Anglo is determined to be the tip of the spear that transforms the mining sector

By using more precise technologies, less energy and less water, and by making ‘zero harm’ a working reality rather than a corporate cliché.
Image: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg

The recent Mining Indaba in Cape Town was an opportunity for mining houses to showcase their ESG (environment, social and governance) credentials.

Anglo American has made it clear in recent years that it intends to lead the industry in the quest for what has become known as “sustainable mining” and is marshalling some truly fascinating technologies to help it get there.

It recently unveiled the nuGen Zero Emission Haulage system, a hydrogen-powered truck with a load capacity of 290 tons, currently being piloted at Anglo’s Mogalakwena platinum mine in Limpopo Province, with plans to roll it out across the group.

Another ambitious programme involves taking all 19 of its South African operations off grid.

In March it was announced that Anglo had inked an agreement with global renewables company EDF Renewables to develop a regional renewable energy ecosystem (RREE) that will wean Anglo’s South African operations 100% off the grid by 2030. The group plans to be carbon-neutral by 2040.

Anglo American CEO Duncan Wanblad told the Mining Indaba that mining must confront the new reality of meeting the mineral demands of a growing global economy, while rapidly transitioning to zero carbon.

“As the world contends with the urgent imperative to decarbonise, coupled with rapid urbanisation and the dire need to address social inequality, the demand for mined materials is set to increase even more. As an industry, our challenge is clear: we need to go about satisfying the demand for metals and minerals in a very different way; a way that is in harmony with the needs of society and the natural environment – while creating and sharing enduring value in an inclusive way for all of our stakeholders,” said Wanblad.

Zero harm

Zero harm has long been top of Anglo’s priorities. The 2021 annual report notes there was one fatality across the group (in Peru) in the 12-month period, for a group employing 106 000 people in 15 countries.

“One of the things that is demonstrably making a difference is our Elimination of Fatalities programme,” says chair Stuart Chambers in the latest annual report. “We are putting increased resources behind that, and I am encouraged by its headway. Through this work, we are gaining a better understanding of how serious incidents happen, helping us to prioritise actions to eliminate risk at the workplace, as well as travelling to and from work.”

Chambers further notes that the steady improvement in the injury rate stalled, highlighting the work that needs to be done to achieve the goal of zero harm.

The core programme behind the zero harm target is known as SLAM – Stop, Look, Assess, Manage, which is hazard identification in action. SLAM is a short way to remember to stop a task if employees think their safety or that of a colleague is at risk.

There is also ‘visible felt leadership’, led by managers at all levels and going beyond tickbox safety checklists to ongoing coaching and communication.

Anglo has also made it a policy to learn from incidents, each of which is treated as a valuable opportunity to learn to avoid repeating mistakes.

The group made available $30 million for a group-wide global roll-out of Covid vaccines, with a further $100 million going to the Anglo American Foundation to fund longer term health, social and environmental projects in host communities around the world.

From a health and safety aspect, Covid has been a watershed event for Anglo, resulting in improved proactive monitoring of workers and more immediate care when infections are detected – all in the name of taking it closer to the goal of zero harm.

Going beyond sustainable mining

Anglo’s Sustainable Mining Plan outlines some of the most ambitious environmental targets in the sector.

By 2030, it aims to:

  • Reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30% against a 2016 baseline;
  • Improve energy efficiency by 30%;
  • Achieve a 50% net reduction in freshwater abstraction in water scarce areas;
  • Deliver net-positive impacts in biodiversity wherever it operates; and
  • To be carbon neutral across all operations by 2040.

FutureSmart Mining is critical to achieving many of these targets, and involves the use of new technologies that are revolutionising the way we understand mining. This work spans many of its physical mining processes, acting as a catalyst for self-sustaining regional economic activity and advocating for policies that support decarbonisation and ethical sourcing of raw materials, as examples.

One of the pillars of FutureSmart Mining is Concentrating the Mine, a trademarked concept that aims at greater precision in mining, with minimal use of water, energy and capital – all the while producing less waste.

‘Intelligent Mine’ is another Anglo concept that provides huge volumes of quality data about mining operations that are being transformed into predictive intelligence – such as alerting operators to potential machine breakdowns before they occur, and so vastly reducing downtime.

“We see the Just Energy Transition as not just about a transition, but we want to make mining more relatable to people,” says Anglo’s external communications manager, Sibusiso Tshabalala.

“Mining is everybody’s industry. The industry production value last year was just over R1.2 trillion. That’s a massive contribution to the economy. Mining is deeply interwoven into the country’s history, and there is a tendency for mines to become the epicentre of economic activity in the regions in which they operate. But mines have finite lives, and we want to ensure that when the minerals run out, we do not leave a vacuum.”

Listen to this SAfm Market Update interview with Sibusiso Tshabalala:

Brought to you by Anglo American.

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