Anglo American focuses on safety amid productivity gains

Anglo American’s Australian operations have helped contribute to a boost in metallurgical coal production for the global mining company in 2018.

The company achieved record production at Moranbah and gains at the Grosvenor mine in Queensland last year, helping increase its metallurgical coal output by 11 per cent to 21.8 million tonnes.

Anglo American also showed strong growth at its international copper operations in Chile off the back of its focus on productivity.

The company produced 10 per cent more copper last year than in 2012, for example, with just half the number of assets, according to its latest annual report.

Anglo American also produced 15 per cent more copper (668,000 tonnes) last year than in 2017.

The company’s productivity push has seen employee productivity double and copper unit costs decrease by 26 per cent in the same period.

Chief executive Mark Cutifani said such productivity gains placed the company “amongst the leaders of the industry”.

Despite this improved performance, Anglo American placed safety front-and-centre, acknowledging the death of five staff last year.

This referred to fatalities at the company’s South African operations, and did not include the fatality at Moranbah North earlier this week.

“No degree of financial performance is worth a life, however, and in 2018, five of our colleagues tragically died in workplace safety incidents,” Cutifani said.

“The safety of our people is always front of mind and our determination to reach and sustain zero harm is our most pressing challenge.”

In an apparent response to Vale’s tailings dam disaster at the Córrego de Feijão mine last month, Anglo American noted its “best-in-class” Brazilian dam in the Minas-Rio iron mine was not constructed using the same upstream methods that were until recently preferred by Vale.

This is due to the risk of increased rainfall caused by the country’s tropical weather, Anglo American said.

The emphasis on tailings management follows similar reporting by South32 and Rio Tinto, which have both highlighted their tailings safety procedures in recent weeks.

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