The big mining company AngloGold Ashanti is testing a new technology, created to substantially increase South Africa’s gold reserves. The firm is betting on autonomous deep level mining to protect its workers and increase production and revenue.
Miners cannot go deeper than five kilometers into mines due to safety risks. Although AngloGold’s deepest mine – the Mponeng deposit – is “only” four kilometers deep, the company wants to innovate in this field, mainly because of a new project that includes extracting gold from very deep reefs.
According to Shaun Newberry, head of technology and projects at AngloGold Ashanti:
To mine safely and not have a single person harmed, and to have that as a reality, we needed a different way of mining. We’ve led the world in logistics, shafts, milling, ventilation and refrigeration. We’ve led the world in all those technologies.
We will teach the world how to get the ore bodies at depths where their methods – which are mechanised at this stage and based on drilling and blasting – will have to find the commercial argument to make those assets work.
Times have changed, as Newberry states. He says that the future of deep level mining is not in mechanised and continuous drill-and-blast mining, like the industry used to think. AngloGold, for instance, currently mines 270 days in a year, establishing a waiting period after the explosions. This way, the working area can calmly settle.
However, this technique makes companies lose a lot of time and AngloGold started seeking solutions that are now showing. The company’s new method will allow the gold to be continuously and safely mined, cutting down on the gold’s handling time and minimising the dilution of the reef.