Friday, 30 April 2010

Comminution '10 Proceedings CD now available

Comminution '10 was the most successful of MEI's 7 comminution conferences.

There were 71 presentations, and it was evident that comminution continues to evolve and develop at an increasingly rapid pace.  There were  many cutting-edge papers presented, with the introduction of new techniques, such as positron emission particle tracking, and the continuing development of DEM modelling and other advanced technology.

The Proceedings of the conference is now available and the full listing of papers can be seen on the conference website.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Comminution ’12- first announcement

After a very successful Comminution ’10 in Cape Town, a decision was made to run Comminution ’12 at the same venue, from April 17-20, 2012.

 Prof. Malcolm Powell, of Australia's JKMRC will act as MEI consultant again, but will be assisted this time by Dr. Aubrey Mainza, of the University of Cape Town.

As with Comminution '10, Industrial Minerals and the Gold & Minerals Gazette will be media sponsors, and I am pleased to welcome our first major sponsor, Canada's  Starkey & Associates.

Comminution '10 was attended by 166 delegates and photos taken at the event are now available for viewing and downloading.

Monday, 26 April 2010

....and back to Falmouth

It's great to be back in beautiful Falmouth, especially since spring is now here.

Amazingly, we all arrived at Heathrow at the same time yesterday, on different flights, Barbara and I as scheduled, and Jon and Amanda six days late due to the volcano disruption.

The next MEI Conferences are in Falmouth in June, and registrations are now coming in for Precious Metals '10, which immediately precedes Nickel Processing '10.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Back to Cape Town

A wonderful drive back to Cape Town today from Tulbagh. The spectacular Bain's Kloof Pass took us to the attactive town of Wellington, and then through the Paarl and Stellenboch wine areas to the False Bay coast.

Bain's Kloof Pass

The False Bay Coast, with the mountains of the winelands in the background

We met up with Jon and Amanda at one of our favourite restaurants, the Harbour House at Kalk Bay, and then on to Cape Town via Chapman's Peak Drive which leads to one of the best views of Lion's Head, Table Mountain and the Twelve Apostles.

Tonight we are all staying at the Capetonian Hotel, and tomorrow Jon and Amanda fly to Jo'burg, then on to Dubai and London.  Barbara and I leave Cape Town tomorrow evening, and hopefully we all arrive at the same time at Heathrow on Sunday morning.  It's been an interesting two weeks in Cape Town, and, looking back, we can't believe how fortunate we have actually been. If Comminution '10 had been scheduled a week later, it would almost certainly have not taken place!  I hope that all the European delegates make it home by the end of the week.

Thursday, 22 April 2010


Apart from in the cities, it is always a pleasure to drive in South Africa, with its well maintained long, open roads, and ever-changing magnificent scenery.

This morning was no exception as we drove from Paternoster through the Swartland wine area to the little town of Tulbagh. Tulbagh and nearby Ceres were devastated by an earthquake on September 29th 1969. I realised today that Barbara and I drove only a few miles west of the earhquake epicentre only a week earlier, en route to Rhodesia and then to my first job on the Zambian Copperbelt.

Church Street is just one block back from the main street and has an 18th and 19th century streetscape perfectly restored after the devastation of the earthquake.

We are staying at one of these restored houses, the excellent Tulbagh Country Guest House. Just down the road we ate tonight at the Readers Restaurant, the oldest house in Church Street, built in 1754 for the 'Readers' or 'sick comforters'. We were the only clientelle but the food was impressive.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Paternoster- final day

We had an excellent walk this morning, west of Paternoster, in the Columbine Nature Reserve. The scenery is spectacular, and is dominated by pink granite masses.  If there are any geologists reading this, do you know how and when this granite was formed?  Anything to do with the breakup of Gondwana 130m years ago, and the formation of the Atlantic?

We have had two fairly average meals in Paternoster during the past couple of days, but tonight's at the Noisy Oyster was outstanding, and we would recommend this restaurant to anyone visiting the area.  The menu is not for the prudish though. The theme of the restaurant is romance and the influence of oysters. The starters are listed as 'Foreplay' and the main course 'Intercourse'. We didn't get to desserts!

A message in from Amanda tonight. She and Jon hopefully fly to Jo'burg on Friday to connect to Dubai. The next direct flight to Dubai from Cape Town is May 1st!

Scattered far and wide!

The good news this morning is that European airspace has re-opened, so we should be on the move soon.

Minerals Engineers are great travellers, so there must be many stranded, like Amanda and Jon, around the world.  I had an email from Rob Bowell of SRK Consulting, UK, who is stuck in Denver, and MEI's SRCR '11 consultant, Markus Reuter, of Ausmelt, Australia, who has been unable to leave Helsinki. On a lighter note, and in true Basil Fawlty fashion, Comminution '10 delegate John Starkey was delayed at Atlanta airport, almost missing his flight to Toronto, when a sniffer dog detected a ham sandwich in his briefcase!

If you have any interesting travel stories please let me know. I would particularly like to hear from Comminution '10 delegates, many of whom must still be waiting to fly from Cape Town.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

No end in sight to the disruption

Our second day in Paternoster. It is a remote, quiet place and this morning we went for a long walk on the deserted beach. The West Coast is bleak, with cold, dank mists continuously rolling in from the Atlantic. Jon and Amanda, meanwhile, are still in Cape Town, and took the train today to Kalk Bay. We are not too optimistic about gtting back to the UK this week. We are following the continuous BBC news updates, and the news is not encouraging- it may be next week before the wind changes direction and pushes the volcanic cloud towards Canada.

The BBC graphic on the left shows the influence of the cloud on an airliner, while the graphic below shows how it affects a jet engine.

Comminution '10- the views of a delegate

An email in this morning from Prof. B.K. Mishra, of IMMT, India, with his appraisal of Comminution '10:

This time Comminution 10 took place at the beautiful Vineyard Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa on April 13 through 16, 2010. On Tuesday, Jon Wills at the inaugural invited us to reflect on our amazing accomplishments over the past 25 years while we look forward to the future. Raj Rajamani started out by sharing his thoughts on the unified comminution model which was followed by a beautiful piece of work by L.M Tavares. There were several talks of very high quality from academic institutes and industry alike and I enjoyed all of them during my four-day stay. I learnt about several progresses that have been made with respect to modeling comminution processes, equipment design and operation, and above all PEPT. PEPT holds a lot of promise and I am going to explore more in that area.

Once again I found DEM work of Paul Cleary very impressive. The conference ended with a beautiful piece of work by Malcolm Powell who shared his views with respect to energy conservation. Finally, the thought of HPGR-Isamill circuit replacing the good old SAG-Ball mill circuit took me by surprise. If anyone out there trying a PR campaign then please make sure it works before starting the campaign. Having said that, for the sake of energy reduction and improved overall resource usage, or perhaps our planet’s sake, I will support the idea.

In many respects, Comminution 10 was a well-organized conference. With years of experience putting on conferences, Barry Wills and his team knew how to make a conference run smoothly. Arrangements were superb. While several talks were of very high standard, I still found the overall amount of “practical” content dealing with plant practice, process control, and optimization at Comminution 10 was lacking. This was particularly disappointing, because the conference convened in South Africa—a leader in mineral processing and home to many leading mineral processing companies.

One of the major disappointments for me was to see people trying to re-invent the wheel. They must read at least the books written by L G Austin and R P King before raking up issues and making presentations on
those that have been well settled. Also, as academicians and researchers we must get as close as possible to other’s work and must give credit to others—acknowledge them for their part in bringing about results!!

Comminution 10 offered refreshments coffee breaks and served lunch which was good. I really liked the format of long coffee break because we got time for interactive discussions—often on embarrassing and controversial topics. The conference dinner took place on the Wednesday evening. It was truly an exciting African experience at the Spier Wine Estate in the Stellenbosch wine region. I made it to the dinner where they served wonderful food. I ate couple of excellent vegetarian dish, and finished off the night buying a bottle of Spier wine. I had a wonderful time at Cape Town attending Comminution 10 and I will certainly look forward to April 24, 2012 for the next comminution conference.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Post-Comminution '10

An email in from John and Donna Starkey, who were at Comminution '10. They had a wonderful time yesterday in Cape Town, taking the cable car to the top of Table Mountain in the morning.  They then had afternoon tea at the Mount Nelson, and ended a perfect day on Signal Hill, watching the sun set.

They were lucky!  Today we drove through torrential rain, up the west coast to Paternoster.

Many thanks to Dave Capstick, of Deswik, South Africa, who emailed to say that he found Comminution '10 a very enjoyable, informative and thoroughly professional conference. He is very pleased to hear that we'll be back in Cape Town in two years for Comminution '12. He thanks us for one of the best run events that he has attended. We really appreciate your comments, Dave, which make our efforts worthwhile.  Ironic to think that if the conference had been scheduled one week later, it would not have taken place at all!

Amanda, stranded in Cape Town with Jon, should have arrived back in the UK today. She apologies that there will be no updates to MEI Online until her return. Her interview with our local UK radio station, the BBC's Radio Cornwall, can be heard by clicking here.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Stranded in Darkest Africa

As is apparent from the photograph, Jon and Amanda are devastated that their flight to London via Dubai has been cancelled,  and so will have to remain in Cape Town until the volcanic cloud disperses. They are now at the Capetonian Hotel near the waterfront, and Amanda was today interviewed by Radio Cornwall, to speak of the privations of being stranded in darkest Africa. I would love to hear of what is happening to other Comminution '10 delegates who are travelling home to, or via, Europe.  Email me at

Meanwhile, after breakfast at the Blouberg Manor Hotel, Barbara and I walked a few miles along the beach at Bloubergstrand, which stretches endlessly northwards. We then called in at Moyo's restaurant for a site inspection with the functions manager, to assess its suitability as a dinner venue for future MEI Conferences.  Later in the afternoon, we had an excellent meal at the restaurant.

Tomorrow we travel up the Namaqualand coast to Paternoster, and hope to be in internet contact there.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

The Great Adventures begin

There was much activity this morning at the Vineyard, as European conference delegates searched for potential ways of returning home, avoiding the ash from the Icelandic volcano.  There are likely to be some interesting travel stories over the next few days (or weeks!) which I hope to report on the blog.

Amanda and Jon are scheduled to leave for the UK tomorrow night, via Dubai, but it looks increasingly unlikely.

Barbara and I have another week in the Cape.  This morning we left the Vineyard by car, and called at the Mount Nelson Hotel for morning coffee, before driving up to Bloubergstrand, with its famous view of Table Mountain.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Comminution Closing Remarks and an Eminent Visitor

The conference closing remarks, by me and Malcolm Powell, are now available on video at YouTube.

We had a very welcome visitor to the hotel bar in the evening. Tim-Napier Munn (pictured with UCT delegate Aubrey Mainza), called in for a quick beer. He is visiting friends in Cape Town after presenting a short course in Rustenburg.

Although retired for some years as Director of Australia's JKMRC, he is still very active in mineral processing, and is currently updating the 1996 JKMRC Monograph Mineral Comminution Circuits: their operation and optimisation. We agreed that we had no immediate plans to produce an 8th edition of Mineral Processing Technology, however!

Comminution '10- the final day

Fine grinding dominated the final day of the conference. Stirred mills were originally developed for ultrafine grinding, but their use is now extending into coarser grinding applications, as discussed yesterday by Graham Davey of Metso, and further today by Hans de Waal of Xstrata Technology, South Africa. He showed how the IsaMill has shifted from its birthplace in the realm of complex, fine-grained ore bodies into mainstream coarse applications.

As Malcolm Powell, of Australia's JKMRC, discussed in the final paper of the day, enlightened circuit design is essential to the take-up of such new equipment, otherwise we will not capture the full potential benefit, or even lose the benefit altogether.

This has been an excellent conference, very intensive, with 71 presentations, and has shown that comminution continues to evolve and develop at an increasingly rapid pace. I found it difficult to sum up the conference at the end, as there has been so many cutting-edge papers, with the introduction of new techniques, such as positron emission particle tracking, and the continuing development of DEM modelling and other advanced technology.

At the turn of the 20th century stamp mills were superceded by rod and ball mills and I wonder if, 100 years later, ball mills are now set to become replaced by circuits such as HPGR-stirred mills. Maybe we will find out at Comminution '12, which will be held at the Vineyard Hotel, Cape Town from April 17-20, 2012.

I would  like to thank our sponsors for their support and also to the presenters and chairmen.  This is perhaps the first conference that I have attended where everything has run on time, leaving plenty of scope for discussions in coffee and lunch breaks.

My only hope now is that our European delegates (and the MEI team!) are not seriously delayed on their return journeys, as many international airports, including those in the UK, remain closed, due to the Icelandic volcano eruption.  However, there are worse places in the world to be stranded than Cape Town! 

It would be interesting to hear of your adventures getting back home.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Comminution '10- Day 3

A very long, intensive programme today, with 20 papers presented. The main theme was primary and secondary grinding, with all aspects of ball milling- control and optimisation, liner design, media, drives and classifier efficiency.  Graham Davey of Metso, UK presented an interesting paper showing how the Metso Vertimill outperforms secondary ball mills in terms of energy and media consumption, and this could also extend to primary grinding, including HGMS-Vertimill circuits.

Conferences are great meeting places, to renew old acquaintances and meet new people. I discovered that MEI is not the only small family business represented at the conference. One of our sponsors, D.M.M., is also a family partnership, involving (from left in photo) the Kotze family -  father Dirk, sons Cobus and Manie, and Manie's wife Hanlie.

It has also been good to catch up with old friends, particularly ex-students of mine from my Camborne days. In the photo below I am with Paul Morgan, who graduated in 1985, Gaynor Yorath, also 1985, Graham Davey (1991) and Ramoutar (Ken) Seecharan, who started his student days at CSM in the same year that I began my lecturing career, 1974. Paul is now with DRA Mineral Projects in South Africa, Gaynor with University of Cape Town, Graham with Metso in UK, and Ken with First Quantum Minerals in Mauritania.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The Great South African Braai

African drums (see video) and face-painting greeted us tonight at the lively Moyo's, in the Spier Wine Estate, Stellenbosch.  The conference dinner was a vibrant, informal affair, where the wine flowed to accompany the traditional South African BBQ, or braai.

The photos below are just two of many taken during the evening. More will be published on the Comminution '10 website next week.

Comminution '10- day 2

A different, but equally beautiful, dawn for the 2nd day of Comminution '10.

Crushing, high pressure grinding rolls, SAG and AG mills, and energy efficiency dominated today's proceedings. It was nice to see one of the morning's chairmen, Raj Rajamani, proudly sporting an MEI shirt!

I have had some very positive feedback from delegates and there has been much useful discussion, both in the conference room and the exhibition area (see YouTube video of the exhibition), where we break for coffee and lunch.

John Starkey, who presented a paper today, was very enthusiastic about the value of the conference. I last saw him at the SME meeting in Phoenix, where he was exhibiting on behalf of his company, Starkey & Associates, Inc., and I commented then that although there were around 4000 delegates in Phoenix, there would be more comminution people in Cape Town!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Comminution '10 is the biggest yet

A wonderful sight awaited us this morning on our very early arrival at the conference centre- Table Mountain bathed in the golden glow of dawn.

The 7th MEI Comminution conference got off to a good start. This is the biggest of the 7 conferences in the series, the last one in 2008 in Falmouth attracting 157 delegates.

Jon opened the conference (see YouTube for video), welcoming our 165 delegates from 23 countries: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Italy, Japan, Mauritania, Poland, S. Korea, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, UK, USA, Zimbabwe.

Prof. Malcolm Powell, of Australia's JKMRC, and MEI's comminution consultant, then introduced the chairmen for the first session, which was dominated by papers on fundamentals and modelling of breakage, with 4 papers from the University of Cape Town on the relatively new mineral processing application of positron emission particle tracking (PEPT). UCT now has a very strong comminution research centre, thanks being due a lot to their links with Australia's JKMRC. UCT has a very strong presence at the conference, with 13 staff and students registered.

The afternoon session dealt with the performance of grinding circuits and the influence of external classification devices. It was nice to see Dr.Megan Becker, who called in late afternoon to discuss her consultant role in November's Process Mineralogy '10, also being held at the Vineyard.

There is much to look forward to over the next few days, with cutting edge developments in machines and processes, and new developments in techniques such as DEM and PEPT. For the first time we have delegates from the European Patents Office in Germany (pictured left with Amanda), who are keen to gain insights into the latest state of the art technologies. We have invited all delegates to add their comments to each day's blog posting and, of course, the invitation is also extended to blog readers who are not at the event.

Monday, 12 April 2010

A hot day in Cape Town

Today was extremely hot, and a relief when the sun set on Table Mountain at 5pm.  By then we were well into the conference wine reception and preregistration. Around 100 delegates registered this evening, nearly half of them arriving by coach fron Franschhoek,where they had been attending the ICRA Workshop.  The organiser, Dr. Aubrey Mainza, from UCT, was pleased that this event was attended by 45 delegates. One of those delegates was Dr. Paul Cleary of CSIRO, Australia, one of the world's experts on DEM modelling.We had a long talk about his work- he is presenting a number of papers at this conference- but what always fascinates me is his work in the movie industry, and how DEM is set to make an impact in computer generated imaging.

Then a quick meal in the bar, followed by an early night in preparation for a very early start tomorrow.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

What is comminution?

We arrived in Cape Town yesterday and the first thing on the agenda was a meeting with the staff of the Vineyard Hotel and our Cape Town agent Rene Simpson. One of the staff asked me "what is comminution?" An easy one, but the next question was not so easy- "how can you spend 4 days talking about breaking rocks?"

The weather here is superb and we have been making use of the Vineyard's pool and gardens. By the pool we met up today with John and Donna Starkey, who had a very long journey from Vancouver.

Conference delegates should find the time to explore the beautiful river walk in the hotel grounds, and look out for the famous Vineyard giant man-eating tortoises! But don't expect to soak up the sun after a long afternoon conference session. Although sunset is at 6.30 in Cape Town at this time of year, it is a very abrupt 5pm at the Vineyard, as the sun suddenly sinks below the highest point of Table Mountain.

In the evening we dined with our old friends from UCT, Cyril and Nanette O'Connor and our flotation consultant J-P Franzidis and his wife Rose in the Vineyard's excellent 'The Square'.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Comminution '10 continues to expand

Even at this late stage, registrations are still coming in for next week's Cape Town conference and the updated list of delegates has just been published.

The MEI team will be leaving for Cape Town tomorrow, so if you would like to register, please email (not fax) your form, and we will see you at the Vineyard. The final programme can be downloaded here.

I shall be adding daily news and photos of the event to the blog and I hope that delegates will also add their comments to record their own particular highlights.

Don't forget that if you submit your email address to the box in the right hand column, you will be alerted to each new posting.

New comments alert

Here are the new comments added to blog postings since the last comments alert:

AkzoNobel converts science fiction into science fact: 2 new comments
A memorable reunion in Falmouth:  1 new comment
Who was Antoine Gaudin?: 1 new comment
SME Annual Meeting, Phoenix. Sunday : 1 new comment

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Saturday, 3 April 2010

View the Comminution '10 abstracts

Just over a week to go now before Comminution '10 begins in Cape Town. Click here for the final timetable, and here for the current list of delegates. Blog readers can also download the abstracts of all the papers by clicking here.

If you would like to attend the conference, it is not too late to register.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Bio and Hydrometallurgy Special Issue Published

Thirteen papers presented at Bio and Hydrometallurgy 09 in Cape Town last year have now been published in Volume 23 Number 6, a special issue of Minerals Engineering, guest edited by S.T.L. Harrison, J. Petersen and R.P. van Hille of the University of Cape Town. The papers can be viewed and downloaded via ScienceDirect.

The conference Proceedings, containing, in an unrefereed form, all the papers presented, is available on CD from MEI Online.

The next Bio and Hydrometallurgy conference will be held in Cape Town in November, immediately prior to Process Mineralogy ’10 at the same venue.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

AkzoNobel converts science fiction into science fact

Great news in this morning from reagent manufacturer AkzoNobel.  They have developed a revolutionary new paint  which cracks one of the biggest ever scientific challenges – invisibility. Working with renowned nanotechnology Professor Olaf Proli, the company has developed a hi-tech textile coating – Invisulux® –  which renders people wearing the painted garments invisible. Successful trials have already been carried out by interested security and defense organizations.

Naturally we at MEI were slightly sceptical about the claims, but asked for a sample pot.  Surprisingly it is highly effective, as this picture of me at my desk shows.  Now it is only a matter of exploring the potential uses of this product. Does anyone have any ideas?