Page 4: From testing to launch
New processes need to be developed and tested before being implemented at full scale. Computer modelling may be used for testing a new idea with little cost before production starts. As part of the new product development, it may be necessary to create samples, prototypesor working models for testing.
At Anglo American, a new process idea is first tested at 'beaker scale'. This means very small scale, almost like in a laboratory. Then a small pilot plant is set up. The product or process implementation is the final stage. By developing new technologies and transferring them to all areas of the Group, Anglo American is able to share ideas to maintain its global strength. Sustainable development is particularly important to Anglo American. A focus on sustainable development means the company sources minerals for present needs without harming the ability of future generations to access similar resources.
Anglo American's research and development capability is vital to the business. Its ability to develop new products and processes keeps the Group at the forefront of technological developments. For example, in the field of metal extraction from ore the Group has developed a new process to handle lateritic nickel ores. This type of ore occurs on the surface of the earth and has weathered extensively. This means that it requires a lot of effort to extract the metal, involving a great quantity of chemicals and/or energy. It contains the richest sources of nickel but existing commercial processes to extract it are expensive and do not generate a healthy return on investment.
The new process being developed by Anglo Research aims to minimise use of these chemicals and reduce the energy needed for the process. It has been designed to help Anglo American to use the difficult nickel ores that contain the bulk of the world's available nickel metal more economically.