Sunday, 29 March 2015

Poldark brings Cornwall's wonderful mining heritage to life

Along with millions of others, we have been enjoying the news BBC series of Poldark, adapted from Winston Graham's books. Set in late 18th century Cornwall, the plot follows Ross Poldark's attempts to make his derelict tin mines a success, as well as his relationship with his servant girl Demelza.

I am not sure that the series would have such a great following if Ross was involved with coal mining in the north of England. It is the glorious Cornish coastal scenery which makes the show so watchable, although Amanda and Barbara would no doubt argue that the leading actor is also a contributory factor.

Location managers couldn’t resist the rich mining heritage of the stretch of west Cornwall coast linking Botallack and Levant (see posting of 2nd October 2014). The perilously perched Crowns Mine engine houses, built in the mid 19th century, double as the Poldark family mine Wheal Grambler.
Crowns Engine Houses, Botallack
Botallack was given World Heritage Site status in 2006 and is part of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site. The iconic ruins are the most photographed and painted engine houses in the county (posting of 30th May 2010) and such inspiring coastal locations had an impact on the Poldark cast. "So much of the piece came alive when we were filming in Cornwall and everyone found their character in the outdoors," said Eleanor Tomlinson, who plays Demelza Carne. "Demelza is very connected to the landscape," added Eleanor. "I also love the countryside and just enjoyed exploring all the different coves and beaches and the endless beautiful blue water, it was so gorgeous. It is such a peaceful and relaxing place."
I couldn't resist pausing the TV to take the photo below, showing how digital enhancement has brought the Botallack Mines back to life in vivid colour. It is clear that the template for the computer generated images was the late 19th century photo of the mine in its heyday.
Botallack in the 19th century
 A little further westward from the Botallack Mines is the West Wheal Owles engine house, which, suitably dressed up, played a major part in the Poldark series as the fictional Wheal Leisure, the mine which Ross brings back to life.

West Wheal Owles engine house

Filming at Wheal Owles, 2014
This is a wonderful stretch of coastline which I would strongly recommend you visit if you are interested in Cornwall's unique mining history.

More on Cornish Mining

Friday, 27 March 2015

SAGDesign Test Mill commissioned in Cornwall

I called in at the mineral processing laboratory of Wardell Armstrong International (WAI) this morning, only 9 miles from the MEI Office. WAI has extensive experience of ore testing and has a comprehensive client base, having undertaken metallurgical testwork for clients in over 50 countries on samples from areas including Europe, Africa, Russia, Canada and Australia.
As a result of client demand for a current copper porphyry project in Kazakhstan WAI has purchased a SAGDesign test mill from Comminution '16 sponsors Starkey & Associates of Canada. All this week, Jenna Hedderson of S&A has been at the lab near Truro to commission the mill with process engineer Ben Simpson.
SAGDesign mill
Jenna and Ben explain the SAGDesign mill to me
The mill is the SAG equivalent of the Bond Mill for steel ball mills, and the design, based on John Starkey's equations for mill scale-up, has proved very succesful worldwide, and certainly comparable to the JK Drop Weight Tester, also used to design full scale SAG mills, the SAGDesign mill requiring much smaller sample sizes while providing a wealth of data.  WAI has had a Drop Weight Tester since mid 2013, so can now offer both industry standard  solutions for laboratory scale testing, obviating the need for pilot-scale testwork.
This is Jemma's first trip to Europe, so it is a great shame that she has seen very little of Cornwall during this commissioning period. She has been a metallurgist with S&A for nearly 3 years, after graduating as a chemical engineer from Lakehead University, Ontario. WAI has 20 mineral processors on site, virtually all graduates from nearby Camborne School of Mines.
Jenna with WAI mineral processors Joe Marley, Garfield Stuart, Phil King,
Barrie O'Connell and Ben Simpson

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Where there's muck there's brass

If I had seen this a week today I would have assumed it was an April Fool's joke, but at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in Denver Dr. Kathleen Smith, lead scientist at the US Geological Survey suggested that human waste could be processed to extract metals, including gold, silver, copper and vanadium, flushed down lavatories every year. In Britain alone this could account for as much as £500 million worth of values. She said that gold has been identified in waste from sewage treatment plants at levels which, if found in rock, would be worth mining.
The tiny particles of metal are believed to come from everyday items such as hair care products, detergents and food or drink. Many find their way into the body and are excreted. They then end up in sewage treatment plants where they are concentrated in leftover biosolids. Organic biosolids are used as fertiliser on fields while the rest is incinerated or buried.

Dr. Smith suggested that these biosolids could be leached to recover the metals, She said  “the gold we found was at the level of a minimal mineral deposit. There are metals everywhere — in your hair care products, detergents, even nanoparticles that are put in socks to prevent bad odours.”

What do you think- worth pursuing or just a load of crap?

Monday, 23 March 2015

Carbon Capture and Storage: more research, or none at all?

There is no doubt that the requirement to reduce emissions of CO2 will have a marked impact on the minerals industry, particularly on the viability of new ventures.
In last week's The Times, Matt Ridley argues that carbon dioxide is not the most urgent problem facing humanity, compared with war, extremism, poverty and disease. "But most presidents, popes and film stars think it is, so what is the best way of solving the problem?"
The science and technology committee of the House of Lords (on which Ridley sits) told the government in a recent report on the resilience of the electricity system that it has not sufficiently informed the public about the “trilemma” facing policymakers. We cannot — in the present state of technology — make the electricity supply low-carbon, resilient and low-cost all at the same time. Decarbonisation is not achievable if politicians wish to restrain energy prices.
Which leaves plan B: to continue using fossil fuels but extract the carbon dioxide from power station exhaust by “carbon capture and storage” (CCS).
There have been many research articles on CCS published lately, some in mineral processing journals, such as Minerals Engineering which recently published a special issue on the Accelerated Carbonation conference (ACEME 2013), which also aimed at promoting mineral carbonisation in the context of CCS and Carbon Capture and Utilisation.When the topic of CCS comes up, I, like Matt Ridley, admit to being unsure whom to believe. On the one hand there are those who say: it is ready to go, it solves the problem, what are we waiting for? On the other, those who say it’s a costly white elephant going nowhere.
Ridley argues that the first problem is that the process reduces the efficiency of the power station. "A normal coal-fired power station runs at about 35 per cent efficiency — that is to say, a bit more than a third of the heat energy in the steam gets turned into electricity. Adding CCS means that the efficiency drops to maybe 26 per cent. The cost correspondingly goes up substantially, as do people’s electricity bills." The British government has been dangling a £1 billion carrot in front of the energy industry to get CCS going but delays and cancellations are affecting CCS around the world. Given that electricity is only a small part of the energy system, if CCS is to solve our problems it has to roll out to not just every coal and gas power station on the planet, but to smelters, refineries and all operations generating large quantities of CO2.
Ridley concludes that there is no way to meet our self-imposed decarbonisation target without bankrupting the country. It’s not more effort and political will we need; it’s more research.
In response to this, Frederick Bellringer, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, felt that Matt Ridley was wrong in concluding that more research on CCS is required. He argued that carbon capture is a relatively straightforward but expensive technology. Storage, however, requires that liquid carbon dioxide has to be conveyed by pipeline to a suitable hole in the ground where it has to remain for ever. He said "In the UK we have apparently spent oil wells where this may be possible. Even in the UK the logistics of such an operation are formidable, but for the rest of the power stations throughout the world the logistical, political, technical and financial problems would be insurmountable." He concludes by saying "We do not require more research on CCS. We require a firm decision from our politicians that it is nonsense."
I know very little about this subject, so I do not wish to take sides in the argument. I would, however, like to have the opinions of those of you are involved with CCS: those who are researching this area and those of you who are affected by the need to implement such technology to reduce your carbon emissions.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Full and new moons provide spectacular displays over Swanpool, Falmouth

Last year, while walking home from an MEI Conference function, I was treated to a beautiful sight of a full moon over Falmouth Bay.

Full moon, Swanpool beach 12 June 2014
This morning at 0930 GMT the new moon, in virtually the same position, obscured the sun in a 90% solar eclipse, which was unfortunately partly obscured by heavy sea mist.

This morning's partial eclipse, Swanpool beach
This is not the first eclipse that we have seen in Falmouth. In 1999 thousands of people flocked into Falmouth, which was the only town in Britain to witness a total solar eclipse. Unfortunately the display that day was slightly disappointing as thick clouds obscured the sun but the sudden illusion of night was a memorable experience.

Barbara and Amanda (centre) at Swanpool, 11am August 11th 1999

Thursday, 19 March 2015

March Mining Sundowners

The Cornish Mining Sundowner was held this evening for the first time at the Thirsty Scholar pub in the ancient town of Penryn, the site of the University of Exeter in Cornwall campus which includes the Camborne School of Mines.  It was very well attended, with a number of CSM MSc Mining Geologists, and biohydrometallurgists Paul Norris and Dave Dew in attendance. Also good to see Comminution '16 sponsor Grinding Solutions represented by Nick Wilshaw, Kathryn Hadler and Simon Bailey.

Granted a charter in the year 1216, Penryn is one of the oldest towns in Cornwall, preceding its now larger neighbour Falmouth by some 200 years and in the 15th Century it was a major port. The Thirsty Scholar is one of Penryn's listed building, set in the historic heart of the town, on a site that has been a brewery or a hostelry for more than six hundred years.

Nick Eastwood, James & Cecily Jobling-Purser, Claire Yelland,
Kathryn Hadler, Barbara, and John Eyre
Paul Norris, Simon Bailey (hidden), Dave Dew, Nick Eastwood, me and Carol Richards
With Steve Pendray (3rd left ) and MSc students
Earlier in the month 25 mining and related personnel attended the Devon Mining Sundowner at the Miners’ Arms, Hemerdon Village. Those attending included Wolf Minerals personnel from the Drakelands operation, the former AMAX Hemerdon project manager Roger Craddock and Sibelco project engineer James Tupman.

Henry Chalcraft, John Casey and Roger Craddock

New process plant supervisors Paul Brown, John Lawrey
and Michael Sanders with operations manager
Jeff Harrison (2nd right)

Laurie Hassall, James Tupman and Henry Chalcraft