It is good to be back in Denver for what is one of the world's great minerals industry meetings. There is something for everyone here; in fact maybe too much for everyone, with the usual head-spinning number of parallel sessions, the huge exhibition, as well as receptions, awards, workshops and dinners. Mineral processing is only a small part of the overall proceedings, but even so I can only scratch the surface, and this report is very much my diary of personal experiences, which I hope will be supplemented by the input of others who attended.
Sunday February 24th
After nine days acclimatising in the mountains, Barbara and I arrived in Denver this morning via the Colorado Mountain Express. The road conditions were atrocious, and Denver itself is in the grip of a raging snow storm.
|16th Street Mall, Downtown Denver|
|Barbara with Donna and John Starkey, of Starkey & Associates, Canada|
Monday February 25th
|SME's resident tweeter,|
The skies have cleared, the flights are back on schedule, and people are flocking in to register. Over 6800 have registered according to the tweets from @smecommunity, making this the largest ever SME. I arrived at 9am but not a lot happens on the first day of an SME and the exhibition does not open until 11am.
Process Plant Equipment, edited by Holloway et al and published by Wiley. This is a reference book for final year students as well as those who will work, or are working in production plants and refineries. It contains the information and practical guidelines needed to select, operate, maintain, control, and troubleshoot process plant equipment so that it is efficient, cost-effective, and reliable throughout its lifetime.
|Guven Onal and Jim Finch|
Then into the exhibit hall, which as always is dominated by the huge FLSmidth display.
FLSmidth is a world leader as a source of engineered mineral processing equipment, systems and services and are major sponsors of MEI Conferences, and I called in to say hello to the many familiar faces, including Director of Global Marketing Andrew Cuthbert.
|With FLSmidth's Andrew Cuthbert|
Before heading off for lunch I dropped in at Outotec, another major company providing a broad spectrum of services, including comprehensive processing plant solutions based on decades of research and development in its own research facilities and former plants. They are major sponsors of this year’s Flotation ’13 conference in Cape Town.
The mineral processing presentations commenced in the afternoon with the prestigious SME Award lectures. The highest award bestowed is the Antoine Gaudin Memorial Award and this year the recipient was Prof. Graeme Jameson of the University of Newcastle, Australia. Well known for the development of the successful Jameson Cell, first used at Tennant Creek in 1990, Graeme has in no small way contributed to improving the knowledge and hydrodynamics of flotation. His lecture Adventures in Flotation highlighted how flotation is a difficult art which is gradually yielding to science and informed observation.
The Richards Award lecture Making Simple Processes was presented by Nick Hazen, President and CEO of Hazen Research, USA who discussed how innovation is necessary for sustainability of future mining operations. These processes should be as simple as possible, such as innovative HPGR, bioheap leaching etc.
Prof. Jan Miller of the University of Utah, presented the Wadsworth Lecture on X-ray tomography for the 3D analysis of hydrometallurgical systems, a follow-on from his excellent keynote presentation at Process Mineralogy '12 (see also the posting of 16th August 2012).
|Jan Miller, Nick Hazen and Graeme Jameson|
Tuesday February 26th
The Symposium on Innovation in Metallurgical Processing got underway this morning, with Innovations in Comminution, and Innovations in Smelting running in parallel. Fair enough, but also running in parallel with these were sessions from the Mineral and Metallurgical Division (MMD) on Flotation; Plant Design and Optimisation; and Research and Characterisation. Frustrating to say the least, but having spent many years at SMEs I have learned to live with this and accept that the strength of the SME is mainly as a meeting place, so I gain most value by wandering round the exhibition.. The lecture room for this morning's comminution session was heaving, however, testament to the interest in this area, and the very high quality speakers who are presenting. By contrast the smelting session was lightly attended, reflecting more on the fewer number of researchers in this field.
In the comminution session Wolfgang Baum discussed recent innovations in process mineralogy and laboratory automation, a follow-on from his keynote at last year’s Process Mineralogy ’12. Automated mineralogical systems are becoming increasingly used in operations treating low grade and ever more complex and refractory ores. FEI is the world's largest supplier of automated mineralogical electron microscopes, and were sponsors of the last Process Mineralogy conference. The company has recently acquired Visual Sciences Group (vsg) whose software allows 3-D visualisation of mineralogical data.
There are many bewildering session clashes to come over the next few days, none more so than this afternoon. The Innovations in Separations session was extremely well attended. All the papers dealt with innovations in flotation - reagents, modelling, plant practice and surface chemistry. I felt sorry for the speakers in the session on Flotation which ran in parallel, and was attended by fewer than 20 delegates. Unbelievably, also running in parallel was a session on Problematic Non- Sulfide Gangue Minerals and Their Detrimental Effects in Flotation Performance. When I looked in at this one, there was an audience of 6 people! Not great if you have traveled all the way from Australia to present, as had two of the speakers.
The flotation reagent manufacturers were out in force in the exhibition, including Flotation ’13 sponsors Cytec and Clariant.
It has been a full and enjoyable day of meeting old friends and new people, rounded off nicely with a late afternoon international reception at the Hyatt Hotel for non-USA participants. In the photo below is Prof. J-P Franzidis, of the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and consultant to Flotation '13; Dr. Patrick Foster, lecturer at Camborne School of Mines, UK; and Dr. Zafir Ekmekci of Hacettepe University, Turkey's representative on the Editorial Board of Minerals Engineering.
It was also good to catch up with Mike O'Driscoll and Laura Syrett of Industrial Minerals, UK, and to congratulate Mike on winning 3rd prize in the SME photographic competition. Industrial Minerals is a media sponsor for three upcoming MEI Conferences. Mike and Laura are pictured below with Louis Bernard of Snowden Consultants, Canada.
Wednesday February 27th
More frustrating clashes in this morning's parallel sessions. Comminution II was reasonably well attended, as was Modelling and Simulation, Innovations in Hydrometallurgy and the student poster session, but there was only about a dozen people in the Phase Separations session.
The most well attended was Separations Innovation II which featured a paper by Bo Arvison on ore sorting, perhaps the oldest method of concentration. Automated sorting is increasing in importance with the development of faster sensing technology. In addition to providing likely economic benefits it also has the potential to reduce the greenhouse gas footprint of mining and mineral processing operations, as shown by Norgate and Haque in the latest issue of Minerals Engineering (Volume 42, 2013). In yesterday’s Innovations in Comminution session, Jens Lichter discussed the future of comminution, the main challenges being reduction in energy consumption, and how preconcentration using sorting will become ever more important in reducing the tonnages treated in comminution.
Ore sorting will be a major feature of Physical Separation ’13 in June, and one of the sponsors of this event is TOMRA Sorting, previously known as CommodasUltrasort. Worldwide over 200 TOMRA sorting systems are already contributing to more energy efficient and cost effective preconcentration.
An interesting paper in this morning’s Phase Separations session discussed Hawk Measurement Systems latest findings on the use of acoustic sonar technology for measuring the compact zone or bed level as well as the interface or hindered layer in thickeners.
After an excellent three days, the finale, the Mineral and Metallurgical Division Luncheon was something of an anti-climax, dominated by an interminable after-lunch lecture. But it was good to see the students awarded the Richard Klimpel Scholarships by Jim Metsa, the Chairman of the Scholarship Committee. They are pictured below, but unfortunately I did not have time to add names to faces.
Other awards were the Outstanding Young Engineer Award to Lisa Schlink and the Arthur Taggart Award for best scientific paper to Jason Ripke and Glen Hoffman.
|Jason Ripke and Corby Anderson|
This has been the largest SME ever, which is a measure of the confidence in the industry at the moment. I hope that this continues, and look forward to being in Salt Lake City next year for what we hope will be an even bigger and better SME. Congratulations to all concerned on the organisation of SME 2013.