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Knowledge and expertise

Technology capability

Anglo American's strong in-house technology capability continues to provide world class solutions to the Group and its operations globally. Mining and Technology is the custodian of specialised engineering skills employed throughout the Group, while Anglo Research identifies and develops emerging technologies. Anglo American's technology strategy is regularly reviewed to meet the Group's changing needs, with the focus on safety, sustainable development, asset optimisation, the development of value adding technologies and on nurturing technical talent.

Mining and Technology has developed the Anglo Fatal Risk Standards and Guidelines and provides technical support to Group operations to ensure their optimal application and implementation. Anglo Major Risk Standards and Guidelines are currently being finalised to address high consequence, low probability risks for diverse areas such as shafts, flooding and structures. The quality of the organisation's technical support is exemplified by Mining and Technology becoming a leader in the field of roll-over protection structures (ROPS) through numerical crash simulation and physical testing, and it has developed the first ROPS standard for light vehicles employed in mining operations globally.

Mining and Technology plays an integral role in sustainable development related work within the Group, having developed the Anglo Environmental Way with its associated guidelines and performance standards. The technical team played a key role in the formation of a partnership with the NGO, Fauna and Flora International, and in its participation in Anglo American's Biodiversity Action Plan Peer Review programme, which serves to assist operations to identify key biodiversity risks and opportunities. In addition, Mining and Technology developed the Mine Closure Toolbox, which focuses on the long term planning and management of environmental and closure liabilities, thus influencing and guiding the way operations are designed, planned and managed. The toolbox is being implemented at more than 30 operations across the globe.

The organisation is equipped with a world class measurement and testing laboratory as well as highly skilled engineers to support the Group on failure analysis and vibration issues, which include structural and human vibration matters. The measured data is used, inter alia, for the prediction or anticipation of failures of critical machines, for process optimisations and to measure and address exposure limits to prevent operator fatigue, which contributes to safer and more effective operations. Input is also provided to original equipment manufacturers in order to address certain design issues, thus enhancing the final product.

Mining and Technology has developed and implemented a comprehensive and industry leading structural inspection and maintenance management programme (SIMM) to ensure employee safety and prevent asset value destruction. SIMM accurately assesses the condition of critical structures (including shaft steelwork) and recommends appropriate intervention strategies. This is of particular importance to long life assets.

The novel metallurgical process developed for the Skorpion Zinc refinery in Namibia is just one example in Anglo American's long history of taking new ideas and developing them into working solutions. Currently, Anglo Research is developing a process for atmospheric leaching of nickel laterite ores. The concept has been refined, tested at laboratory scale and piloted at mini-plant scale. A fully integrated pilot plant is currently under construction and will be in operation towards the end of 2010. A demonstration plant will be developed based on the outcome of a successful pilot campaign.

The state-of-the-art Anglo American developed Spectrem airborne electromagnetic system is being deployed in Australia following a series of successful surveys in Canada and Alaska.

Mining and Technology continues to improve other technologies aimed at ensuring the safety of vertical transport through the development of significantly improved digital electronic and detection algorithms in order to identify defects in steel wire ropes, and through the adaptation of leading edge non-destructive testing technologies for shaft winding systems. An underground rail inspection system has also been developed and implemented, aimed at improving the safety and efficiency of such facilities.

The Mining and Technology developed best practice guideline for shaft design, based on the experience and expertise built up over decades in Group design offices and operations, is aimed at enhancing the effectiveness of future shafts and at optimising their life cycle cost and effectiveness. The document will assist designers by means of guidelines, specifications, examples and checklists.

The focus on optimising Anglo American's project structures and processes is continuing with the implementation of the Group Asset Development Standard and associated guidelines and tools.

Thermal Coal's New Vaal Colliery in South Africa

An integrated geospatial solution

Mining and metals professionals strive to shorten project schedules and lower operating costs through improved access to mission-critical information. Effectively managing and controlling the costs of a 20 Mtpa coal mining operation requires statistical evaluation of multiple databases.

Thermal Coal's New Vaal colliery required a system to link spatial information to various databases to allow analysis of possible outcomes based on changing variables. Because most of this information is inextricably linked to the Survey Department, an integrated geospatial solution that encompassed the entire mining cycle was created by a team comprising mine and Mining and Technology experts as well as a software solutions provider. An information repository and manipulation tool with a primary focus on linking production data with spatial referencing was identified and tested. Thereafter, fixed and dynamic reporting was integrated with a web publisher to web-enable the solution.

The tool will be expanded to other functional areas in due course. The integrated geospatial solution will ultimately enable management to have immediate access through the web to multiple databases and imagery which would otherwise have been inaccessible.

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Annual Report 2009