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FutureSmart MiningTM

At Anglo American, our Purpose is to re-imagine mining to improve people’s lives.

One of the most explicit ways in which we are living up to our Purpose is through FutureSmart Mining™: technology, digitalisation and sustainability working hand in hand.

FutureSmart Mining™ is our innovation-led approach to sustainable mining. These are the step-change innovations that will transform the nature of mining – how we source, mine, process, move and market our products – and how our stakeholders experience our business. It is about transforming our physical and societal footprint. 

FutureSmart Mining™ is our blueprint for the future of our business. A future in which broad innovative thinking, enabling technologies, and collaborative partnerships will shape an industry that is safer, more sustainable and efficient, and better harmonised with the needs of our host communities and society as a whole.  

Technologies and digitalisation will fundamentally change how we source, mine, process, move and market our products; and our Sustainable Mining Plan will transform how our stakeholders experience Anglo American along our entire value chain.

Technologies and digitisation will also mean that the nature of work in the future will be different to today. Throughout this transition we will work with our colleagues, unions, communities, host governments and other stakeholders to support the development of the skills we will need. Our approach is grounded in the five principals of; listening, partnership, investing in the future, transparency and aligned with our Purpose.

In short, we envisage a much-reduced environmental footprint from new ways of mining, including by using a number of precision mining technologies and data analytics, while our collaborative approach to regional economic development and our ambitious global stretch goals, aimed at delivering improvements to areas such as health and education, are at the heart of how we will create truly sustainable and thriving communities.

Enter the world of FutureSmart MiningTM

Watch this video for a brief summary of what we mean when we talk about FutureSmart MiningTM and how it fits with our broader strategy and purpose.

FutureSmart MiningTM: Technology & Digitalisation

Through technologies and digitalisation, we envisage four concepts underpinning a new way of mining: Concentrating the Mine, the Water-less Mine, the Modern Mine, and the Intelligent Mine:

Concentrating the Mine? is looking to address the need for increased precision in mining, with minimal energy, water and capital intensity. We are applying technologies that more precisely target the desired metals or minerals, delivering greater than 30% reductions in the use of water, energy and capital intensity, and producing less waste in the process, in line with our overall trajectory towards carbon neutral mining. This includes:

  • Coarse Particle Recovery – crushes particles to 2.5 times larger than normal, reducing energy consumption and mill time and leading to a 20% increase in throughput and 85% water recovery.
  • Bulk Sorting – Eliminates waste early, which leads to a 5 - 7% increase in head grade. The recoveries are even higher when combined with grade engineering principles, where higher grades tend to be found in finer fractions, ensuring further upgrading.
  • Ultrafine recovery – We lose around 10 - 15% of recovery today because the mineral particles are too small. We are testing two ultrafine recovery methods and expect to increase recoveries in future by a further 4%.

Water-less Mine: The work we are doing on Concentrating the Mine? is creating pathways to the Water-less Mine. Given that 75% of Anglo American’s current asset portfolio is located in water constrained areas, it is essential that we reduce our dependence on water and associated tailings facilities. We will always need water, but we can get closer to full recovery recycling.

  • Coarse Particle Recovery – allows water to release from the much coarser particles, which improves energy efficiencies and water savings by ~30%. This technology will reduce the risks associated with wet tailings and help ultimately to eliminate them altogether. When combined with low cost additives, it is possible to dewater residual waste and produce dry stackable tailings. This technology remains a focus area for us as water sent to tailings facilities often represents the largest water loss at a mine.
  • Novel Leach – is about addressing our legacy challenges and identifying a way to clean up some of our old or closed tailings facilities, both extracting the valuable residual metals and minerals, and improving their stability.
  • Leaching is the least energy intensive method of processing and has disproportionate benefits when compared to conventional processing. However, until now we have been restricted by recoveries (within the 40-60% range). New chemistries are now enabling us to be more specific in how we target minerals through the leaching process, significantly enhancing recoveries (i.e. 80 – 90%) in lower grade ores and changing the capital equation.

Modern Mine: Safety is our number one priority, we want to ensure that all our people go home safely, every day.

  • We are developing a new generation of engineered controls to reduce the exposure of people to risk. This includes using existing modernisation technologies, like electro-hydraulic drills, and by removing scraper winches.
  • From there, we can move operators further out of harm’s way and deliver efficiencies in continuous mining at depth through advancements in hard rock cutting.
  • Automated and continuous rock-cutting vehicles safely extract the targeted ore deep underground without the need for explosive blasting. These innovations make it possible to mine lower grade ores and complex mineralogy, creating a safer and more productive environment, with lower operating costs.
  • By introducing remotely operated machinery, Swarm robotics will be the next generation of mining, and will ultimately mean the removal of people from safety risk exposure, while upskilling employees in new technologies and approaches.

Intelligent Mine: The Intelligent Mine is one in which vast quantities of quality data are transformed into predictive intelligence, leading to a safe, fully integrated, systemised and self-learning operations.

  • The aim is to remove the uncertainty and variability that characterises mining today. We are re-imagining the mining value chain with the power of data, from discovery to marketing.
  • We are building a digital ecosystem that underpins a digital way of working, operations are being digitised through sensors and other instrumentation, and artificial intelligence is being used to accelerate a range of processes, beginning with ore body characterisation.
  • We have implemented predictive maintenance models that are detecting failures before they occur and reducing unplanned down time, thereby increasing our throughput at sites including Barro Alto, Mogalakwena and Amandelbult.
  • Our machine learning digital twins are generating accurate “best operational recipes” for complex processing units – with a few clicks on a smartphone, six hours ahead of schedule. This means our sites are able to make the best decisions and can multiply mineral recovery from each load of ore, while reducing the energy and water required.
  • And with Advanced Process Control we are reducing process variability and enabling further throughput efficiencies (<5% range and even higher when considering energy efficiency). For example, at Los Bronces, we have achieved an 8% absolute energy reduction across three SAG mills and a 12% reduction in specific energy consumption.

FutureSmart MiningTM: Sustainable Mining Plan

Anglo American has long shown itself to be a leader across many fields and such leadership is called for again as society changes with and around us. Mining must play its part to address the environmental challenges of a carbon-constrained world and society’s wider expectations of us as enablers of change, while we continue to meet the ever-growing demand for our products.

Our Sustainable Mining Plan is designed to tackle many of these challenges, both environmental and social, and we are making encouraging progress that is changing how our employees and stakeholders experience Anglo American, in line with our Purpose.

Central to living up to our Purpose is our FutureSmart Mining? programme, bringing together step-change innovation in technology, digitalisation and sustainability – working hand in hand towards sustainable mining. This is a different way of thinking that is beginning to transform the nature and experience of mining – how we discover, mine, process, move and market our products – and how we can make a positive difference to improve people’s lives.

Our far-reaching and ambitious Sustainable Mining Plan, launched in 2018 as part of FutureSmart Mining?, is built around three major areas or Global Sustainability Pillars, which are aligned to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals:

  • Developing trust as a corporate leader, providing ethical value chains, policy advocacy and improved accountability.
  • Building thriving communities with better health, education and levels of employment; and
  • Maintaining a healthy environment that use less water and deliver positive biodiversity outcomes, ultimately moving us closer to our vision of a carbon neutral mine.

Under each of the Global Sustainability Pillars we have a set of stretch goals. We’re putting all our efforts into delivering them between now and 2030. Some of our 2030 goals include: schools in host communities to perform within the top 20% of state schools nationally, five jobs created off-site for every job on-site, and reduce net GHG emissions by 30%.

These Global Stretch Goals are deliberately ambitious and designed to challenge us to lead and innovate. 

At the heart of our Sustainable Mining Plan is Collaborative Regional Development, our model for bringing long-term sustainable development opportunities to the regions around our operations.

This innovative approach starts by identifying socio-economic development opportunities with the greatest potential in a region via spatial planning and analysis.

This creates the catalyst for partnerships with a broad range of stakeholders including: community representatives, faith groups, businesses and entrepreneurs, government, academics and NGOs.

By working with partners, we are delivering on our commitment to building the foundations for long-term, sustainable development in our host regions, far beyond the life of the mine.

Our approach to sustainability goes far beyond compliance with mining law or regulatory requirements. It comprises mutually reinforcing elements that will positively transform how our stakeholders experience our business, both locally and globally, and ultimately leave a much-reduced physical footprint.

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