Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Recent comments

There have been comments on the following postings since the last update:

A lone woman in theoretical physics
SME 2018: a mineral processing perspective
International Women's day- celebrating one of our community's finest: Professor Dee Bradshaw
Membrane Technology set to play a major role in the processing of hi-tech metals
Dee Bradshaw calls in at Comminution '18 with some sad news
2017 MEI Young Person's Award to Grant Ballantyne
Comminution '18 conference dinner
Comminution '18: Day 3
A virtual reality look at mineral processing
Comminution '18 conference diary
An Nchanga reunion in Cape Town
IOM3 Award to MEI Rising Star Anita Parbhakar-Fox
Are these WASET conferences just a scam?
Prof. Graeme Jameson: Fellow of the Royal Society

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Sunday, 20 May 2018

Comminution '20 is less than 2 years away!

It's not too late to start thinking about Comminution '20, which will be held in its usual location in Cape Town in April 2020. A number of companies have already added it to their calendars and have committed to early sponsorship of the event.
Glencore Technology is to sponsor for the first time, highlighting the IsaMill. The Australian company has already agreed to sponsor Flotation '19, where the Jameson Cell will be featured. Stirred mills were unheard of in mineral processing a few decades ago and the IsaMill was the first stirred mill to be introduced for ultrafine grinding applications.
It is good to welcome back five of our regular sponsors:
  • Russell Mineral Equipment, the world's leading designer and manufacturer of mill relining systems had a very strong presence at Comminution '18, exhibiting and sponsoring, with a delegation of 15 representatives.
  • Ceramic grinding media was also unheard of in mineral processing until the introduction of stirred mills, and we welcome back two leading manufacturers of ceramic beads, Chinese company King's Ceramics and Keramos of Australia.
  • SAG mills are the workhorses of large tonnage operations, and they will be around for some time to come, so it is good to have with us again a Canadian company well known in SAG mill design, Starkey & Associates.

  • Grinding Solutions Ltd is a rapidly expanding Cornish company whose services range from metallurgical and mineral processing testing to onsite support and troubleshooting to product development and market evaluations. Their aim is to increase mineral recoveries and reduce overall process costs through targeting the optimal process design and operation.
We also welcome back CEEC, as an Industry Advocate, and International Mining as a media partner.
Updates on the conference will be posted at #Comminution20.
Early sponsors of Comminution '20

Friday, 18 May 2018

The Cornish Mining Renaissance is well under way

I missed last month's sundowner so last night's was my first at the newly refurbished Chain Locker pub in Falmouth, with its great view across the inner harbour to Falmouth's Maritime Museum. And I am pleased to report that MEI's Physical Separation '19 and Computational Modelling '19 conferences will be held at the Maritime Museum in June of next year.  Originally scheduled for Cape Town, we are bringing them back to Cornwall to take advantage of the "Cornish Mining Renaissance".  
The inner harbour viewed from the Chain Locker, with the Maritime Museum background centre
The county's various small mining companies, such as Grinding Solutions Ltd, Holman-Wilfley, Petrolab, and of course MEI, are all thriving on the back of a resurgence in the international mining industry. The only active mines in Cornwall at present are the kaolin mines around St. Austell, although just across the border in Devon, Wolf Minerals' tungsten-tin mine seems to be over its early teething problems. Tin is a metal which will always be associated with Cornwall, and the last mine to close, South Crofty, looks well on its way to opening again in the near future. Since the mine closed in 1998 there have been many promises to re-open, none of which came to fruition, so there was much scepticism when Canadian company Strongbow acquired a 100% interest in the South Crofty Tin Project and associated mineral rights in Cornwall. Strongbow is now on course to start production in 2021, after first pumping out water that has accumulated over decades of dereliction.
The demand for tin is increasing, as it now has an important use in the hi-tech industry, not just for solders, but alloyed with indium it is an important ingredient for touch-screens. The electric vehicle revolution has fuelled a demand for lithium and Cornish Lithium will begin drilling for brines at South Crofty next year. It has an agreement with Strongbow that allows it to explore using Strongbow’s mineral rights, with Strongbow getting royalties from any lithium extracted.
So it is all happening here in the South West, and there was a great turnout last night. We were joined by visitors from the Czech Republic, Finland and Spain, members of the REMIX Project, fuelled by Intereg Europe, which is bringing together nine European mining regions to enhance their mining related businesses by regional policy improvements. Prof. Frances Wall of Camborne School of Mines, who will be a keynote speaker at Process Mineralogy '19, is hosting a peer-review for the group and visits to South Crofty, Wheal Jane and Hartlands.
Women in mining....
....men in mining
Frances Wall (centre) with her European visitors
Amid all the buoyancy there was some sad news of one of the great Camborne School of Mines characters, Ron Hooper, who died yesterday morning at the age of 94. Anyone who passed through CSM during the 60s, 70s and 80s will have fond memories of Ron, who was head of surveying and a respected colleague of mine until his retirement in 1988. A Cornishman who was also a graduate of CSM, he was an active member of the CSM Association, and a regular at the CSM Association Christmas lunches well into his 90s. He will be sorely missed and our thoughts are with his daughter Sue and family.
Ron with sundowner regulars Tony Batchelor and Nick Eastwood
at the CSMA Christmas lunch 2014
Twitter @barrywills

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Prof. Graeme Jameson: Fellow of the Royal Society

More wonderful news from Australia this week, with the announcement that Prof. Graeme Jameson, Laureate Professor at the University of Newcastle, Australia, has been honoured by one of the most prestigious organisations in the world, the Royal Society, which boasts a fellowship of 1,600 of the world’s most eminent scientists. Fellow of the Royal Society, a rare and distinguished honour, is decided by a peer-review process based on excellence in science, and this was bestowed on Prof. Jameson for his work on fluid and particle mechanics, and especially the flotation process. Graeme joins scientists of the calibre of the late Stephen Hawking, and a galaxy of renowned scientists such as Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein and Tim Burners-Lee, the inventor of the internet.
The MEI team are proud to have known Prof. Graeme Jameson for many years. He has presented research papers at all MEI’s Flotation conferences and was a keynote lecturer at Flotation ’09.

Graeme (3rd left) at Flotation '17
He is a long-standing member of the Editorial Board of Minerals Engineering and is the recipient of many major awards, including the Australian Prime Minister’s Prize for Science.  In 2016 he was the recipient of the IMPC's Lifetime Achievement Award.

I was pleased to nominate him for International Mining’s Hall of Fame, into which he was inaugurated in 2014.
In 2013 he was awarded the SME’s prestigious Antoine Gaudin Award in Denver.

At Flotation '15 with previous Gaudin Award winners,
Janusz Laskowski, Nag Nagaraj and Jim Finch
In 2005 he was recognised in the Australian Queen's Birthday honours list, being made Officer of the Order of Australia,  "for service to engineering, science, industry and the environment as an inventor and through contributions in the fields of fluid and particle mechanics, mineral processing, water and wastewater treatment and particle technology.” In the same year he was made Laureate Professor of the University of Newcastle, Australia, recognising his many contributions to research and his international standing in the field. He was the first person to receive the award, which is reserved only for a small number of outstanding researchers. He remains the Director of the Centre for Multiphase Processes in the University. Other accolades include the CSIRO Medal and being recognised as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Sciences, the Royal Academy of Engineering in the UK and the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences.
Professor Graeme Jameson's contribution to the Australian economy and the environment as the inventor of what is considered by many to be the nation's biggest export earner in the last 25 years, has earned him gold status within the minerals industry. The Jameson Cell has netted Australia more than A$40 billion in exports.  With over 300 cells now in operation across 25 countries, the Cell is being used for copper, coal, zinc, nickel, lead, silver and platinum extraction world-wide.  In the true mark of a scientist, 30 years on from his initial breakthrough discovery, Prof Jameson is still fine-tuning and improving the Jameson Cell, and pushing the boundaries of flotation with his new invention the NovaCell.
Graeme's reputation for commitment to an issue was formed early in his career and cemented during his early years at the University of New South Wales, where he had his first close look at flotation working part-time at a tin smelter while he undertook his engineering degree. The company had a flotation machine with which valuable metals had been recovered and used to make bearings for the war effort. In his final undergraduate year, he undertook a project on the unusual properties of bubbles, and then when he went to Cambridge University to do his PhD, it seemed almost a natural progression that he would end up under the supervision of Professor John Davidson, one of the world’s most eminent bubble scientists.
After completing his doctorate and working for two years in the oil industry in California, Graeme went back to academia at Imperial College, London in the mid-60s. A colleague suggested he look at the problem of the recovery of fine mineral particles using flotation. Not only did it fit with his prior research, but Graeme also recognised its particular application to the Australian mining industry. In deposits such as at Mount Isa, the material being mined, while of high quality, was increasingly finely dispersed, and many of the particles were too small to be picked up by flotation technology of the time where the bubbles were about 3 mm in diameter.
By the time he returned to Australia in the late 70s, after more than a decade of work in London, Graeme knew he had a solution. The bubbles needed to be much smaller, about 10 times smaller, and they also needed to be produced at a rate of billions per second. All he had to do was find a way to generate them. It was his former supervisor, John Davidson, who inadvertently provided the answer, publishing a paper that included an equation which allowed one to predict the size of bubbles generated under prescribed liquid conditions. On the basis of this work, it turned out that a key factor was the shear rate, and a suitable shear rate for Graeme’s purposes could be established when a jet of liquid plunged into the container to form the froth, and this became the heart of the Jameson Cell. A jet of a slurry of mineral particles, together with air it draws in, is injected from the top of the cell through a large nozzle, the downcomer. The result is the production of a turbulent cloud of billions of small bubbles about 0.3 mm in diameter in the cell beneath.
But the invention of innovative technology is only part of any story of commercialisation, it is usually tougher persuading companies to invest the vast amounts of money needed to buy and install new technology. Luckily, in the mid-80s, Mount Isa Mines had a team of highly-qualified and talented research metallurgists who were prepared to look at, and actively help test Jameson’s new cell, which is now marketed by Flotation '19 sponsor Glencore Technology. The advantages of the Jameson Cell include the fact that it recovers 95 to 98 per cent of fine particles between 0.05 and 0.12 mm in diameter. There are no moving parts in the cell itself, which means that it can be made tough and involves relatively low maintenance, very important to an industry in which the workplaces are often in remote and harsh environments. The only energy used in the Jameson Cell is the electricity to pump in the slurry jet, and the efficiency of the system is such that fewer cells are needed to do the same job as previously. Not only that, but the technology is relatively inexpensive, with a short payback time, and is easily scaled up.
Mount Isa Mines soon found other applications, primarily at its coal mines where the Jameson Cell could scavenge the high quality fine particles of coal, increasing the yield of mines overnight by 3.5 per cent or billions of dollars. But that has only been the beginning. As the technology has been improved by Graeme, his students and others, it has also found application in Canada extracting bitumen from oil sands, along the Dead Sea recovering potash, and in Australia, cleaning up waste water and removing suspended solids in the food and wine industries.
But Graeme thinks his new technology to capture coarser particles, the NovaCell, is much more important. The two great costs of base metal mining are those of extraction and of concentration. Each runs at about 43 per cent of the total. All the other expenses, transportation, taxes, royalties, only amount to 14 per cent. And for mining and concentration, by far the greatest cost is in energy. Most of the energy expended in concentrating the ore goes in grinding it to the necessary particle size for flotation. If that particle size could be made larger, less grinding is needed, using less energy and resulting in less wear and tear on the grinding equipment. In fact, Graeme estimates that his NovaCell can reduce overall mining costs by between 10 and 15 per cent.  Once again, the solution was relatively simple. The problem with large particles is that they are often torn off the bubbles to which they attach by the turbulent mixing established in the Jameson Cell. The solution is a gentler action to generate and agitate the bubbles. It can be achieved by filling a container with mineral particles and bubbling water and fine bubbles gently up from the bottom in the process which creates a kind of liquid, a fluidised bed. So, once again, Graeme Jameson has the answer. The next step will be commercialisation, convincing industry to adopt his new technology.
Prof. Graeme Jameson is a true inspiration and innovator, and we look forward to his ever continuing presence at MEI's flotation conferences.

Twitter @barrywills

Monday, 14 May 2018

IOM3 Award to MEI Rising Star Anita Parbhakar-Fox

Early last year we identified Dr. Anita Parbhakar-Fox, of the University of Tasmania (UTAS), as a "Rising Star", and since then she has certainly justified our confidence. Due to her diligence as a reviewer she was recently appointed as an Assistant Editor for Minerals Engineering, and this month she has been named as one of the recipients of this year's IOM3 Awards.
Science communication has evolved dramatically over the last decade with the introduction of a whole host of websites providing digestible snapshots of research studies and their key-findings to a much greater audience. When the topic of research involves a range of stakeholders, using these platforms can be particularly advantageous, as Anita found. In recent years, Anita’s research focus has moved beyond characterising mine waste during early life-of-mine phases to looking at historical and legacy mine wastes and exploring innovative methods for their rehabilitation.
Anita with Prof. Barrie Johnson
at an IOM3 conference in Cambridge in 2015
Having attended several European conferences which thematically revolved around sustainable mining, Anita became interested in how the sustainable development goals could be applied to the geoenvironmental research being conducted at the Centre for Ore Deposit and Earth Sciences (CODES) through the Transforming the Mining Value Chain Hub at UTAS. She wrote an article in The Conversation on how we can recover ‘treasure from trash’ which led to her authoring several spin-off articles in other magazines and websites. One was Materials World, the magazine of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3). The article entitled ‘waste is a design flaw’ spoke of how mine waste materials should be geometallurgically characterised, particularly to find critical metals, to support our manufacturing needs as more major companies seek to develop greener technologies. Case study examples from Australia and Europe were provided from several research projects conducted at CODES. This article was nominated by the editor for the IOM3's Materials World Medal which Anita was jointly awarded. The medal will be presented in London later in the year.
Congratulations Anita, and keep up the good work.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Memories of Prof. Heinrich Schubert

There was sad news from Germany last month of the death of one of the 20th century's leading mineral processors, Prof. Heinrich Schubert (full obituary on MEI Online).

I met Prof. Schubert only once, and then only very briefly, when I photographed him being awarded with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2006 IMPC in Istanbul (MEI Online).
Prof Schubert in Istanbul 2006, with Profs. Guven Onal, Eric Forssberg and Cyril O'Connor
One of his young colleagues, Dr. Martin Rudolph, of the Helmholtz Institute Freiberg for Resource Technology has sent a few more photos, and requests that anyone who would like to share their memories of Prof. Schubert might do so via this posting. 
Prof. Schubert in the 1960s
2016 with colleagues and former students from Vietnam
In 2017 with his last PhD student, Duong Huu Hoang
In 2016, Prof. Schubert was honoured by a special issue of International Journal of Mineral Processing, containing some of the latest research results in his areas of interest by invited authors in these fields (posting of 5 December 2016). He is seen below with Guest Editors Prof. Urs Alexander Peuker, of TU Bergakademie Freiberg and Dr. Martin Rudolph, of the Helmhotz Institute Freiberg for Resource Technologies.