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FutureSmart Mining

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World Coal,

Chris Griffith, Anglo American Platinum.

Modernisation of the mining industry in South Africa is crucial to its global competitiveness. For our part, Anglo American continues with the transformation journey it started many years ago. However, fast-tracking the development and deployment of innovative technologies is best developed in conjunction with industry peers, as well as with experts from other industries and sectors.

The central element of modernisation is the mechanisation of the mining and extraction processes. Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, there has been a debate over the introduction of mechanised and automated processes and the impact on jobs. However, better productivity is better for the economy – and ultimately for society as a whole. Jobs don’t get lost: they get created in new areas. With the current state of technology, mechanisation is both possible and affordable; moreover, it is a social and economic imperative.

On a revenue-to-revenue basis, the industry spends 80% less on technology and innovation compared with the petroleum sector. With industry margins being squeezed on all fronts, we simply have to embrace innovation if we want to find more productive, efficient and sustainable ways of extracting value from the minerals we mine. In fact, modernisation in mining needs to leap forward twenty years in the next five.

We have been on a modernisation journey within Anglo American with game-changing technological advances. Among the front-running technologies are lasers that can cut or soften rock to allow cutting of hard rock – to replace drilling and blasting. In addition, 3D point-cloud geospatial technology enables real-time profiling of excavations, while automated robotic equipment can remotely detect geological structures and 3D printing plays an important role in manufacturing of tailored equipment. Such technologies will further change the way we mine, making mining safer and more efficient, with less environmental impact.

At Anglo American, we call our approach to innovation FutureSmart™ Mining. It is our response to the industry’s global drive for a more sustainable approach to mining. It will accelerate our ability to use innovation and technology to address our critical challenges and find safer, more efficient, environmentally-friendly and sustainable ways to unlock mineral value.

But no company can keep pace with today’s advances on its own. As part of FutureSmart, we’re bringing in people with different skills sets and fresh perspectives from other industries. Modernisation is not just about innovation, new technologies, mechanisation and automated processes. We will only attain our vision of a modern mine if we work in partnership with our employees, government, unions and NGOs.

Written by Chris Griffith. Edited by

About the author: Chris Griffith is CEO of Anglo American Platinum. This article is based on a presentation given at Mining Indaba 2015.

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