Our resources
knowledge and expertise

Our strong reserves and resources position is complemented by a highly experienced geology team, backed up by our renowned in-house mining and technology unit.

Our resources

Our Los Sulfatos exploration team was recently selected to receive the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada’s (PDAC) prestigious Thayer Lindsley Award. The award recognises and honours an individual or team of ‘explorationists’ credited with a recent significant mineral discovery anywhere in the world.

Anglo American became involved in the Los Sulfatos area after the purchase of Los Bronces in 2002. Critical technical evaluation and ranking of all the known prospects in the area were conducted almost immediately after the acquisition and Los Sulfatos was identified as the highest potential target.

After obtaining the required permits and approvals, exploration at Los Sulfatos began with a geological reconnaissance of the area in 2004, followed by helicopter-supported drilling campaigns between 2005 and 2008. The difficult terrain, high altitude, harsh climate and environmentally challenging conditions meant that field activities were restricted, and could only be carried out over the limited summer periods between December and March.

The exploration drilling campaigns were carefully planned. Two field camps, housing up to 30 people, were set up in the high mountains using both modern and more traditional methods of transportation. Movement of all the equipment, personnel, food and fuel was carried out by helicopter, with mules carrying the team between the camps and the drill sites.

In July 2009, the first mineral resource estimate was published: Inferred Mineral Resources of 1.2 billion tonnes at 1.46% Cu and 0.02% Mo containing an estimated 17.5 million tonnes of copper.

Drilling has confirmed that the world class copper deposit extends to depths of at least 1,000 metres below the surface. However, significantly more drilling is needed to determine the full characteristics of the deposit before mine development options can be considered. Extreme conditions mean the only alternative is to carry out the drilling from underground. A tunnel boring machine is currently being used to construct an eight kilometre exploration tunnel, starting from the Los Bronces operation. This tunnel will provide underground access to the deposit and drill platforms for its detailed evaluation.

Our resources

The resources Anglo American considers critical to achieving its strategic aims include:

  • Knowledge and expertise
  • Proved and probable reserves

Full details of the Group’s Ore Reserves and Mineral Resources estimates are found here.


Our strong in-house technology capability provides world class solutions to Anglo American and its global operations. Following the comprehensive internal restructuring process conducted throughout the Group in 2009, significant improvements have been made in sharpening the focus of our Mining and Technology unit as well as in uprating its capacity to deliver.

Mining and Technology now comprises seven technical groups which concentrate their expertise in specific value adding areas. The Technology Development Group has formulated a vision for a futuristic mine 20 years from now – ‘The 2030 Mine’ – and has drafted the related technology roadmaps and technology development action plans.

The four discipline centres of excellence – Mining, Metallurgy, Geosciences and Engineering – provide technical governance in respect of technical risks and have formulated a technical standards strategy which will positively impact on project delivery, operational performance and technical risk control across all of our business units.

In support of the Group’s operations, projects, business units and the Safety and Sustainable Development Group, as well as the other corporate functions, Technical Services provides leading metallurgical and process research as well as laboratory facilities, a broad range of technical consulting services, project engineering and design services, and field services.

Technology development in the future will be increasingly co-ordinated and integrated across the Group. In pursuit of this aim, the vision for The 2030 Mine has been used to define future technological requirements, which span the different commodities, and also encompass the entire value chain from exploration to beneficiation. In order to fill the gaps in existing technologies required to achieve The 2030 Mine, a series of projects have been identified to develop the requisite systems. Already, critical projects have been initiated to close the gaps.

Ultimately, the successful application of the technologies surrounding The 2030 Mine should provide Anglo American with considerable competitive advantage in the mining and minerals processing sector.

The Technical Discipline teams have added significant value to operations by applying their asset management know-how to production equipment such as haul trucks and conveyor trains at several underground and opencast operations, resulting in increased systems availability and reduced maintenance costs. The focus on integrating the value chain – from resource to market – has assisted a number of operations to enhance their profitability.

Technical Services continue to turn data available at operations into useful management information. The team has developed sophisticated software using neural networks in order to identify crucial patterns and early prediction of failures. As an example, the many machine condition variables measured on haul trucks have been transformed into user-friendly reports, yet with enough detail to provide a basis for operations personnel to take appropriate action. The system is currently being rolled out at a number of operations.

Our Spectrem state-of-the-art airborne electromagnetic system again proved to be extremely effective, its broadband capability allowing significant reductions in time and cost required to carry out exploration in difficult areas. For example, Spectrem screened more than 8,500 km2 in a remote area over a period of just four months. This resulted in the identification of more than 10 targets, permitting areas of low prospectivity to be relinquished.

Metallurgical Coal, in conjunction with Technical Services, was instrumental in the development of the world’s highest capacity roof-support system and, in conjunction with CRC Mining, in the development of ‘The Smartcap’ which applies brain-monitoring technology to address the dangers of driver fatigue.

Life of mine per commodity

Number of discipline centres of excellence: Mining, Metallurgy, Geosciences and Engineering


Case Study – Anglo American Research Nickel ARNi Project

Nickel is recovered from two major ore types. Sulphides, though only representing 30% of known resources, are the source of 70% of the world’s nickel; while laterites, which account for 70% of known resources, are responsible for the remaining 30% of global nickel output.

The widely held industry view is that the future of the nickel industry lies in the economic exploitation of laterite deposits. However, owing to the complex nature of laterite deposits, which consist of weathered iron-rich limonite and un-weathered magnesium-rich saprolite, there is currently no commercial process that can treat the entire orebody. Currently, the limonite portion is treated using the High Pressure Acid Leach (HPAL) process – but this has had a very low success rate to date. The saprolite portion has been successfully processed using the Rotary Kiln Electric Furnace (RKEF), but this remains an energy- and capital-intensive process.

Any organisation that can develop a methodology for treating the whole orebody in a single, cost-effective process will have a significant competitive advantage. To this end, the ARNi process has been developed. In this process, the limonite fraction is leached at atmospheric pressure to dissolve nickel, cobalt and iron. The saprolite material is then used as a primary neutralisation agent, with the added benefit that additional nickel and cobalt are leached from the saprolite. Another unique feature of the process is that it is capable of regenerating the major reagents required in the process such as magnesia, sulphur dioxide and hydrochloric acid. The process has been successfully tested at mini-plant scale and a larger, fully integrated pilot plant has now been constructed. This plant was hot commissioned in January 2011 and will process approximately 30 kg/hr of laterite feedstock sourced from the Jacaré nickel deposit situated in Pará state, Brazil. It is anticipated that a pre-feasibility study will commence in late 2011 and a demonstration plant may be constructed at Barro Alto during 2012/13 to thoroughly test and commercialise the process using both Barro Alto and Jacaré ores.


During 2010, our global exploration activity continued to have a strong focus on adding value to our projects and operations as well as on conducting greenfields exploration across a range of outlying frontier areas and more mature locations.

Anglo American teams continued to advance exploration on recent discoveries, sole funded projects and alliances with other companies. For the year, the Group, excluding De Beers, spent $136 million (2009: $172 million) on exploration in 17 countries. De Beers’ own exploration expenditure amounted to $43 million (2009: $48 million).

Platinum exploration costs amounted to $11 million during 2010, with a specific focus on providing high quality geological support to the advanced projects and operations around South Africa’s Bushveld Igneous Complex and fulfilling the statutory work programme requirements to maintain land access rights. Surface diamond drilling was conducted in several locations, while a variety of geophysical methods were employed, including 3D seismic surveys, aeromagnetic surveys, and electromagnetic surveys using Anglo American’s low temperature superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID) tool. Outside South Africa, platinum exploration continued in Brazil and Zimbabwe, although projects in Canada and Russia were brought to a close.

Copper exploration expenditure totalled $19 million, with exploration concentrated around our Chilean mines. Advanced project work further evaluated the West Wall and Michiquillay copper projects in Chile and Peru respectively. Near-mine exploration efforts centred on the Los Sulfatos and San Enrique-Monolito copper projects in Chile, as well as other opportunities close to the El Soldado, Mantoverde and Mantos Blancos mines. Greenfield exploration was conducted in the DRC, Indonesia, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Argentina and Brazil.

Nickel exploration, on which $27 million was expended, was aimed at strengthening the project pipeline, with continued advanced exploration work at the Sakatti project in northern Finland and further evaluation of the Jacaré and Morro Sem Boné projects in Brazil and West Raglan in Canada. Greenfield exploration was conducted in western Brazil, northern Finland, the Musgraves region of Australia and the Canadian Arctic.

Iron Ore exploration expenditure of $14 million was incurred principally on Kumba’s projects in South Africa as well as on the Amapá mine in Brazil. In Brazil, programmes tested iron ore targets close to the principal resources. In South Africa, exploration drilling was undertaken to support the Kolomela project and the Sishen operation. Resource evaluation drilling of the Zandrivierspoort project in Limpopo province continued. A number of targets between the Sishen and Kolomela mines were explored as part of the Falcon/Sibelo project, along with work on resource evaluation drilling on the Phoenix project at Thabazimbi mine.

Coal exploration expenditure of $24 million was concentrated on evaluating, assessing and extending resources for export thermal and coking coal, domestic thermal coal and coal bed methane (CBM). In South Africa, exploration was undertaken on the Standerton, Vaal Basin, New Largo, Heidelberg and Elders projects. Exploration drilling and 2D seismic surveys were conducted on the Limpopo project and extensive exploration drilling was completed for the Waterberg Coal pre-feasibility project. Evaluation of the Lephalale CBM resource continued, focusing on exploration drilling and gas-yield testing. CBM exploration activities in Botswana continued to evaluate the prospectivity of the Eastern Karoo Basin through a reconnaissance drilling programme that has identified areas for future exploration. In Australia, exploration programmes in 2010 and the opening weeks of 2011 were disrupted by very high rainfalls. Exploration targeted coking coal and export thermal coal at the Drayton South, Moranbah South and Grosvenor projects. Extensive exploration drilling was also completed to support the operations at Callide, Capcoal, Dawson, Drayton, Foxleigh and Moranbah North.

Exploration spend by commodity in 2010

Number of countries where we are exploring
(Excluding De Beers)


Number of line kilometres flown by spectrem airborne electromagnetic system in past 15 years


Exploration Case Study – Safe Discovery

The guiding vision of Anglo American Exploration is ‘Safe Discovery’ – the successful discovery of major new orebodies in a safe and sustainable way. To achieve this vision, we couple traditional field work with innovative technologies to detect buried mineralisation as well as developing new exploration technologies that minimise our overall environmental footprint.

The Spectrem airborne electromagnetic system was developed by Anglo American in the late 1980s. Since the first Spectrem survey in 1989, exploration geophysical methodologies have evolved significantly; Spectrem, however has been able to maintain its position as an industry leader through ongoing R&D and constant improvements. The system is a broadband time-domain electromagnetic system mounted in a modified DC3 aircraft which can be used to directly detect mineralisation and produce high resolution maps.

In the past 15 years, Spectrem Air has flown more than 1.4 million line kilometres exploring for various commodities of interest for Anglo American and De Beers, assisting in the discovery of a number of significant orebodies.

The low temperature electromagnetic SQUID is a highly innovative exploration tool developed in co-operation with the Institute for Photonic Technologies (IPHT), a research institute in Jena, Germany. SQUIDs are highly sensitive instruments that can measure extremely weak electromagnetic fields. To date, the low temperature SQUIDs have been utilised by Anglo American and IPHT in highly sensitive ground electromagnetic systems which have been instrumental in three mineral deposit discoveries. Research is currently investigating the use of these low temperature SQUIDs for the collection of high resolution airborne magnetic and electromagnetic data.

Technological innovation has also been key for our Arctic projects in maintaining their licence to operate. In order to minimise impact when drilling in environmentally sensitive areas, the team worked together with a drilling partner to develop a ‘closed drilling system’. This is a recycling system whereby all the cuttings (ground-up rock) and water from the drill hole are captured and the cuttings are separated from the water in special tanks. The cuttings go into plastic tubes, which are disposed of in established waste-management facilities and the water and drilling additives are re-used for the drilling process.

The 2030 mine

The 2030 Mine concept has been used to define future technological requirements, which span the different commodities and encompass the entire value chain from exploration to beneficiation.


Group exploration spend in 2010


Exploration tunnel being drilled near Los Bronces