CAPE TOWN (miningweekly.com) – The world is standing on the brink of a technological revolution that will result in transformation unlike anything human kind has experienced before, which is making innovation mining’s biggest challenge.
“In the next five years, it’s about major step changes in innovation,” Anglo American CEO Mark Cutifani told the 8 000 attendees of this year’s Investing In African Mining Indaba.
Traditional mining roles are changing with, for example, the truck driver of the future needing digital skills to drive from a control room.
“We’re committed to re-imagining mining,” Anglo group director corporate relations Anik Michaud, who joined Cutifani on the podium, said of the company’s resolve “not to be a Kodak or a Blackberry” by charting its own innovative direction.
Already, ore-sorters are sorting waste before it is put through the mill, allowing 20% less to be spent on mills and the ore grinding has been improved so that it uses 30% less energy, much less water and allows operations to head towards becoming tailings free.
“We have to do that as a matter of survival. If you’re not thinking about these things, there’s no future,” said Cutifani.
While Anglo expects to grow employment as it grows as a company, the rate of employment growth will be lower, which is why five off-site non-mining jobs are being targeted for every one on-site mining job.
The plan is to advance local communities from subsistence farming to commercial agriculture, which will also involve helping them to access water.
All the while it will be working with governments, on their country visions, and with academia on the creation of the right skills.
“We’re hoping that we’ll help communities thrive well after the mine is gone,” said Michaud.
Five years ago, Anglo was losing competitiveness and dealing with capital allocation issues; now, five years on, every person in Anglo is producing double the output of the past.
Operating costs have fallen 16% and competitive returns are being delivered.
“These are disruptive times and we have pathways but by no means all the answers,” said Michaud, who will also be attending the alternative mining indaba that is also under way in Cape Town.
Anglo is intent on creating a new social contract with its communities and upskilling workers so that they can have access to higher wages.