Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Highlights of MEI's 2011

It's that time of year, between Christmas and New Year, when half the world seems to go on hold, so I thought I might pause and look back on MEI's 2011.

In my first posting of the year, I noted that soaring metal prices had provided a fine start to the year with the promise of increased confidence in the minerals industry. This was certainly evident in the major conferences that we attended during the year, many of them reporting record attendances.

Dee and Mike Bradshaw

January was dominated by news of the disastrous floods in Sri Lanka, Brazil and Queensland. Even in the face of adversity the human spirit prevailed, and our flotation consultant Dee Bradshaw and her husband Mike provided some great photos of them smiling through the clean-up in Brisbane.

My favourite venue for the SME Annual Meeting is Denver, as it gives Barbara and me the opportunity to ski for a week in Breckenridge, a lovely old gold mining town high in the Rockies.

Roe-Hoan Yoon and Janusz Laskowski

This years SME in March was one of the best, with a turnout of well over 5000 delegates, one of the largest for several years. The Roe-Hoan Yoon Symposium attracted many mineral processors, and it was good to see Janusz Laskowski honoured with the Gaudin Award, adding to his long list of major awards for his services to mineral processing. I look forward to next year’s SME, which will be held in Seattle.

Also in March the MEI LinkedIn group Minerals Engineers welcomed its 1000th member. This has become a very dynamic group, with many active discussions. Currently we have over 1950 members, so it will not be too long before we welcome member number 2000.

SRCR '11 delegates in the Pennance woodland
Mid-May is a wonderful time of year in Cornwall, with the bluebells and gorse in full bloom. The sun shone for the 2nd SRCR conference in Falmouth and for my 6-mile guided coastal path walk, which ended with a welcome beer in old Falmouth.

The highlight of the three days was the memorable conference dinner at Cornwall’s iconic Eden Project, where we had the huge Mediterranean biomine to ourselves to enjoy a great setting and excellent food and wine. We were so impressed with this that we have booked it again for next year’s Biohydromet ’12 conference dinner.

Dinner in the Mediterranean biome

With Alan and Joan Taylor in Perth
Shortly after SRCR ’11 I was off to Perth for my first ALTA conference, a 5-day marathon event covering the hydrometallurgy of copper, nickel, cobalt, uranium and gold. Apart from the shock of finding how expensive Australia has become, it was really good to meet the conference organisers, husband and wife team Alan and Joan Taylor who proved, as MEI already knows, that small is beautiful regarding conference organisation. Amanda will be representing MEI at ALTA '12 in May.

I returned from Perth just in time to see Amanda complete the annual charity swim across the river Fal estuary from Pendennis Castle to St. Mawes castle, raising money for the Royal National Lifeboat Institute.

Two small MEI Conferences ran back to back in Falmouth in mid-June. Computational Modelling ‘11 attracted 41 specialists to this rapidly evolving field, and discussions were intense, but we all found time to relax at the Chain Locker pub after my usual coastal walk.

Immediately following Computational Modelling ’11, 52 international delegates attended Physical Separation ’11, always an enjoyable event, which ended with a tour of the 19th century tin mining area between Camborne and Redruth.

Physical Separation '11 delegates at the Basset Mines, Camborne-Redruth

July was a very good month for us, with the news early in the month that Minerals Engineering continued to hold its number one ranking of mineral processing journals.

Letaba River, Kruger National Park
The most enjoyable trip of the year was to South Africa’s ‘far north’, the Limpopo, to attend the SAIMM’s Base Metals ’11 conference in Phalaborwa. We drove from Johannesburg to Louis Trichard before heading east, and entering Kruger National Park at the most northern gate, giving us the opportunity of driving the whole length of the Park, leaving in the central section for the conference in the copper mining town of Phalaborwa. The conference was held at the excellent Hans Merensky Hotel, the grounds of which also teemed with wildlife.

It was a truly enjoyable 4 days, which included an evening bush-braai in Kruger and a tour of the Palabora Mining Company’s surface operations, which was a disappointment as most of our time was taken up by endless security and health and safety inductions, a far cry from my previous visit 33 years ago where I drove straight into the mine complex to meet the manager!

From Phalaborwa it was back into Kruger and a wonderful drive through the central and southern sections, with memorable wildlife encounters.

Then back to UK, for our highlight of the year, Amanda’s wedding to Richard. The sun shone for some great photos on our local Gyllyngvase Beach and their boys looked great in their zombie costumes!

I was back in Perth in August for the AusIMM’s 2-day Metplant conference, attended by a record 330 delegates. It was a great conference for networking, and I particularly enjoyed talking to the undergraduate metallurgy students from Murdoch University, who had been given the opportunity of attending the conference in return for their assistance with the conference infrastructure.

After a long journey back to Falmouth, I was at the Camborne School of Mines reunion the next day for an interesting tour of the Tremough Campus in Penryn, which included the impressive SEM facilities, including a modern QEM-SCAN, used mainly for research and teaching. We are promised papers on this research at next year’s Process Mineralogy ’12. Our advisor to this is Megan Becker, who represented MEI at the 10th International Congress for Applied Mineralogy in Norway in August. Congratulations also to Megan on the birth of Peter later in the year.

With Lucky Amaratunga and Louis Mercier
I was in Montreal in October for the 50th Anniversary of MetSoc, which included World Gold ’11 as a major part of the Conference of Metallurgists programme. There was a huge turnout of over 800 delegates for COM ’11, over half being for World Gold. The highlight of the week for me was the luncheon to honour Laxman (Lucky) Amaratunga, of Laurentian University, who I have known for 20 years, since he and his wife Nan attended Minerals Engineering ’91 in Singapore.

Flotation ’11 in Cape Town in November was MEI’s largest ever conference, with 283 delegates from 30 countries. Apart from the excellent programme it will be remembered for one of the best conference dinners that we have had in South Africa, at Cape Town’s Gold Restaurant. This will also be the venue for the conference dinners at next year’s Comminution ’12 and Process Mineralogy ’12.

Amanda with Pablo Brito-Parada and
Katie Cole of Imperial College

After Flotation ’11, the MEI team went their separate ways, Barbara and me for a week’s relaxation in Madagascar, then back to the Cape, while Amanda spent a few days at Camp’s Bay, just south of Cape Town, where she met up with Flotation ’11 friends from Imperial College.

Jon and Kathryn headed back to UK for a few days after the conference and then flew out to Chile for Procemin ’11 in Santiago, where Kathryn presented three papers and chaired a session. Then back to the UK after a couple of days spent munching steaks in Buenos Aires.

All in all a very interesting year. I guess this will be the last blog posting of 2011, so let me take this opportunity, on behalf of MEI, of wishing you all once more a very happy and prosperous 2012.

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