Friday, 12 November 2010

Process Mineralogy final day

One of the first papers this morning was by Dee Bradshaw, who showed how a small scale test for rapid characterisation of flotation response is being developed. It is known as the JKMSI (Mineral Separability Indicator). The device uses less than 10 g of material from narrowly sized fractions of the feed and the test can be completed in a few minutes. The results to date have demonstrated the success and potential value of this methodology, although further work is recommended to understand the constraints and limitations of the test with different ore types.

It is unfortunate that the full paper is one of those not in the Proceedings CD, but hopefully it will be submitted to the special issue of Minerals Engineering.

There was a focus on geometallurgy in this morning's papers and Clinton Smyth of GeoMet Tech, Canada, presented a good review. Geometallurgy is the study of the drivers for metallurgy that lie in the geology and the mineralogy of the rock. It is an emerging study that provides us with the tools to view mineral deposit exploitation more holistically and optimise economic return. Geometallurgy is practised by teams of collaborating geologists and metallurgists focussed on bringing metallurgical considerations to bear as early as possible in ore body evaluation, and geological considerations to be as integrated as possible into metallurgical flow sheet design and operation. This collaboration, particularly when it wishes to leverage on large digital collections of geological and metallurgical data, is forcing participants to critically evaluate, and in some cases revise, the language, teachings and models that they use in both disciplines.

Two practical geometallurgy papers are in the Proceedings, one on Namakwa Sands by Philander and Rozendaal, of the University of Stellenbosch, the other by Bowell et al (UK) on the geometallurgy of uranium deposits.

MEI's next conference is Sustainability through Resource Conservation and Recycling in Falmouth next May, and we hope to see many of the Process Mineralogy delegates at that meeting, as process mineralogy is likely to be an important tool in sustainable processing, as highlighted in a paper by Evans et al of JKMRC, Australia. Cathy Evans discussed how the observed behaviours of mineral particles in mineral processing operations have been exploited in the past to model comminution and concentration processes. In their work this concept has been taken a step further, exploiting the mineralogical characteristics of particles to link comminution, concentration and smelting. This approach has been demonstrated using a laboratory-based case study of a Ni-Cu sulphide ore. The case study focused on the effect of shifting energy between the comminution and smelting stages on the overall energy consumption for the metal production process. To model this effect the mineral composition of the particles was linked to the behaviour of the ore particles in the primary grinding, regrinding and flotation stages. This application of process mineralogy provides a methodology to minimise energy use across mineral concentration and smelting processes, an important aspect of sustainable processing.

Megan Becker and Amanda closed the conference at 4pm and announced that the next Process Mineralogy conference will be at the Vineyard again from November 6-8, 2012.

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