Friday, 29 January 2010

ICRA Workshop programme now available

The 13th international comminution research assocation (ICRA) workshop, with the theme “using PEPT imaging techniques to advance comminution modelling” will be held in Franschhoek, South Africa in April, immediately before Comminution ’10 in nearby Cape Town. The programme is now available for viewing on MEI Online.

Positron emission particle tracking (PEPT) is a powerful technique for studying the flow of particulate systems. Initially developed for the medical imaging industry, positron emission tomography has been adapted for engineering applications at the University of Birmingham. With the high prevalence of particulate systems in the minerals industry there is interest in using PEPT to study flow behaviour in tumbling mills, stirred mills, flotation cells, etc.

PEPT is attractive for comminution modelling because it is a non-invasive technique capable of mapping in-situ flow fields in an aggressive system containing media and slurries such as those encountered in industry to the level of detail required for developing mechanistic models.

The workshop will run from April 10-12, and on the afternoon of April 12th, those delegates attending Comminution ’10 will be transferred by bus to the Vineyard Hotel in Cape Town, for the conference wine reception and registration.

Istanbul only a few days away

Next week I will be reporting from Istanbul, and the Processing of Industrial Minerals '10 conference, which starts on Thursday.

If you are still thinking of attending, just print out your registration form and bring it with you to the conference, and we will register you there.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

UK Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor calls for honesty on climate change

The impact of global warming has been exaggerated by some scientists and there is an urgent need for more honest disclosure of the uncertainty of predictions about the rate of climate change, according to the Government’s chief scientific adviser, John Beddington speaking to The Times in the wake of an admission by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that it grossly overstated the rate at which Himalayan glaciers were receding.

Professor Beddington said that climate scientists should be less hostile to sceptics who questioned man-made global warming. He said that public confidence in climate science would be improved if there were more openness about its uncertainties, even if that meant admitting that sceptics had been right on some hotly-disputed issues.

He said: “I don’t think it’s healthy to dismiss proper scepticism. Science grows and improves in the light of criticism. There is a fundamental uncertainty about climate change prediction that can’t be changed.”
He said that the false claim in the IPCC’s 2007 report that the glaciers would disappear by 2035 had exposed a wider problem with the way that some evidence was presented.

“Certain unqualified statements have been unfortunate. We have a problem in communicating uncertainty. There’s definitely an issue there. If there wasn’t, there wouldn’t be the level of scepticism. All of these predictions have to be caveated by saying, ‘There’s a level of uncertainty about that’.”

Professor Beddington said that particular caution was needed when communicating predictions about climate change made with the help of computer models.

“It’s unchallengeable that CO2 traps heat and warms the Earth and that burning fossil fuels shoves billions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. But where you can get challenges is on the speed of change.

“When you get into large-scale climate modelling there are quite substantial uncertainties. On the rate of change and the local effects, there are uncertainties both in terms of empirical evidence and the climate models themselves.”

Phil Jones, the director of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit and a contributor to the IPCC’s reports, has been forced to stand down while an investigation takes place into leaked e-mails allegedly showing that he attempted to conceal data.

In response to one request for data Professor Jones wrote: “We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?”

Professor Beddington said that uncertainty about some aspects of climate science should not be used as an excuse for inaction: “Some people ask why we should act when scientists say they are only 90 per cent certain about the problem. But would you get on a plane that had a 10 per cent chance of landing?”

The full article and many interesting comments can be found on TimesOnline.

ABB the latest corporate supporter of MEI Conferences

We are very pleased to see the logo of the well known Swiss company ABB on MEI Online for the first time.

ABB is a global leader in power and automation technologies and was represented at a MEI Conference for the first time when they exhibited at Flotation ’09 in Cape Town 3 months ago.

They were obviously impressed with our event as they have now agreed to sponsor Comminution ’10, the next Cape Town conference, in April. They join our long standing supporters, JKTech, Magotteaux and Sigmund Lindner as major sponsors.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Is Thorium a Rare Earth Metal?

MEI Online recently added Rare Earths to the Metallic Ores Commodity pages.

The question is - what is a rare earth metal, or what is not a rare earth metal? The latter question was asked recently in a posting on the Rare Metal Blog.

The general consensus, both in that discussion, and elsewhere, is that the rare earth metals include the 15 lanthanoid elements and one or both of the elements yttrium and scandium.

Why am I concerned? My book Mineral Processing Technology was first published in 1979, the latest, 7th, edition in 2006. The Introductory chapter of every issue has contained the sentence "It is interesting to note that the so-called common metals, zinc and lead, are less plentiful than the rare-earth metals (cerium, thorium, etc.)".

Cerium is definitely a rare earth metal, but thorium? Have I been wrong all these years? The reason for the error, if there is one, is lost in the mists of time, but I suspect that the mineral monazite was to blame- the main source of thorium and often referred to as a rare earth phosphate.

I am going to assume that I was wrong, and change the commodity entry to rare earths and thorium!

News on MEI's November conferences, Cape Town

South Africa’s oldest wine estate, Groot Constantia, will be the setting for the Process Mineralogy ’10 conference dinner in November. Process Mineralogy ’10 is a 3-day conference, being held back to back with the 2-day conferences Bio and Hydrometallurgy ’10 and Zinc Processing ’10. All three conferences will be held at Cape Town’s Vineyard Hotel.

Meanwhile Outotec have announced today that their HSC Chemistry 7.0 Training Course will be held at the Vineyard Hotel, immediately following the 3 MEI Conferences. This 2-day course covers all the calculation modules and databases and provides an understanding of HSC application possibilities.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Do 3rd class degree graduates make poor teachers and process engineers?

With an election in the UK fast approaching, the politicians are on the cheap votes campaign by making empty promises that are ill thought out and often totally impractical.

This week David Cameron, the leader of the opposition Conservative Party has promised to improve the education system by ensuring that third class degree graduates do not become teachers.

Apart from being deeply offensive to the many excellent teachers with 3rd class degrees, it is also superficially-crafted nonsense.

I have little experience of school teaching, but I would have thought that, although a high intellect would be desirable, it may be secondary to good social skills- the ability to communicate, command the respect of students, sense of humour etc.

In this respect, teaching has a lot in common with process engineering. I left industry in 1974 to take up a lecturing position at Camborne School of Mines, and I have always felt that it was my sporting prowess, rather than intellect, that helped me get the job (in fact, on reflection, that must have been the reason!). During my 22 years at CSM I saw many graduates leave for a variety of positions in the minerals industry. What soon became obvious was that a first class degree wasn’t an automatic passport to success in industry. Many of the high-flyers were ideally suited to ivory-tower research positions, but often lacked the people-skills to make themselves a success in the mining environment. Conversely many of the 3rd-class graduates made it to the top in the mining industry, probably having honed their social skills during student life, to the detriment of their final degrees. Only recently I reported how South Crofty tin mine in Cornwall is being revitalised under the dynamic leadership of John Webster, a higher diploma graduate from CSM.

So, David Cameron, if you wish to lose many potentially excellent teachers, go ahead with your harebrained scheme, but my advice would be to think before you leap.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Industrial Minerals Conference fast approaching

It is now less than 2 weeks to the start of Processing of Industrial Minerals '10 in the old city of Istanbul.

It's looking like it will be a nice little conference, with 55 delegates already registered, and representing 13 countries:

Bulgaria; Egypt; Finland; France; Germany; Iran; Italy; Jordan; Norway; South Africa; Turkey; UK; USA.

If you have an interest in industrial minerals processing, it is certainly not too late to register. The full technical programme can be found by clicking here.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Why is a good conference paper not necessarily a good journal paper?

This is a tricky one, which often creates some ill feeling when we accept a paper for conference presentation, then reject it from the special issue of Minerals Engineering journal.

Why is it not suitable for the journal if it was suitable for the conference?

Conferences provide many things, intellectual stimulation, socialising between friends and new acquaintances, and professional networking, leading to new ideas and projects.

Imagine that you are talking to someone in a conference coffee break and you mention the fact that you have been suffering from a bad back. Your new contact finds this interesting, as he cured his back pain by hanging upside down from a tree for three hours. Your reaction might be that this is worth a try and that speaking to this person has proven to be an interesting and potentially valuable experience. However, you would not expect his advice to make it to the British Medical Journal, as it is purely anecdotal and has no scientific rigour. If he had performed many controlled experiments with bad back sufferers, hanging from trees for varying times and noted the results, then his findings might make it to a scientific journal.

Many good conference papers are anecdotal, and have little solid scientific backing. For instance papers by plant operators might show how a change in flowsheet improved recovery, so providing food for thought for other operators in the audience. Such papers are interesting, and of potentially great value, even though not backed up by rigorous science.

This is the crux of the matter. An anecdotal paper is unlikely to be published in a peer-reviewed, archival journal such as Minerals Engineering. Peer-reviewed journals seek to advance the knowledge of science, and it is no coincidence that at MEI’s Flotation conferences, a higher percentage of the fundamental papers make it to the journal rather than the applications, although many people would argue that the latter are of more interest to the audience.

So when submitting a conference paper to a peer-reviewed journal, ask yourself:

1. Are the results and conclusions backed up by solid scientific methodology?
2. Is the paper of generic interest? It must not be of interest only to a specific ore or operation.
3. Is it original and innovative?

If the answer to anyof the above is ‘no’ then think again about submitting to the journal, and accept the fact that your paper is anecdotal and might have sparked new ideas and concepts at the conference.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

How to produce an awful PowerPoint Presentation

It’s hard to believe that little over a decade ago conference presentations were illustrated by 35mm slides and overhead transparencies, with all the incumbent problems of slides jamming in projectors, slides upside down or the wrong way round. Everything changed in the late 90s with the advent of PowerPoint, and overnight presentations became slick, professional, and, in many cases, very boring!

So how do you go about preparing an awful PowerPoint presentation? According to an article in Mining Man the best way to bore an audience is to read the text on your slide word for word.

This is the method often adopted by nervous, inexperienced presenters and I have seen some really awful examples, where slide after slide is full of text, which the presenter reads out verbatim. Don’t do this!! The problem is that we read faster than we talk, so the members of the audience are always one step ahead of the presenter who is droning on in the background. The golden rule, therefore, is to separate what you want to say from what is on your slides.

What other guidelines are there to producing a presentation which will truly irritate an audience, and hopefully bore them to tears? My particular suggestions would be:

1. Show the audience how clever you are, and how well you know the technology and features of PowerPoint. Don’t be subtle about the way you introduce text and figures into a slide. Cut them into small chunks and have them flying into the slide from various angles without warning.

2. Make use of all the colours that PowerPoint can offer. Forget the fact that black text on a yellow background stands out clearly, and is used on most airport signage. Try the nice pastel colours- pink on red looks very pretty, and don’t worry that it will be difficult for the audience to see the text clearly.

3. Make liberal use of the small fonts so that you can cram as much information as possible into tables, but always explain when presenting your slide “You probably won’t be able to see this at the back, but...”.

I would be grateful for comments on this posting, which will be used as an aid for MEI Conference speakers. I particularly welcome any further tips for producing appalling presentations!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Congratulations Mike Adams

It was good to hear that MEI’s consultant to Precious Metals ’10, Dr. Mike Adams, has been awarded a DSc (Eng) degree by the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.

Mike brings a great degree of enthusiasm to everything he does and we are particularly grateful to have him on the MEI team as a very active consultant. He is also a valued member of the Minerals Engineering Editorial Board and Editor of the seminal Advances in Gold Ore Processing, which was published in 2005.

More details on Mike’s award can be found on MEI Online.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Comminution '10 attracts high calibre international speakers

In consultation with Prof. Malcolm Powell, of Australia's JKMRC, we have now put together the provisional timetable for Comminution '10, which will be held in Cape Town in April.

Over 70 papers have been accepted and the provisional timetable is now available for viewing.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Ice and Cricket

Britain is in the grip of ice at the moment, suffering the longest cold spell in 30 years. Even sub-tropical Falmouth has a thin blanket of snow today.

So it’s nice to think that in 3 months’ time we will be back in sunny Cape Town and the beautiful Vineyard Hotel.

The Vineyard is a short walking distance from Newlands Cricket Ground, one of the world’s most impressive Test Match grounds. This week Jon and I have spent a great deal of time in front of the TV, avidly watching the gripping 3rd Test at Newlands between South Africa and England, and wishing that we were in the crowd enjoying the perfect weather. It is not easy to explain to our friends from non-cricketing nations how a test match such as this one, played over 5 full days, and ending in a draw, can be so nail-bitingly exciting, but it had everything needed to keep us on the edges of our seats.

Cricket fans who will be attending any of this year’s 4 MEI Conferences in Cape Town would be advised to take the short walk down to the cricket ground. Jon and I did this last year and found the staff very friendly, showing us the members’ enclosure and the Honours boards and then allowing us out onto the ground itself. It’s a pilgrimage second only to a visit to Lord’s!!
Jon at Newlands Cricket Ground

Necessity the mother of invention

I've just been browsing through the November 2009 issue of the Journal of the Southern African IMM, and came across an interesting article by R.M. Whyte, a metallurgical consultant.

Drawing from his personal experience, the author presents four case studies that demonstrate the value of creative thinking in addressing the challenges typically encountered by the extraction metallurgist.

He concludes that creative expression most often occurs in response to a perceived strong need within an organisation. By deliberately laying down meaningful challenges, management can stimulate innovative thinking and achieve extraordinary results.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

ICRA Workshop Update

I hear via University of Cape Town’s Aubrey Mainza that the International Comminution Researchers Association (ICRA) members’ workshop will be held on 10 to 11 April 2010 and an open PEPT workshop and demonstration on 12 April 2010.

The members’ workshop will discuss measurements in comminution systems which include Positron Emission Particle Tracking (PEPT), DEM, SPH, CFD, Neutron based measurements, PVA, Charge sensors, etc.The workshop will be hosted by the African Chapter in the Franschhoek area, Cape Town. Dr Indresan Govender and Chapter chair persons for all the chapters around the world form part of the organising committee.The Workshop immediately precedes Comminution '10.

Flotation '09 Conference Report Published

A full report on Flotation '09, including comments from delegates, can now be viewed on the conference website.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Comminution '10 papers listed on website

If you would like to view the papers that have been accepted for presentation at April's Comminution '10 in Cape Town, you can now do so via the website.

We hope to have a provisional timetable by the weekend.

The wheels begin to turn

A very happy New Year to everyone. It seems an age since the start of the Christmas break, mainly due to the interminable endless void between Christmas and New Year, not helped in my case with a battle against a viral infection.

The wheels are moving again though, emails beginning to trickle in, and hopefully by the end of the week we will all be back to normality, with cautious optimism regarding the year ahead.