Monday, 20 February 2017

SME '2017 gets underway

A quiet start to the SME Annual Meeting yesterday afternoon at the Colorado Convention Centre in Denver, with a 2 hour opening reception in the exhibition area.

Very aware that I am a journalist, and as such a potential enemy of the state, I shall be doing my best to report on the event without bias, and will be posting regular late night updates on Twitter.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Australian company Kemtec to sponsor Flotation '17

We are pleased to announce that Kemtec Mineral Processing Pty Ltd, a new Australian company which supplies specialty flotation reagents to tackle plant challenges, is to sponsor Flotation '17 in Cape Town in November.
Kemtec recognises that more is needed than just supplying reagents alone, and the company's product range has been developed based on flotation cell hydrodynamic technology.
Technical Manager Dr. Kenneth Lee has long been a respected reviewer for Minerals Engineering and he says that Kemtec's approach begins with the strict adherence to a methodology that incorporates Six Sigma principles for defining and solving plant problems. "We bring the best in experienced people, who combine the knowledge of the attributes of mining reagents with the know-how to best apply them in the operation of a flotation concentrator. This expertise enables us to assist in determining the true problem and how to best use chemistry to get to a solution. We then use the right amount of well-designed laboratory tests to gain empirical knowledge on the relationships between reagents, circuit conditions and operating parameters on flotation performance. The majority of the effort will then focus on the actual plant, using sound, statistically based testing (and good old fashioned metallurgical art) to understand the true causes and effects that changes in reagents, conditions, and operations have on the mineral flotation rates. Only when these effects are understood, can changes be incorporated that will have the true effect of improving the long term performance of the mill. History has shown that every mine is unique and that an individualized metallurgical solution may be what is needed to perform at optimal levels. Without a complete understanding of the total system, and the ability to provide custom formulated products, valid and lasting improvements are rare".
MEI is pleased to welcome Kemtec as a first time sponsor of an MEI Conference.
Current Flotation '17 sponsors

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Preparing for the descent to Denver

Barbara and I are in Breckenridge, USA all this week. This is our 9th visit to this 19th century gold mining town, set at an altitude of 9,600 ft in the Colorado Rocky Mountains  (see also posting of 12th February 2015). Just west of the Continental Divide, it is one the the largest and most visited ski areas in the world (see also posting of 27th February 2015), and one of the main reasons why Colorado is my favourite SME Meeting location!

On Saturday we descend to the mile-high city of Denver, and I will be reporting on news of mineral processing innovation and people for my annual SME report, which is scheduled for the blog on Friday 24th February.

So if you are at the meeting, and have news that you think may be of interest, please try to catch up with me. There will also be regular updates on the meeting, from me and others, on Twitter: #SME2017ACE

Twitter @barrywills

Monday, 13 February 2017

Who was Julius Kruttschnitt?

The Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre, otherwise known as the JKMRC or just the JK, is widely known internationally in mineral processing circles. But many will not know of Julius Kruttschnitt, the man after whom the JK is named. It is an interesting story which spans a largely forgotten period of the minerals industry from the early 1900s till the mid 1970s.
Don McKee, who succeeded Alban Lynch (posting of 11 August 2014) as the second Director of the JKMRC in 1990, takes up the story. It is a story of a great mining engineer who spent the first part of his professional career in North America and the second in Australia.

Julius Kruttschnitt (JK) was born in 1885 in New Orleans, Louisiana. JK studied mining at Yale where geology had long been a major strength. He undertook a course which included geology, chemistry, mining, metallurgy, and foreign languages. This broad education, typical of the time and in some respects sadly lacking today, particularly when the trend at operations is to integrate the geology, mining and processing functions, provided a base which was to serve him well.
Julius graduated in 1906. His first job was as a geologist's assistant in California. He soon moved to the Arizona Copper Company where he grappled with complex metallurgical problems. In 1909 he joined ASARCO (American Smelting and Refining Company) and was sent to Mexico where the company had substantial mining operations. The time in Mexico was varied and unpredictable including an occasion when he was held at gunpoint, as 1910 was the beginning of the Mexican revolution. In 1912 he moved to the El Paso smelter operations and from there to Tucson at the head of the company office in Arizona. Over the next 18 years he was responsible for mining acquisitions including the Silver Bell operation and for mining developments at many sites. By the mid-1920s JK’s responsibilities included ASARCO’s operations in the US south-west and all of its western Mexico sites.
JK's story then switched to Mount Isa in North West Queensland. Lead and zinc had been discovered at what became Mount Isa in 1923. The development of a large underground mine, processing plant and lead smelter and all the associated services, including power and a water supply, proved to be a huge challenge in such an isolated region.
JK as General Manager of
Mount Isa Mines
The ownership of the fledging operation changed a number of times during the 1920s as the mine consumed vast capital. In 1930 ASARCO invested in the operation and Julius Kruttschnitt travelled to Mount Isa late that year to assume the position of General Manager.
Mount Isa which was little more than an isolated and uncomfortable mining camp. In his own words “I was in Arizona. I was in charge of the South West Mining Department of ASARCO. They asked me to come as General Manager of Mount Isa Mines. If you're a mining engineer, you don't say ‘where is it and what kind of living accommodation and how much am I going to get’, you go – that’s your profession to go where the mines are”.
Such were the challenges which confronted JK over the next 15 years that it is worth outlining a few so that today’s engineer can gain an idea of just how difficult things could be 80 years ago.
When JK arrived at Mount Isa in December 1930 underground mine development (which had not long resumed after the mine was flooded earlier in the year) and construction of the concentrator and lead smelter were proceeding. There was an urgent need of additional capital to complete the operation. This was to become a recurring theme for the next seven or eight years. JK had to raise more finance and this at a time when metal prices were the lowest in history. The first lead carbonate ore was put through the plant in May 1931 and the mill was an immediate failure. Lead losses were running at 25%. To make matters much worse, the smelter was also a failure and it was immediately necessary to double the capacity of the sinter plant and add another blast furnace. To complete the woes, fumes in the lead smelter were choking and health issues for the workforce were severe.
As mining continued there was a transition from shallow carbonate ore to deeper lead sulphides containing the familiar mix of galena, sphalerite, pyrite, pyrrhotite, silver minerals and small amounts of chalcopyrite. At the time JK reported “concentration is made difficult by the fineness of the mineralisation and the intimate associations of the sulphide and gangue minerals”. Metallurgists at Mount Isa ever since have confronted exactly the same issue. In 1936 JK was forced to reduce the lead reserves because the lead grade was lower than expected. Cost pressures were constant, made more serious by the extremely high transport costs to Townsville. It took until 1936/37 for Mount Isa to record a profit.
Drilling in the late 1930s had discovered mineable copper reserves. In 1942 the Australian government requested, perhaps it was stronger than requested, Mount Isa to change to copper production for the war effort. So began a frantic few months during which a copper smelter was built from the long abandoned smelters at Mount Elliott, Mount Cuthbert and Kuridala. It is almost beyond belief that copper production commenced in April 1943, a mere six months after the government directive. It is still even more remarkable that just seven months later, the government advised it did not want copper from Mount Isa. Furious negotiations followed, resulting in copper production continuing till May 1946.
And what of the man? The following comments were provided by the late David Buchanan, a young metallurgist who joined Mount Isa Mines in 1946. He recalled a small man, always impeccably dressed in a suit and tie. His dress formality extended in other ways. He was always Mr Kruttschnitt and senior company staff always addressed one another as Mr. He was a generous man who looked after his employees without their being aware. JK understood all aspects of the operation and most of all, the financial position. David remembers JK and his senior managers doing a complete site inspection every Saturday. The people working at Mount Isa knew their general manager was familiar with every aspect of the operation.
JK retired in 1953 and lived in Brisbane till he passed away in 1974. He was one of the outstanding men of the Australian minerals industry and he is rightly credited with establishing Mount Isa Mines and providing the foundation upon which was built one of the great Australian mining companies.
What has all this to do with the JKMRC? There were many sides to JK. One of his major contributions was to work with two other leading mining figures to convince the University of Queensland to offer a degree in mining engineering. The Mining Department was established in 1949 and the first courses were offered in 1950. Its first leader, Professor Frank White, was an outward looking man who could engage with the industry and understood the importance of research.
Alban Lynch joined the Department in a research capacity in 1958. In 1962 he established an AMIRA Project The development of a system for automatic control of ore grinding circuits. Widely known as the AMIRA P9 project, it continues uninterrupted today. Alban Lynch regarded the concentrators as his laboratory, establishing the approach of conducting experimental work in plants, largely by postgraduate students. Mount Isa Mines by now was at the forefront of technical developments in its mine, concentrators and smelters and it enthusiastically embraced the Lynch approach. In a remarkably short time, the grinding and classification models developed by Alban Lynch and TC Rao (posting of 16 July 2014) were used to simulate a rearranged grinding circuit at Mount Isa which achieved significantly increased throughput.
The project rapidly marched on. By 1967 one of the Mount Isa grinding circuits was under analogue computer control and this was soon followed by digital control. It is fair to say the management of Mount Isa were impressed with such rapid progress.
The Managing Director of Mount Isa Mines at the time, the late Sir James Foots, could see the potential for expanded industry focussed University research of the type undertaken by Alban Lynch. Negotiations between the University and Mount Isa Mines during 1968/69 resulted in Mount Isa providing funds to establish a research centre for the Lynch group, which included the provision of a new building at the University Mine at Indooroopilly and some recurrent funding to expand the work of the group.
The research centre was established in 1970 and was named in honour of Julius Kruttschnitt, then a man of 84. In 1971 the University conferred an Honorary Doctorate on JK.
Julius Kruttschnitt speaking at the opening of the JKMRC, 1971
JK (front centre), with JKMRC staff and students, including Alban Lynch (front left), in 1971
Alban Lynch remembers JK in the early days of the Julius Kruttschnitt Centre at Indooroopilly. JK was interested in the Centre and he was a frequent visitor. He recalls a man interested in research and technical developments. He suggests this interest stemmed from JK’s personal involvement in the US and Mexican mining industries at a time which saw the transformation of small, high-grade underground mines using gravity concentration methods to much lower grade and largely open pit operations using flotation recovery. Subsequently, JK published detailed technical papers on mining and processing at Mount Isa in the AusIMM Proceedings. And finally, Alban recalls a man from an era when company loyalty was paramount. He was typical of the great general managers who were skilled in geology, mining, processing and financial management.
Over the years the JKMRC has been active in geology, mining and processing research. Only the financial dimension has been lacking from the Julius Kruttschnitt armoury of expertise. It is highly likely JK would be impressed by the achievements of the centre which bears his name.
Many thanks to Don McKee for supplying this fascinating biography of a mineral processing legend.

See also Conversations with other well know mineral processors.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

We welcome TOMRA Sorting Solutions to Physical Separation '17

The increasing importance of physical separation in mineral processing was discussed in the posting of 16th January, which highlighted how electronic ore sorting is becoming increasingly used, due to the development of rapid sensors in such sorters. So we are pleased to announce the sponsorship of another leading player in this field, TOMRA Sorting Solutions of Germany.
The mining industry consumes 2%-3% of the world’s energy, the same amount of energy used by the entire airline industry. TOMRA Sorting, which originated from CommodasUltrasort, claim that their sensor-based sorters can reduce that energy consumption by 15%, as well as reducing the amount of water used by three to four cubic meters per ton of ore.
We also welcome back Jens-Michael Bergmann, TOMRA's Sales and Project Manager Europe, who will present a paper in the fine technical programme, describing TOMRA's latest multi-channel laser sorting machine, which opens new opportunities for mining companies.
Current Physical Separation '17 sponsors

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Memories of student days at two great mining schools

It will be great to have Tim Napier-Munn with us in Falmouth in June. He will be presenting one of the keynote lectures at Physical Separation '17 (posting of 28 January) and is looking forward to visiting the old pubs of Falmouth, and particularly the field trip to the historic Camborne-Redruth tin and copper district.
The prospect of the mine visit obviously created a surge of nostalgia, and Tim sent me these fascinating photographs of his first visit to the mines of Cornwall, with the final year Mineral Technology group from the Royal School of Mines (RSM), in 1970.
One of the very few photos of the 1970 final year together.  Left to right:  Zaki,
Lai Kim Fun (ended up in Tasmania), Alan Middleton, Mick Beaumont,
Ron Dougill,  Keith Suttill, Alan Loosely, and ?.
Standing behind Keith Suttill is Dave Wellings. 
Keith sadly died in a plane crash in the Andes in 1996
while working for Engineering & Mining Journal 
Alan Loosely, Keith Suttill, Dave Wellings and Ron Dougill
As Tim was the photographer, he unfortunately does not appear in the photos, but one of the faces I immediately recognised was that of Henry Cohen, who succeeded Marston Fleming to the Chair of Mineral Technology in 1974. Prof. Cohen's research on the magnetic properties of minerals led to work on super-conducting magnets and cryogenic systems, and in later years he supervised Tim's PhD research into dense medium cyclones, the subject of his keynote lecture in June.
Henry Cohen (2nd left front) with other staff members
I knew Prof Cohen well, as for a number of years he was External Examiner to the degree course in Mineral Processing Technology at Camborne School of Mines (CSM). Being based in Cornwall, CSM had the great advantage over RSM of having the then working mines of South Crofty, Geevor, Wheal Jane, and others, on the doorstep, such that the students became very familiar with the operations and the personalities involved. One of the great features of the CSM course was the 'pilot plant run' where second year students gained experience in operating a continuous small plant over a one week period. I have already posted photos provided by 1985 graduate Gaynor Yorath (posting of 4 December 2010), but the only person to have been involved with every pilot run is former Experimental Officer Tony Clarke, who has kindly sent me these nostalgic photos taken in the 1980s:
Liam MacNamara and Nick Wilshaw in their student days in the 1980s
Liam is now Vice-President Sales, FLSmidth, UK
and Nick is owner of Grinding Solutions Ltd, UK
Great memories of a bygone era when tin mining in Cornwall was still thriving.
Twitter @barrywills