New technology development in the primary sector
An Anglo American case study

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Page 3: Research and development

Research is the first stage in new technology development. Research starts with a problem and gathers, records and tests data to find a solution. Development involves working out the details of the solution, such as what materials for construction are needed or if the new process will integrate with existing systems.

Anglo Research uses its expertise to develop ideas and identify solutions to technical problems and issues. For example, some new mineral and metal deposits are difficult to mine economically in traditional ways and need a new approach. Once Anglo Research has provided the results from the research to guide the new process development, Anglo Technical provides the specialised engineering and technical skills necessary to carry out the development of the process.

Anglo Research and Anglo Technical have five broad roles that support the best application of existing technology and the development of new technologies:

  1. Providing support in safety and sustainable development, for example, developing a collision avoidance tool. This warns drivers about vehicles which are outside their field of vision.
  2. Reviewing the activities of the organisation to ensure that appropriate technologies are used in existing and new operations, such as in improving energy efficiency in the mechanical processing of ore.
  3. Collaborating across the Group to implement new technologies that improve efficiency. Anglo American experts from countries across the globe come together to share latest developments in extracting metal from ore.
  4. Identifying best practice and transferring this across the organisation through the setting up of common standards across the company.
  5. Supporting technical human resources across the business. Talented people at Anglo American have the opportunity of a career across the whole Group and are not limited by geography or the organisational structure.

In extracting minerals there are many challenges. Much of the world's surface has already been explored. This means that it has become more difficult to find mineral and metal deposits.

Anglo American employs more sophisticated techniques to find hidden minerals. For example, it uses aircraft, helicopters and satellites to map geological structures and identify subtle patterns in surface rock, the earth's magnetic field and variations in the gravity field. Anglo American can then use this information for targeting sites that might have the potential for mineral deposits.

Anglo American undertakes two types of exploration:

  • Brownfield exploration takes place around or near to existing mines. It involves the discovery of resources close to existing operations.
  • Greenfield exploration focuses on identifying new or previously undiscovered mineral deposits. Around 60-70% of reserves come from Anglo American's Greenfield activities.

Anglo American | New technology development in the primary sector