Friday, 3 April 2020

Memories of Hydromet 2000

Following Flotation 2000, we had a long weekend break in Adelaide, before Hydromet 2000 began at the Adelaide Hilton 20 years ago today. Sixty five delegates from 13 countries attended the 3-day conference, which MEI organised in association with the University of Melbourne. Sponsorship was provided by AMIRA, Baker Process and Technomag.
A few photos from the event are shown below:

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Adapting technological expertise to fighting COVID-19

One of the main concerns in the fight against COVID-19 is the lack of ventilators for those with the severest of symptoms, and health authorities around the world are trying to find more ventilators to cope with the increasing number of patients.
So it was great to hear that Sandy Gray, Technical Director of Gekko Systems, Australia (MEI Blog 16 March 2015) has brought together the Gekko Systems team’s knowledge of pneumatics, hydraulics, operating systems, mechatronics and control systems with the advice of a number of leading physicians and anaesthetists to design a simple, robust ventilator. Gekko is a world leader in gold processing technology, as well as the design, construction and operation of energy efficient modular plants.
Sandy Gray with the prototype ventilator
Sandy said "when we started, one of our young electrical controllers said, 'you know this is just one of our 'jig' controllers- which is what we've already developed in the past'. So we thought why don't we just adapt that technology to build a ventilator to help people breathe in the case of coronavirus."
Consulting with Ballarat anaesthetist Doug Paxton and a local 3D printing company the portable ventilator came to life. After inspecting the finished model Dr Paxton believes it is extremely promising. "The ventilator has been designed using equipment that is readily available in the commercial/ industrial sector, and given the adaption of its purpose by the design team at Gekko there is a possibility of having a robust machine which would meet the needs of this pandemic in a practical way" he said. "The circuits are easy to use. With little training and information the ventilator can be used effectively for nearly all our patients, taking a load off the clinician and the other ventilators in the system.”
The group have progressed through to a Mark 3 Prototype and the local state government has been approached to assist with funding and approvals. The simple design incorporates high quality control equipment and the UK Government guidelines for Rapidly Manufactured Ventilator System (RMVS) have been used as a base. However the initial units will be kept as simple as possible to ensure rapid deployment is possible.
We will keep you up to date on progress, but I hope that Sandy and Gekko provide inspiration for the many other equipment manufactures around the world. If you can build large sophisticated mineral processing machines, then surely you can turn your hands to relatively simple ventilators.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

March 2020: the month which changed the world

At last March is over. February was a fairly normal month, and I attended major conventions in South Africa and USA.  Then came March!
It began quietly enough. On my return from Phoenix we were looking forward to our next trip to Cape Town, for Comminution '20 the following month, and then back to Cornwall to prepare for Biomining '20 and Sustainable Minerals '20 in Falmouth in June.
Then, within a few days, due to the escalation of the COVID-19 outbreak, we postponed Comminution '20 and the two Falmouth events. Only once in our long history have we had to pull the plug on events at such short notice, the last time in 2001, when Minerals Engineering '01 was scheduled to be held in Vancouver only a week after 9/11.
An eerily quiet Saturday afternoon in Falmouth......
.....and in Cape Town
And now Barbara and I, like millions of others around the world, find ourselves in forced isolation. Thankfully we are not totally confined to barracks, as we are allowed out to exercise, providing that we make no contact with other individuals, and we are lucky to have the splendid Cornish coastal path only a short walk from home.
The SW coastal path overlooking Falmouth
A policeman patrols an almost deserted Falmouth beach
Mining companies around the world have been temporarily closing operations, many schools and colleges are now closed for the foreseeable future, and Universities in UK have suspending face to face teaching. Many researchers are now working from home and there has been a noticeable increase in papers submitted to journals, such as Minerals Engineering, all requiring peer-review of course. At the best of times pressure of modern work has exacerbated the problems in finding suitable journal reviewers (Is the peer-review system creaking?). We have a core of dedicated reviewers but a number of researchers are unfortunately reluctant to review manuscripts, although they are often the first to complain if their work is not assessed on time.  Minerals Engineering's publisher Elsevier has recently announced:
"The COVID-19 pandemic impacts us all, and we are offering all possible support to our customers and employees. While at present there has been no major impact to our business or services, we ask for your understanding that this unprecedented situation might lead to some delays in the peer review process. For further support, please visit our Covid-19 community resilience resources center".
March 1st is a life-time away. Only two weeks ago I reluctantly cancelled the March Mining Sundowner, scheduled for Penzance on the 19th, and now all pubs and restaurants are closed "for the duration". A week later people across the country left their isolation to stand outside their homes in prolonged applause, a heartfelt gratitude to the country's doctors, nurses, care workers, GPs, pharmacists, volunteers and other National Health Service (NHS) staff.  These sentiments have been echoed around the world in praise of the marvellous men and women who have been working tirelessly and selflessly to help those affected by Covid-19.
On behalf of all of us at MEI, look after yourselves and prepare to face the challenges that April will impose on us all. No matter what happens from now on, March 2020 will be remembered as the month which changed our lives, maybe forever, and when everyone learned the meaning of 'exponential'.

"It's important for me to level with you - we know things will get worse before they get better." British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Memories of Flotation 2000

Due to the Covid-19 outbreak Flotation '19 was MEI's last conference for the foreseeable future, and was the 9th in the series, which began 20 years ago today, in Adelaide, Australia.
Flotation 2000 was organised at the suggestion of Dr. Stephen Grano, then with the Ian Wark Research Institute (IWRI) and was the first conference organised solely by MEI, but in association with the IWRI and the JKMRC.
Sponsorship was provided by Amdel, AMIRA, Baker Process and CSIRO. Held at the Adelaide Hilton, the conference attracted 170 delegates from 17 countries, then our biggest event to date- a foretaste of the events to come, with Flotation '19 being our biggest ever conference, with 293 delegates from 33 countries.
The photos below were taken during the conference and at the wine tasting function at Amdel's laboratories and pilot plant. You might spot a few familiar people, some of whom have been regular attendees at the series through the years, including Graeme Jameson, Dariusz Lelinski and the late Dee Bradshaw.
Photos taken during the conference
At the wine tasting function at Amdel headquarters

Thursday, 26 March 2020

A call for abstracts for Comminution '21

All being well, Comminution '21 will be held in Cape Town from April 19-22, 2021.  This is essentially the postponed Comminution '20, which was due to take place next month.
We have advised all Comminution '20 authors that if they would like to transfer their papers they will be considered as accepted for Comminution '21. Around half of the authors have accepted this offer, but many have had to withdraw, due to uncertainties in their funding etc.
This means that we have many slots now available in the timetable, so are calling for abstracts, which should be submitted by the end of October.
We would like to thanks once more our sponsors who have continued with their support during these difficult times.
Updates on the conference will be posted at #Comminution21.

Monday, 23 March 2020

Thank you for all your support

These are very difficult times for everyone and I would like to take this opportunity of thanking everyone who contacted us by email and Twitter to show their support for MEI after our postponement of three of this year's conferences.
We really appreciate your kind comments, and can assure you that MEI will ride the traumatic times which lie ahead. We are a small family business with no employees or other overheads, so we feel for those small businesses who are not so fortunate, particularly those which depend on conferences such as ours - hotels, B&Bs, restaurants, caterers, pubs etc. Many of these will no doubt find it difficult to survive this unprecedented crisis.
Our first conference to fall by the wayside was Comminution '20, and we greatly appreciate the support of our sponsors, all but one staying with us for the rescheduled event, Comminution '21.
Current Comminution '21 sponsors
The next few months are going to be hard on all of us. Following government advice, Barbara and I, in the over-70s group, are considered vulnerable and are now in self-isolation for what might be several months. During that time I hope to find enough interesting news to keep the blog ticking over, and who knows the enforced hibernation might sharpen my creative skills, meagre though they may be. I'm reminded that while being quarantined for the plague, Shakespeare wrote King Lear, and in the Great Plague of the 17th century Sir Isaac Newton took his family off to the country, and while away from Cambridge developed his ideas on calculus.  So you never know!!