Tuesday, 16 August 2011

ICAM '11 Conference Diary

Dr. Megan Becker
ICAM 2011, the 10th International Congress for Applied Mineralogy, was held in Trondheim, Norway, early this month. MEI was represented at the event by Dr. Megan Becker, of the University of Cape Town, and consultant to next year’s Process Mineralogy ’12.

Following is Megan’s conference diary, which I hope will be supplemented by comments from delegates.

Monday 1st August
Today marked the official start of the 10th ICAM, organised by members of the Geological Survey of Norway (NGU).

Radisson Blu Garden Hotel
The conference venue is the Radisson Blu Royal Garden Hotel overlooking the River Nid. There are over 150 delegates from 30 different countries represented at the conference, where 96 peer reviewed posters will be presented as papers and guided poster sessions.

Maarten Broekmans
The conference was officially opened by Dr Maarten Broekmans from NGU who is the Chief Editor of the Conference. Congratulations should go to the organising committee for persevering with the conference, despite the recent attacks on Friday 22nd July in Oslo. A minute of silence was given to remember those lost in the attacks at the ice breaker function last night which consisted of drinks followed by traditional Norwegian seafood soup and rolls which were heartily enjoyed by all.

Ying Gu (right) with Anglo American delegates
Chris Rule and Robert Schouwstra
Dr Ying Gu from the Julius Krutschnitt Mineral Research Centre in Brisbane, who is the current Chairman of the International Congress for Applied Mineralogy then added his words of welcome to the conference. He also congratulated Dr Dick Hagni from the Missouri University of Science and Technology, in Rolla, USA, who has attended all 10 ICAM conferences since the first conference held in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1981.

The 1st keynote of the conference was given by Jan Cramer from the Geological Survey of Norway on “The Northern Frontier – future mineral resources of the Arctic and Sub-Arctic”. Jan introduced his talk by reminding us all of the current need for mineral resources especially in countries such as China which want to raise their standard of living. Jan then methodically went through the mineral potential of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Russia, Svalbaard and Fennoscandia (Norway, Finland and Sweden). He focused on some of the current challenges within these areas such as the need for more exploration particularly in deeper areas requiring the use of deep geophysics and drilling, improved processing technology, environmental challenges associated with mining within the Arctic and Subarctic, areal conflicts particularly with people native to these areas, the lack of regional infrastructure, and the distance to the markets. His keynote was particularly enlightening and refreshing for those of us focused on mining and mineral processing activities within the arid and semi arid regions of South Africa and Australia which also present their own set of challenges, particularly with respect to water shortages.

The 2nd keynote of the conference was given by Roelof Schuiling from the University of Utrecht on “Climate change and ocean acidification: Two problems – one solution”. Roelof started his keynote by noting that rising CO2 is probably associated with climate change, but is certainly associated with ocean acidification. He noted that this can either by controlled by adding a base, or removing the acid, two processes which Mother Nature has being doing herself for the last 4.6 billion years through the formation of dolomites and limestones (e.g. White Cliffs of Dover) and through the natural carbonation of olivine to listwanite (a carbonate altered serpentinite) in peridotites (e.g. Oman). Of the many (over 50) somewhat quirky uses which Roelof has for olivine, his focus was on the role of olivine on beaches and tidal flats where natural lugworms can increase the weathering / alteration rate of olivine by up to 1000 times. His keynote definitely caused some lively discussions, just indicating how topical the idea of natural or even engineered mineral carbonation is as a potential means of sequestering anthropogenic CO2.
Relaxing during a coffee break
The afternoon sessions of the conference held a change of pace with a session on geometallurgy as well as a parallel session on Process Mineralogy characterisation – two particular areas of relevance to anyone with an interest in process mineralogy and geometallurgy. Unfortunately one was quite torn deciding which session to attend, and brings to mind many of the old arguments against running parallel sessions at conferences. I know that MEI has always had very strong views on this. Given that I was presenting my own talk “Effect of alteration on the mineralogy and flotation performance of PPM platinum ore” in the geometallurgy session, I elected to stay in this session. Other talks of interest in this session was one by Prof Dee Bradshaw (JKMRC) on the “Role of process mineralogy in identifying the cause of the low copper recovery of chalcopyrite a Kennecott Utah copper mine” which was based on the work she did as part of her sabbatical with Rio Tinto in 2007. Dr Rob Schouwstra from AngloAmerican also presented his paper “Process Mineralogy delivering significant value at Anglo Platinum concentrator operations”. This paper was just another reminder of how important process mineralogy is in mineral processing and was backed up with a case study from their Amandelbult operation showing how process mineralogy has gone hand in hand with the implementation of fine grinding.

Tuesday 2nd August
Tuesday’s sessions were mostly focused on building and mineral materials and illustrates how the focus of the European Research Community differs from those rooted in Mineral Processing. With a guilty conscience I have to admit to taking an opportunity to slip out of the sessions and appreciate the sunny, warm Trondheim summer weather and join in the spirit of their annual St Olav’s festival. The city streets of Trondheim are alive with activity in the form of numerous stalls, musicians, a medieval market, a variety of jazz, rock and classical concerts celebrating King Olav Haraldsson, Norway's patron saint who reigned from 1015 - 1030.

Poster displays
The afternoon consisted of a “guided poster session”, a fairly novel concept to me. Each presenter was given 1 minute to do a summary of their poster, after 1 minute the coordinator rang the bell and the audience moved onto the next poster. Once the audience had established what was required from them, this turned out to be a great way to get exposure for your poster, and also allow you to get a snapshot of the work presented in parallel sessions which one might not have had the opportunity to attend. Possibly this idea should be considered in future MEI Conferences although one definitely needs to keep the noise levels down and ensure the audience cooperates.

Wednesday 3rd August
Wednesday held another interesting day of varied talks in the areas of Environmental Mineralogy, Geometallurgy and Image Analysis. Prof Dee Bradshaw, MEI's consultant to Flotation '11, was the first presentation of the day with her talk entitled “The development of a textural acid rock drainage index (ARDI) for predicting acid formation”. This was followed by Dr Dogan Paktunc from CANMET who spoke about “Sulfide oxidation and mobilization of arsenic in the Ketze River mine tailings”. Dogan gave a detailed characterisation of the arsenic bearing minerals and their As speciation, which have formed in these 20 year old mine tailings in Canada which have on average ~ 4 wt % As. His talk focused on the relative dissolution rates of the different arsenic minerals and whether an engineered approach can be used to promote the formation of the more inert As bearing minerals as a long term solution to managing ARD.

During the afternoon session on image analysis, Rogerio Kwitko-Ribeiro from VALE in Brazil presented some novel sample preparation methods involving centrifuging for automated SEM analysis to deal with the long standing issues of segregation during the preparation of particulate samples. Rogerio’s proposed methods are definitely worth consideration given the absolute necessity to have good data reconciliation in process mineralogy otherwise one spends hundreds or thousands of dollars on quantitative mineralogy for which the results aren’t even representative. This was followed by another interesting talk given by Pejman Oghazai from Lulea University of Technology in Sweden comparing the results of a mineralogical characterisation of iron ore using the particle texture analysis (PTA) software developed by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (based on Oxford INCA hardware) with QEMSCAN (based on FEI hardware). Possibly another interesting development worth keeping an eye on for the automated mineralogical community...

Thursday 4th August
Thursday was probably the best day of the conference, consisting of a great geometallurgy session in the morning, a visit to the Nidaros Cathedral in the afternoon, followed by the conference dinner.

Undoubtably the most interesting talk in the morning session was given by Mike McDonald from Rio Tinto “Learnings from 5 years on-site MLA at Kennecott Utah Copper Company: Myth busters through quantitative evidence”. Mike showed that for many years the plant had been run on “mythical information” (e.g. a single analysis of a gold grain), and how plant operators were slow to accept the new quantitative mineralogical information derived from the MLA, even though the results were based on the analyses of millions of particles over several years. However, once the operators began to accept the value of the MLA results, positive changes could be implemented on site resulting in significant gains to the company. Another interesting talk of the session was given by Dieter Rammalmair from BGR in Germany showing once again the value of combining 2D MLA information with 3D micro tomography information. The complete integration of 2D and 3D mineralogical datasets will surely become one of the major milestones for process mineralogy in this decade.

The afternoon session consisted of a technical visit to the Nidaros Cathedral which was about a 15 minute walk from the conference venue. The Nidaros Cathedral and neighbouring Archbishops Palace (that hosts the Norwegian crown jewels, and is still used for official royal banquets) are the centre of the cultural history of Trondheim. In addition to the fact that the Nidaros catherdral is over 1000 years old and is built over the grave of their patron Saint, St Olav; it is made from soapstone. This would make it one of the worlds’ largest man-made constructions of naturally floating gangue, i.e. talc! I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to split up into smaller groups and wander around the site at ones leisure.
Visiting the Nidaros Cathedral
The conference banquet was very enjoyable occasion with a strong Norwegian theme. The dinner consisted of traditional Norwegian cuisine, which included reindeer steak. The evening’s entertainment consisted of the “Mineral Quintet”. Conference delegates enjoyed being serenaded with a variety of musical items from Mozart, Greig (who was Norwegian), and even begrudgingly music from the famous Swedish Abba. One of my lasting impressions of Norway which I will take home is the realisation just how much music means to them, and how it probably has helped them survive the many long winter days and nights over the last few centuries.

The evening concluded with the announcement of the venue for the next ICAM conference, which will be held in Mianyang City in China, from 21-29 July 2013. The conference is to be organised by Prof Faqin Dong from the Southwest University of Science and Technology in the Sichaun Province. It promises to be a very exciting venue for the conference, and we wish the organising team good luck for the next 24 months as they prepare for the conference.

Friday 5th August
Delegates from FEI
Friday was a relatively disappointing day for the conference and only consisted of 2 papers and then a “Summary and Review” panel discussion. David Haberlah from FEI did however give a very interesting paper on the application of automated mineralogy (QEMSCAN) in reconstructing microlithology of rock types from drill cuttings derived in the oil and gas industry. Surprisingly this was the only paper of the conference on oil and gas, even though there are many new and sophisticated techniques routinely used in this industry which we should be learning from.

The conference closed with a panel discussion on the future of applied mineralogy. It is rather concerning to note that there was no real industry representation on the panel and begs the question of how “applied mineralogy” can be “applied” when the connections and relationships to industry are somewhat tentative. Unfortunately, this was one of the overall characteristics of this conference and although my general descriptions of the papers over the week have been positive, I do have to admit to focusing on those papers that are the most relevant to process mineralogy, and not the majority of the papers presented during the sessions. This is of course, really the niche which the MEI Process Mineralogy conference has, as evidenced by the many papers last year at Process Mineralogy '10 which were delivered by industry representatives. And so on that note, I am concluding my week of “blogging” for Barry by noting just how special MEI Process Mineralogy is relative to ICAM, and of course reminding you all not to miss out on Process Mineralogy '12 to be hosted 7-9 November in our sunny Mother City, Cape Town, South Africa.

Dr Megan Becker (Process Mineralogy ‘12 Conference Consultant)
Centre for Minerals Research
Department of Chemical Engineering
University of Cape Town
South Africa


  1. Many thanks for your great blog Megan. I obviously missed a very enjoyable event. The 'guided poster' session sounded interesting, but not too sure about it. How do you cope with a mass of people moving from one poster to the next? Or are there a number of guides, each taking smaller groups in sequence?

  2. A great overview of the conference ! Thank you! It was a great opportunity for getting together with plenty of time for discussion. Many thanks to Maaten and his committee for all their hard work!
    Dee Bradshaw, JKMRC, Australia

  3. Hi Megan, thanks for the great and, at times, honest overview. I am now even more sorry that I couldn't be there.
    Hanna Horsch, Hazen Research, USA


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