Country focus – South Africa
LINKING TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIO-ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
In South Africa, AngloGold Ashanti is already mining at depths of close to 4,000m. Progressing further underground will require finding new solutions to operating challenges, especially in the area of safety. In anticipating these challenges in the South Africa region, the group has identified two strategic areas of work – technology innovation and the interlinked area of socio-economic development.
Technological innovation is required in order to ensure that mining remains safe and competitive in the future, and is particularly critical as we mine at greater depths. AngloGold Ashanti has therefore established the Technology and Innovation Consortium (TIC) as a vehicle for developing innovative technologies and management processes to improve safety and enhance efficiencies.
The TIC brings together a number of key players from around the world, all leading innovators in their fields. It has developed tools to enhance communication opportunities between participants, using an open innovation model that brings not only diversity but speed and a proven track record to the innovation process. A website with social networking capability – www.aga-tic.com – supports collaboration among team members, many of whom work on different continents and are unable to meet regularly in person.
In taking the first steps towards this ‘new mining paradigm’, the consortium is looking at projects that will enable AngloGold Ashanti to mine without blasting, remove people from high-risk tasks and operate continuously, using technology to drive this change in a three-stage approach.
Stage one will work towards no drilling and blasting, and removing people from the stope over a period of three to five years. Stage two will target a move to ‘intelligent mining’ through automation and information communication technology. This is anticipated to be a five to ten year horizon. The objective of stage three is to deliver ‘gold on tap’ using autonomous machines, with the ultimate goal of ‘SAFELY mining all the Gold .... Just the Gold ... all the time’.
Transforming the way we mine will ensure that the company has a sustainable future in South Africa. However, the current South African operating model is labour intensive, with the region representing more than 50% of our entire global workforce.
Whilst automation of our mines will address issues of safety and improve productivity and efficiency, we are highly sensitive to the impact this new approach to mining will have on our employees and on job creation opportunities in the medium- to long-term.
We therefore recognised the need to strengthen our socioeconomic development strategy to find solutions not only to the threat that arises from the continuing decrease in production nationally, but also to address the potential job losses which will in all likelihood arise as a result of the transition to a technology-driven model.
In 2011, the regional team pursued this and the related objectives of:
- Compliance with regulatory reporting obligations;
- Strengthening community and stakeholder engagement; and
- Continuing with initiatives aimed at facilitating the creation of employment in our host communities.
Social and Labour Plans (SLPs) were reviewed and revised in line with the directives from the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR). Extensive stakeholder engagements took place prior to the revision of the SLPs.
In 2011, AngloGold Ashanti initiated a workshop to obtain input on the scope and content of a revised socio-economic strategy. Participants included representatives from government, peer organisations, industry associations and sustainability experts among others. The resulting prototype structures socioeconomic development plans around five core elements, as illustrated below.
Socio-economic development approach in AngloGold Ashanti’s South Africa region
Through leveraging partnerships and initiating a collaborative funding approach, we will aim to identify areas where we can stimulate and support local economic development. An amount of over $40m has been budgeted for the period 2012 to 2014 for investment in:
- Local economic development;
- Enterprise development; and
- Social and institutional development, including in laboursending areas as well as host communities.
We are in the process of identifying specific projects which will deliver against the model. Work will continue in 2012 on engaging partners and jointly defining project objectives and outcomes.