Friday, 19 October 2018

AusIMM Complex Orebodies 2018: Register Now

MEI are pleased to be media sponsors for the AusIMM's Complex Orebodies 2018 conference in Brisbane next month. The event will provide delegates with a clear understanding of the nature of complexities facing future orebodies, address complexity across the mining value chain and share practical solutions you can apply to your operation. Below is the latest information on the conference.

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AusIMM Conference


Hi Everyone,

We are excited to announce the Complex Orebodies conference program! Meet and network with industry peers from CSIRO, BHP, ALS Metallurgy, CRC Ore, Jaguar Mining, Glencore Technology and more.

Some of the program highlights include:
  • Complexity and finding a way to bridge the insight/wisdom of bean counters and story tellers
  • Complex Orebodies and future mineral supply
  • Pilar Gold Mine: Challenges to consider with a complex orebody in the Iron Quadrangle, Brazil
  • Complex Mineralogy but Higher Grade Than Many Ore Bodies
  • Putting the "GEO" back in front of GEOmetallurgy: Importance of early implementation of quantitative mineral system characterisation, classification and modelling

Gain insight from case studies of existing complex orebodies, analysis of the future technical, social, political and environmental landscapes as it affects mining and innovative extraction approaches.

Join us in Brisbane on 19-21 November 2018.

Drakelands Mine, the hot topic at the October Mining Sundowner

Another good turnout last night in Falmouth, for the last of this year's sundowners at the Chain Locker pub.
We were pleased to welcome Mark and Karen Wolle to their first sundowner. Mark graduated from Camborne School of Mines in 1978, and has his own company in South Wales, E3 Recycling Ltd, which recovers copper and precious metals from WEEE using mineral processing techniques. He has two shaking tables manufactured by Physical Separation '19 sponsor Holman-Wilfley Ltd, who also provided the shaking tables for Wolf Minerals' ill-fated Drakelands tungsten-tin mine just across the border in Devon.
With Mark Wolle and Holman-Wilfley's Dave Goldburn
The talk last night was dominated by tungsten. Last week I was in China, which has the largest reserves and production of tungsten in the world, with the country's annual tungsten production of 64,000 being equivalent to over 83% of the global production. Ironically while I was away, Drakelands, near Plymouth in Devon, was forced to close down. Only a month ago Wolf had agreed to sponsor Physical Separation '19 and to provide delegates with a mine visit (posting of 1st October), which unfortunately will now not happen.
The ill-fated mine lost £100 million in just three years because its processing plant failed to deal with the early difficult ore and the fall of global prices saddling Wolf Minerals (UK) with enormous debts.
There had been fears that Drakelands could close as early as 2016, and so when Wolf Minerals (UK) Ltd finally went into administration on October 10, it seemed like the inevitable conclusion to the venture.
Ironically, world wide tungsten prices had been rising in the 18 months before the mine closed, and recovery levels had improved as the processing plant began to deal with the deeper granitic rock, rather than the shallower fine-grained weathered deposits. There are hopes that the mine could be saved but it would need huge investment into a processing plant which has never hit targets. The open-pit operation might attract potential new operators as it has lots of valuable ore and infrastructure already in place. European tungsten mining firms could potentially take control of the mine, one of the largest tungsten reserves outside of China. There are tungsten mines in Austria, Portugal and Spain that might have a future interest in Drakelands.
Twitter @barrywills

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

ALTA 2019

MEI have long been media partners for the ALTA series of conferences, one of the world’s premier annual metallurgical events, now in its 24th year, and are pleased to be involved once again in 2019.

Please read on for the latest update from ALTA 2019...

ALTA 2019 is a world-class annual metallurgical conference now in its 24th year, and a leading platform for innovation.  The emphasis of the program is practical and the themes running through the conference are the various aspects of technology and project development.  We are pleased to partner with CSIRO Minerals for In Situ Recovery and Curtin Gold Technology Group for Gold-PM.  

Call for Papers
ALTA conferences are well-known for providing exceptional opportunities for the industry to share ideas, innovations, technologies and projects.
  • Presenters receive 50% off registration fees.
  • Sole consultant presenters receive 75% off registration fees.
  • Submit your abstract early to secure your place in the program. 

Conference Sessions
  • Nickel-Cobalt-Copper including Pressure Acid Leaching Forum & Panel
  • Uranium-REE including Developments in IX Forum & Panel
  • Gold-PM including Fit-for-Purpose Leaching Systems Forum & Panel
  • Lithium Processing including Novel Lithium Processes Forum & Panel
  • In Situ Recovery including Enhancing ISR Permeability Forum & Panel

Short Courses
  • Treatment of Nickel-Cobalt Laterites
  • Copper SX/EW Basic Principles and Detailed Plant Design
  • Heap Leaching & its Application to Copper, Gold, Uranium & Nickel Ores

Questions about the conference? FAQs
What do people say about ALTA? Testimonials
Read about ALTA 2018

Thank you to our Partners and Co-Sponsors

Free Metallurgical Library
The ALTA Free Library includes proceedings from 1995-2016 Nickel-Cobalt-Copper, Uranium-REE and Gold-PM conferences (1350+ papers). A selection of ALTA 2018 and ALTA 2017 papers is also available. The library is expanded regularly, providing a valuable ongoing resource to the industry.

It's official: Prof TC Rao is the "Father of Indian Minerals Engineering"

I have known Prof. Tadimety Chakrapani (TC) Rao for almost 30 years, ever since, in his capacity as Head of the Department of Fuel and Mineral Engineering at the Indian School of Mines, he invited me to Dhanbad in 1989 to present a course of lectures. Even then I was aware of his reputation and of his early pioneering work on modelling, particularly of hydrocyclones, with Prof. Alban Lynch at the JKMRC in Australia.
In Dhanbad in 1989 with TC (centre) and P.R. Sinha
We have kept in touch since then and he was in Cornwall in 1991 for Reagents '91.
TC in Cornwall, 1991, with Dr. M. Prasad, Prof. Shouci Lu and Prof. T. Wakamatsu
Our last meeting was at the IMPC in New Delhi in 2012, where the chairman of his keynote lecture introduced him as "the Father of Indian Mineral Processing". In 2014 it was my privilege to interview him for the MEI Blog (posting of 16th July 2014).
New Delhi 2012
Now I am pleased to report that during the inaugural function of the XVII International Seminar on Mineral Processing Technology (MPT-2018) on 10th October 2018, Prof. Rao was conferred the honour of "Father of (Indian) Mineral Engineering". The citations read "In recognition and appreciation of immense contributions to the mineral and coal processing education, research and industry in an illustrious career spanning three decades, IIT(ISM) Dhanbad & IIME are honoured in conferring the award of “Father of (Indian) Mineral Engineering” on Professor Tadimety Chakrapani Rao".
Congratulations TC on behalf of us all at MEI.
Twitter @barrywills

Monday, 15 October 2018

A brief but enlightening visit to China's Central South University

Central South University (CSU) in Changsha, China, has around 55,000 students and 20,000 staff and is in the top 20 of 2800 universities in China. There are 38 universities in China with mineral processing departments, and CSU, which specialises in non-ferrous metals, is ranked number 1, and is the largest, with 110 staff, 1000 undergraduate students and 500 post grads. It was recently ranked number 2 in the world in the ShanghaiRanking's Global Rankings for 2018. Around 40% of the mineral processing graduates stay on for post-graduate work, and roughly 20% go into industry or to Institutes.

Despite its unwelcoming austere building and dreary corridors, the Department of Mineral Processing and Bioengineering has some outstanding staff and young researchers, performing cutting edge research in mainstream and innovative mineral processing. All but three are from China; Mohammed Kabashi graduated from the Omdurman Islamic University in Sudan, and came to Changsha a month ago as a lecturer in mineral processing and is researching for PhD on the processing of tailings. Happy Mulenga, a graduate of the Copperbelt University in Zambia, has been at CSU for one year on the MSc mineral processing course, and researching on new reagents for flotation with Prof. Wei Sun. Sultan Ahmed Khoso is a lecturer in the Mehran University of Engineering and Technology in Pakistan, and is at CSU working for a PhD on the flotation of sulphides.
With Happy, Sultan and Mohammed
I spent four days at CSU last week, having kindly been invited to present two short seminars, and to be honoured in a ceremony to confer on me Honorary Professorship of the University. The photo below was taken after the ceremony with some of the mineral processing researchers.  On my left is Prof. Tao Jiang, Dean of the School of Minerals Processing and Bioengineering, and on the right Prof. Xuehong Zhu, Vice-President of the University and QingLyu Liu, Deputy Head of the Human Resources Department. Previous mineral processing appointments to this position have been to Prof. Ponisseril Somasunduran of Colombia University, New York, Prof. Jan Miller, of the University of Utah, and Prof. Roe-Hoan Yoon, of Virginia Technical University, all three recipients of the IMPC Lifetime Achievement Award.
I spent some time talking to leading researchers and in all cases was immensely impressed by their dedication, enthusiasm and amazing work ethic- there doesn't appear to be much time for outside interests if you are a researcher at CSU!
The tireless Dr. Zhiyong Gao arranged and hosted every minute of my visit, including dining with me each day at lunch and dinner, and even spending time to show me the city of Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province, with over 7 million inhabitants.
Dinner with Zhiyong..... the food district of the CSU Campus
The old city....
.....and the new
The EV revolution is happening in Changsha. All the ubiquitous scooters are electric,
and are very quiet, accounting for around 70% of the road traffic accidents in the city
Zhiyong is a fine ambassador for the department and CSU obviously recognises this, as he now represents the department overseas, his first outing being to the IMPC in Quebec two years ago. Last year he presented a paper at Flotation '17 in Cape Town, which was recently published in Minerals Engineering, his 7th to be published in this journal, and last month he was presenting at the IMPC in Moscow. He is an outstanding researcher in one of the main thrusts of the department, flotation chemistry, in the team led by Prof. Yuehua Hu, who I unfortunately missed as he was away in Beijing. Zhiyong's 2015 paper on scheelite flotation is the 6th highest cited paper ever in Minerals Engineering, a notable achievement that he must be proud of. I feel sure that he is a person destined for great things in our profession.
Dr. Haisheng Han and Dr. Yanhong Wang have both spent time at Australia's University of Queensland.
Haisheng and Yanhong
Haisheng is working on the design of new collectors and using mixtures of metal ions and collectors for the flotation of oxide minerals. New collectors for scheelite are now being used at the Shi-zhu yan mine, China's biggest polymetallic deposit, separating scheelite and wolframite from fluorite, calcite and other silicate minerals without the use of traditional sodium silicate depressant. As sodium silicate is also a dispersant, its absence also has great advantages in water treatment and circulation. He presented this work as a poster at Flotation '17. He is also working on the removal of arsenic and other heavy metals from mining and other wastes, but this work has not yet been published.
Yanhong Wang was awarded a PhD from the University of Queensland on the mitigating effects of clays on copper flotation, which was presented by poster at Flotation '15, and she was presented with the award for best poster at the conference. She continues with this work at CSU.
Yanhong, and Kaiqi Jiang, both then with University of Queensland, with me and Jim Finch
I had lunch with Prof. Zhao Zhongwei, who is Vice Dean of the School of Metallurgy and the Environment and works closely with the Mineral Processing Vice-Dean Prof. Wei Sun on the extraction of tungsten from mainly scheelite. China is the world's largest tungsten producer, and around 80% comes from scheelite. He is also carrying out very topical work on the recovery of lithium from brines using an electrochemical method which has very high selectivity of lithium from magnesium. The work has been published in Hydrometallurgy (Volumes 133 and 176) and a pilot operation on a salt lake is now underway in Tibet.
With Profs. Zhongwei and Sun
Over morning coffee in the common room, I spoke to three more dedicated researchers. There are many lithium deposits in China and Dr. Dong Fang Lu is working on the use of mixed anionic and cationic collectors for fine spodumene flotation, as well as fine particle capture in HGMS. He is also involved with modification and optimisation of two Australian inventions, the Jameson Cell, which is being modified for spodume flotation at high altitudes, and optimisation of the Reflux Classifier to preconcentrate antimony oxide tailings.
Dr. Jian Cao has only been at CSU since July and is openly delighted about his appointment. He is an organic chemist and he is working on the design, synthesis and application of flotation reagents, particularly for serpentine depression, and new activators as an alternative to copper sulphate in pentlandite flotation. He hopes to eventually build a library of flotation reagents, to include new collectors, activators and depressants. 
Prof. Zhiguo He talked with great enthusiasm of his work on the mining of acidophiles, and their role in bioleaching and heavy metal adsorption. He has interesting results which I would like to see him present at Biomining '20 in Falmouth.
With Dong Fang Lu, Jian Cao, Zhiguo He, and Zhyong Gao
Dr. Fen Jiao introduced me to her team of fine young researchers, all of whom would be a credit to CSU if presenting work at an MEI Conference. They are researching a diverse range of topics, including the flotation of scheelite at low temperatures, selective extraction of lithium from brines, the treatment of waste waters and the biggest challenge of all, recycling metals from printed circuit boards and the recovery of lithium from spent batteries.
Fen Jiao with her team Yunfan Wang, Jiaqi Xu, Xuehu Zhong, Jianhua Kang and Ye Zhang
CSU is a major force now in mineral processing research, and in recent years has hosted many leading researchers from overseas, including Profs. Roe-Hoan Yoon, Jan Miller, Cyril O'Connor, John Ralston and Jan Cilliers. The number of publications in international conferences and journals is increasing and my second seminar "how to get your paper published in Minerals Engineering" was at first sight appropriate as 95% of all papers submitted to the journal from China are rejected, compared with a worldwide rejection rate of 82%. However, I suspect that CSU contributes little to this extremely high figure. Naturally I stressed that presenting work at an MEI conference is a great aid to publication, as the conference itself provides the first peer-review of the work, and presenting before an international audience improves confidence in presenting in English. In this respect I suggested that maybe their internal research seminars could be in English, as well as written interim reports. I believe that China's first university to teach solely in English is the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen.
I would like to thank Zhiyong and the rest of the faculty staff for making me so welcome in Changsha and conferring on me their very special honour. If you are interested in collaboration on any of the projects mentioned, please contact Dr. Zhiyong Gao at who will pass your message on to the appropriate project leader.
All in all my visit has been a real eye-opener; I have visited countless universities and research institutes over the past decades, but I can honestly say that I have never met such an impressive team of young researchers and staff. I did not have time in my short stay to discuss undergraduate teaching, but as 40% of the post-graduates are from CSU, and teaching is only by faculty members of at least Associate Professor level, then they can't be doing many things wrong! I can say with complete confidence that CSU will play a major role in the future evolution of mineral processing.
A farewell photo with some of the young mineral processing post-graduates
Twitter @barrywills

Friday, 12 October 2018

The Environmental Applications of Biotechnology in Mining

Biotechnology is set to have an increasingly important role,  not only in the treatment of primary ores and concentrates, but in the quest for the circular economy, and is likely to have a major role in remediation, treatment of tailings, electronic and other wastes, and as a potential aid to processes such as flotation. In this respect MEI's Biomining conferences are now intimately linked to the Sustainable Minerals series, which was very evident in June in Namibia, where over 60% of the Biohydromet '18 delegates also attended Sustainable Minerals '18.
Biomining '20 and Sustainable Minerals '20 will run back to back in June 2020 in the beautiful Cornish town of Falmouth (more info on the posting of 2nd August). Dr. David Dew will present a keynote at Biomining '20 on the limitations to the commercial application of biohydrometallurgy for the treatment of base metal sulfide ores (posting of 20 August), and we are pleased to announce that Dr. Anna Kaksonen, of Australia's CSIRO, will present a keynote on the environmental applications of biotechnology in mining. This will complement the keynote lecture on the following day at Sustainable Minerals '20, when Dr. Anita Parbhakar-Fox, of the University of Tasmania, will discuss how the mining industry might respond to the 'war on waste' (posting of 25th September).

Anna and her co-workers have recently published a comprehensive review article on recent progress in biohydrometallurgy and microbial characterisation (Hydrometallurgy Volume 180, September 2018). Bioprocessing of low-grade ores and concentrates is well-established as a commercial-scale technology for extracting value from various base and precious metal minerals. Microorganisms are also increasingly being used for recovering value from mine wastes, such as tailings, slags and ashes, as well as urban mining of end-of-life consumer products such as batteries and electronic wastes. The capability of microbes to catalyse oxidative and reductive bioprocesses as well as degrade organic compounds has been utilised for the removal of various contaminants from hydrometallurgical process waters and the treatment of effluents prior to release into the environment. Biological iron oxidation, bioreduction of nitrate, selenate and sulfate, neutralisation of acidity with biogenic alkalinity and bioprecipitation of metals offer alternatives for chemical water treatment. Emerging technologies, such as bioelectrochemical systems and synthetic biology are also opening new avenues to mining companies for monitoring and mitigating environmental impacts. Dr. Kaksonen will review examples of recent developments in the environmental applications of biotechnology in mining.
Anna Kaksonen has about 20 years’ experience in various aspects of biomining, from bio-oxidising and bioleaching low-grade ores to treating waste streams and recovering resources. During her Doctor of Technology degree, she developed fluidized bed reactor processes for biotechnical mine water treatment at Tampere University of Technology (TUT) in Finland. As a Senior Researcher at TUT, she also contributed to the development of heap bioleaching for complex low-grade black schist ores, bioprocesses for excess iron and sulfate removal from barren leach liquors and metal recovery from various metallurgical wastes. In 2009 Anna joined Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia as a Team Leader of Environmental and Industrial Biotechnology (EIB). In 2017 she was appointed as a leader of CSIRO’s Biotechnology and Synthetic Biology Group which has three teams (EIB; Biocatalysis and Synthetic Biology; and Metabolomics and Proteomics) located in Perth, Canberra and Brisbane. She has delivered projects to many companies on base metal, precious metal and uranium bioleaching, as well as biotechnical removal of organic and inorganic impurities from hydrometallurgical process waters. She has also been active in urban mining, developing bioprocesses for the extraction of metals from electronic wastes.
The latest updates on Biomining '20 and Sustainable Minerals '20 can be found at #Biomining20 and #SustainableMinerals20 respectively.