Friday, 8 February 2013

Memories of Outokumpu Oy

I was pleased to read on MEI Online that Outotec has delivered the world's first university-based minipilot concentrator to the University of Oulu, Finland, as part of its active university cooperation.

Outotec has always had a good relationship with academia. Thirty years ago in April, Outotec, or Outokumpu Oy as it was known then, invited me to Finland to view its operations at the Pyhasalmi, Vianti and Vuonos mines in the north of the country. I was preparing the 3rd edition of Mineral Processing Technology, and was keen to see these operations and their advanced control techniques.

Pyhasalmi, treating a complex copper-zinc ore, was one of the first concentrators in the world to apply computerised control of grinding and flotation. With the exception of crushing, the whole process was monitored from a central control room, and I marvelled at the Honeywell computer, which occupied a whole wall. Installed in 1969 it had been used for the control of grinding and flotation since 1970, and had a 32kB central processor and a massive 784kB disc and magnetic tape storage unit!

During my few days in northern Finland I had my first taste of cross-country skiing. It was also a week of very heavy drinking, and I even received a “sauna certificate” for diving naked into the snow from the heat of the sauna!  This was probably influenced by the large volume of vodka which had been consumed while relaxing with mining staff in the sauna.
Skiing in northern Finland
Relaxing in the sauna with Pyhasalmi staff
It was a relief in some ways to take the train for the long journey back to Helsinki, but shortly after the train left Pyhasalmi I met a Finnish mining engineer and we consumed several (actually very many) beers in the bar. When we arrived in Helsinki my only aim was to reach the hotel, to recover before my early morning flight back to London.

But alas no. Waiting for me on the platform were a number of senior Outokumpu staff, who had arranged a final night dinner for me!  This began with several dry Martinis, followed by dinner with copious amounts of red wine, and then back to the ubiquitous vodka.

What happened next is too gruesome to relate to sensitive readers of the blog. Suffice it to say that, despite a brief relapse a year later in Istanbul, when I was led astray by Dick Burt and Gordon Agar, that was the last time that I ever indulged in binge drinking!

I have to say that the Outokumpu staff were great hosts, and I often wonder what happened to Gosta Diehl and Teppo Meriluoto who arranged my visit.

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