AngloGold Ashanti’s Project ONE programme is the holistic transformation initiative that underpins the effort to reach an ambitious, but achievable, set of strategic safety, productivity, environmental and financial goals. AngloGold Ashanti has set a five-year objective of reducing accident rates by 70%; increasing overall productivity by 30%; cutting reportable environmental incidents by 60%; increasing production by 20%; achieving a 25% real reduction in costs; and, crucially, achieving a return of at least 15% on capital employed through the economic cycle. By achieving these aims, the company will carve for itself a unique competitive position in the mining industry with the management capacity and cash flow to realise its long-term vision of being the world’s leading mining company.
Practically, Project ONE introduces a common business approach in two main areas:
The primary focus of Project ONE is to introduce a common business process across AngloGold Ashanti, from its 21 mining operations across 10 countries, to its myriad exploration sites across 4 continents and its corporate hubs in South Africa, the United States and Australia. The programme was launched in August 2008 under the direction of Tony O’Neill, Executive Vice President – Business and Technical Development, and is now being implemented at all operations.
The benefit of introducing this common business process lies in establishing a disciplined and uniform operating methodology in order to minimise waste and variation. This, in turn, will ensure each operation and every service function operates consistently at their highest performance and efficiency levels.
The philosophy is simple in theory and execution. Volatility and variation in any business process creates uncertainty, whether in determining mining volumes and plant feed or in optimising maintenance schedules and supply-chain management. The same holds for the management of working relationships. It is this variation and volatility which skews outcomes, and which can be reduced by implementing rigorous planning, scheduling, resourcing and execution processes, and most importantly, by clarifying roles and accountabilities at each level.
The merits of this approach are already in evidence at the two pilot sites for the project: the Mponeng plant in South Africa and the Geita mine in Tanzania. The business improvement initiative was initiated at the Mponeng plant in October 2008, and contributed to a 15% increase in throughput over the historical average. This is an especially significant result at the Mponeng plant, long regarded as the flagship operation within the group.
At Geita, where Project ONE was launched in February 2009, immediate results from both the System for People and the Business Process Framework interventions have been even more striking. For too long, Geitas performance suffered because of continual equipment breakdowns, poor plant and fleet availability, an overall lack of mining flexibility and a skills deficit in some key areas. Graham Ehm, formerly the Executive Vice President of our Australian operations and one of our most experienced open pit-mine operators, was appointed in May 2009 to lead the change at Geita in partnership with Richard Duffy and his team. Graham was able to build on solid preparatory work done before his appointment and also to take decisive action to effect the improvements seen by the end of 2009. The remarkable improvements achieved are emblematic of Project ONEs potential.
Through careful analysis of the relevant aspects of Geitas operations from human resources, drilling and blasting, to plant availability and fleet maintenance the flaws in the overall operating methodology became apparent. And so did the remedies. There are powerful anecdotes that demonstrate the resulting change.
A dispassionate look at the mines drill and blast performance showed AngloGold Ashanti did not possess the right level of expertise in Tanzania to ensure anything but a hand-to-mouth existence in broken stocks. Soon after appointing specialist drill-and-blast contractors in May, stocks of broken ore rose to more than three weeks worth and provided the necessary mining flexibility we needed. This had positive reverberations throughout the rest of the operation.
Our study at Geita also showed a critical deficiency in maintenance. Our teams were running flat-out to deal with emergency breakdowns, which were occurring with alarming frequency due to a lack of scheduled maintenance and general backlog on basic upkeep of equipment of all types. Identifying this problem enabled Geitas management to appoint a rapid-response team to address the ongoing emergency issues, while another group was put in place to address the maintenance backlog. To this end, work orders for recurring jobs have been designed to ensure the right person is appointed and that they have the correct resources available at the right time to efficiently complete their work in the time allotted. This requires active participation by the management team and each level of the workforce in frequent planning sessions where expectations are set, tasks assigned and accountability apportioned.
The Geita team has focused on limiting volatility and variance, and smoothing out the peaks and troughs in each of the operating processes. By reducing volatility and increasing operating certainty through detailed planning, the average throughput can be enhanced and efficiency increased with only nominal capital investment. In short, by ensuring that the right people are in the right place, to do the right job at the right time, productivity has been bolstered in a meaningful way. By combining the technical skills in the business with the equally important skills of organisational design and human resource management, AngloGold Ashanti is beginning to realise Geita’s potential.
Plant availability and throughput are significantly higher and disruptive weekly maintenance shutdowns have been replaced by well-resourced monthly shutdowns; the increase in broken stocks has greatly improved flexibility; bench designs are improved and in-pit road designs have been greatly enhanced which has allowed trucks to achieve better cycle times; fleet availability is also markedly better, which has significant consequences not only for efficiency, but also for fleet replacement. The confluence of these factors will help mining teams to access higher grade areas more quickly than originally anticipated and ultimately will bolster production further and lower costs.
The improvements are not independent of other management interventions, but the introduction of consistent business processes will ensure that improvements are sustained and extended.
Following the success of the pilot projects, the business improvement intervention was extended to the Siguiri plant in Guinea, Sunrise Dam in Australia, the Savuka plant in South Africa and the AngloGold Ashanti Brazilian operations in Nova Lima. Operational improvements are expected at these sites during the course of 2010. Implementation will have begun at the remaining sites by mid 2011.