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22 May 2018

What will the mining industry look like in 2030, 2040 or 2050? Technology and how it’s changing the way we operate in mining and beyond was the subject of our latest FutureSmart MiningTM Open Forum, which took place recently at The Crystal in London’s Docklands.

In Anglo American, as part of our FutureSmart MiningTM approach to innovation, we’ve been hosting Open Forums since 2015. They provide us with a chance to learn from world-class experts and collaborators in other industries, to work together to interrogate the major challenges we face in our business - and ideate potential solutions.

The guest list for the three-day Future of Mining Open Forum was a mixture of colleagues, peers from the wider industry, and people from other industries as well as civil society and government. The companies represented included Nestle, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), IKEA, Sony, the Australian High Commission, IFC, The Church of England, Mondi, BP, Statoil, Veolia and Google.

“I think it was one of our best open forums yet, driven primarily by the quality of our external guests,” said Phil Newman, Head of Innovation for Anglo American. “We were challenged right from the start, no topic of conversation was off-limits. We were exposed to a very different perspective on the future of work and the potential future of mining.”

Transforming our business

The conference got under way with presentations, context setting and systems mapping, which helped to surface the problems and challenges that change/progress represents.

Day 2 started with a session entitled Human Stories. Twelve guest speakers from a wide range of backgrounds and ages (including three of our own BLAST colleagues) were invited to speak to small groups of delegates about a challenge they face in their lives. Some spoke about social issues in their communities while others described challenges within the workplace. “Their stories were an excellent reminder that what we do is ultimately about people, which is why finding solutions to our problems is so urgent,” said Phil.

At the ideation sessions that followed, delegates explored the future of our industry and looked at the impact technology and automation will have on how we work; our stakeholders; the business; and wider society, under three headings: Preparing for the new workforce; Redefining shared value creation; Transforming our Business.

An important objective was to understand how these workforce changes will affect host communities and our social licence to operate. “We already have a big focus on supporting the development of host communities, through the Sustainability Strategy and initiatives like Zimele and the South African Education Initiative,” noted Jon Samuel, Group Head of Social Performance and Engagement. “However, the external participants provided some great new ideas for us to explore in the coming months.”

Feedback from internal delegates included:

  • “The future of work will be driven by demographics and people working with a purpose towards a mission. As much as I knew that, it was very eye opening to hear it out in the open, and with others talking about it with a slightly different perspective.”
  • “It struck me how important the culture of the company is going to be in the future and how much work needs to be done to really get things changed and embedded.”
  • “The talk from Sony was great to get me thinking about the areas we need to focus on or, at the very least, be thinking about as a business.”
  • “Much of this thinking will inform the social responsibility work and team review we are currently doing.”
  • “Partnerships with communities are important, and our approach is not holistic – we are not all on the same page when it comes to being aware of existing partnerships.”

Hundreds of ideas were tabled and many built on, to develop potential pilot projects and initiatives. They covered subjects that ranged from digital incubators around our mines and new approaches to recruitment and retention to revisiting our relationships and contracts with both our host governments and communities.

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