truck rolling-resistance solution in collaboration with Komatsu and the University of Pretoria in South Africa. As fuel consumption, cycle times, tyre life and equipment life are affected significantly by varying road conditions, this system continuously measures haul road conditions and informs mine management as to its road maintenance priorities. It has been implemented on two continents and is being rolled out globally.
In the safety field specifically, we have developed a haul truck energy-absorbing bumper. Accidents between heavy and light vehicles are a major risk in the mining industry, and this new type of bumper will reduce the risk of fatal injuries. The uniqueness of the design is that the bumper can successfully absorb impact energies of up to 30 km/h without causing serious injury to the occupants of the light vehicle. The unit was successfully demonstrated at our Thermal Coal operations and is currently being rolled out on haul trucks with payloads above 150 tonnes.
The benefits of having our own Group mineralogical research capabilities have been well proven over many years in our Platinum, Copper and Iron Ore businesses. Recently, an opportunity was identified to further develop this capability in order to facilitate mineralogical investigations of coal samples, which differ vastly from other mineral deposits. As a result, Technical Solutions can now assist both our Metallurgical Coal and Thermal Coal operations to better understand their orebodies with regards to ash content, metallurgical beneficiation processes and product marketability. A novel instrument, which provides rapid and precise results for measuring the density of drill cores and plant samples, has now been developed in support of our renewed concentration on density values and their effect on mine planning and reserve estimation.
Metallurgical Coal, in collaboration with Joy Mining Machinery, is undertaking a 'Longwall of the future' project which is designed to deliver world class levels of safety, production and operating cost performance. By leveraging the know-how of both organisations, and taking a holistic-mining system approach, the plan is to advance to the next level of technology in terms of automation, built-in design reliability and remote prognostics. This is expected to result in cutting rates of around 2,000 tonnes per hour and 100 cutting hours per week. At the same time, safety will be enhanced through removing our teams from high energy environments. In a further development, in the Brisbane office a new integrated value chain control room employs the latest technology in order to yield maximum efficiencies in coal movements across Metallurgical Coal's six coal mines and three loading ports.
Our global exploration activity for 2011 focused on greenfield exploration across a number of mature and frontier locations as well as adding value to our operations and advanced projects. During 2011, Anglo American's exploration expenditure was $121 million in 16 countries, (2010: $136 million), while De Beers' total exploration expenditure amounted to $40 million (2010: $43 million).
Platinum exploration costs of $5 million, were focused on providing support to the advanced projects and operations around South Africa's Bushveld Complex and fulfilling the statutory work programme requirements. Exploration activities during the year led to a significant resource increase at Mogalakwena, while 2D/3D seismic surveys were conducted at the Der Brochen project and Union mine. Exploration drilling programmes continued at the mines in Rustenburg, Swartklip, Amandelbult and Twickenham. Platinum exploration continued outside South Africa at Unki in Zimbabwe and in Brazil.
Our global exploration activity for 2011 focused on greenfields exploration across a number of mature and frontier locations.
Copper exploration expenditure totalled $27 million and included near-mine exploration in Chile at the Los Bronces, El Soldado, Mantoverde and Mantos Blancos mines and advanced stage exploration drilling at West Wall. Drilling around West Wall led to the discovery of additional mineralisation at West Wall Norte prospect. Exploration also provided support for the development of the Los Sulfatos tunnel, which was completed in November 2011. Greenfield exploration was conducted in Chile, Peru, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Canada and Indonesia.
Nickel laterite exploration expenditure was $4 million, which focused on exploration drilling in the Morro Sem Boné district in Brazil.
Polymetallic (copper-nickel-platinum group elements) exploration expenditure amounted to $22 million and focused on Sakatti in northern Finland. Exploration at this advanced project aimed to define the limits of the orebody and to test other surrounding high priority targets. Greenfield polymetallic exploration was conducted elsewhere in northern Finland, western Brazil, the Musgraves region of Western Australia and the Canadian Arctic.
Iron Ore exploration expenditure of $5 million was concentrated around operations and projects in South Africa and Brazil. In South Africa, exploration was undertaken to support Kumba's Sishen and Kolomela operations, as well as further drilling in the Northern Cape to advance these projects and fulfil statutory work programmes. Extensive surface and underground resource evaluation drilling continued on the Phoenix project at Thabazimbi mine. In Brazil, exploration work focused on evaluating resources close to the principal deposits and operations of Minas-Rio and Amapá.
Metallurgical Coal exploration expenditure of $5 million focused on drilling and 2D/3D seismic surveys to define and evaluate resources of coking and export thermal coal in Australia and Canada. In Australia, extensive drilling and seismic activities were performed to support the operations at Moranbah North, Capcoal, Dawson, Foxleigh, Drayton and Callide as well as the advanced projects of Grosvenor, Moranbah South, Drayton South and Dartbrook. Canadian exploration was strengthened at the Peace River Coal Trend mine and surrounding exploration leases, with the aim of defining additional coking coal resources.
Thermal Coal exploration expenditure amounted to $9 million, which was primarily spent on drilling in southern Africa. In South Africa, exploration was undertaken across a number of projects, including Standerton, Elders, Zibulo, New Largo, Kriel East, Vaal basin, Heidelberg Limpopo and Waterberg projects. In Botswana, exploration focused on evaluating export thermal coal and coal bed methane prospectivity.