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Drillers prepare to acquire borehole radar data at De Beers’ Snap Lake mine in Canada. Borehole radar implementation strategies have been developed by Anglo Technical through collaboration between Anglo American and De Beers geophysicists. Where applicable these strategies are now being rolled out at various Group mines

The resources Anglo American considers critical to achieving its strategic aims include:

  • Knowledge and expertise
  • Proved and probable reserves

For details of the Group’s Ore Reserves and Mineral Resources estimates click here.

Knowledge and expertise

Technology capability

Anglo American has long been distinguished by its strong in-house technology capability. The Anglo Technical division (Anglo Technical) is the custodian of specialised engineering skills employed throughout the Group, while Anglo Research identifies emerging technologies and develops them to pilot-plant scale and also assists in the rapid transfer of technologies across the Group. During 2008, a value based management exercise was conducted across Anglo Technical and Anglo Research to improve focus and the degree of prioritisation. The technology strategy has accordingly been upgraded, with clear technology development priorities established in the following areas: safety, sustainable development, research and development, asset optimisation and nurturing of technical talent.

Anglo Technical continues to assist operations at Group sites worldwide, particularly in such fields as safety improvement, asset optimisation and energy efficiency. In addition to bedding down energy and emission reduction reporting, an IT network has been established to collect data on electricity usage from all Group operations in South Africa. This will assist in establishing baseline parameters for energy efficiency improvements to meet Group targets, and also in managing the impact of electricity rationing schemes that have been proposed for introduction during 2009. Technical studies into the construction and operation of very large electric motors have led to the successful commissioning of gearless mill drives at Anglo Platinum’s Mogalakwena concentrator in South Africa and on the new dragline at Anglo Coal’s Lake Lindsay operation in Australia, the first application of alternating current (AC) drive technology in the Group. Mining automation remains a key focus area, offering the potential for improved safety and reduced cost, while the ongoing development of industrial wireless networking offers major new cost effective opportunities to extend the capabilities of control systems at Group operations. Anglo Technical has also formulated a new Group Fatal Risk Standard to cover procedures for energy isolation before undertaking, inspection, maintenance or construction work.

In the exploration field, benchmarking exercises in Canada and production surveys in South Africa have demonstrated that the Ground Electromagnetic, Superconducting Quantum Interference Device (EM SQUID) provides Anglo American with a technical advantage over its competitors. Geophysical tools are also increasingly being deployed in risk management, with tools such as 3D seismic surveys, downhole geophysical logging and borehole radar being applied in mine planning and development. Predictive hazard mapping and modelling ahead of the mining face, using integrated geoscience and engineering inputs, is an important area of research at Anglo Technical.

At Anglo Research, an innovative process has been piloted successfully for the production of titanium metal, with further research and development now being conducted to optimise the technology. The development of an innovative production technology to extract nickel from laterite ores has progressed to the stage where detailed design of an integrated pilot plant is almost complete. Research initiatives are being conducted to significantly improve water and energy efficiency in the future through development of new technologies in the areas of ore upgrading, comminution and dry processing. Concentrator surveys continue to be conducted across the Group to improve operational and water usage efficiencies. A new-generation Scanning Electro Microscope – Mineral Liberation Analyser (SEM MLA) is currently being commissioned. State of the art operating software is being developed to allow automated online mineralogy data capture at remote operational sites, with high level data evaluation being conducted in the Mineralogical Research department.

A number of factors, including technical advances, constraints on the availability of resources such as water and energy, the need to reduce our impact on the climate and evolving stakeholder expectations, have prompted a re-assessment of the way in which major projects are designed, assessed and implemented. A suite of tools and procedures, developed internally and in conjunction with international partners, is being rolled out across the Group to assist project managers in ensuring that due consideration is given to all relevant factors over the lifetime of each project. Anglo Technical is leading a number of capital efficiency initiatives derived from an international benchmarking study completed in 2008. These focus on optimising organisational project structures, the development of essential project skills and rolling out a Group best practice project standard. Governance and assurance are also provided through the technical review of major projects at various stages of their development.

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Case study

Anglo Technical

Anglo Platinum launched a Borehole Radar (BHR) programme in 2007. The principal objective was to map geological disruptions to the PGM-bearing Merensky and UG2 reefs, especially so called ‘potholes’, which can vary in length from a few metres to hundreds of metres. Mining into potholes results in wasted development costs, dilution of ore and inefficient deployment of people and equipment and can also be a safety hazard because of unstable ground.

The BHR technique, implemented by Anglo Technical’s Geosciences Resource Group, uses a special sensing probe, deployed in boreholes drilled ahead of mining development in order to show any reef disruptions up to 200 metres in advance of where mining is planned to take place. At one shaft, a BHR survey was able to identify mineable areas in generally poor ground that had not been exploited previously owing to the inability to predict where potholes would be found. Here, a BHR survey costing $150,000 was able to add more than $14.2 million in value to the mine’s resource base. BHR is also being used in pilot holes, adjacent to the sites of proposed new shafts, to identify any vertical or near-vertical geological features that might pose a danger during shaft sinking, such as faults and water-filled fissures.