Monday, 18 November 2013

Flotation '13 gets underway

This morning MEI Consultant Prof. Dee Bradshaw and I opened the Fundamentals Symposium, the first of the two symposia which comprise Flotation '13, the 6th MEI conference in the series which began in Adelaide in 2000.
Over the next 4 days, around 250 delegates from 28 countries will discuss the latest developments in this all important process, and, I hope, have a thoroughly good time!

The consistently high turnout for these biennial conferences is testimony to the continuing importance of flotation in the minerals industry.  I have said it many times before that flotation is the most important technological development since the discovery of smelting. It is virtually ubiquitous, being used to treat metallic and nonmetallic ores, clays, coal and tar sands, and the tonnages treated are vast. Even small improvements in the process can reap huge dividends, which is why this conference series is now established as the regular meeting place for flotation scientists and practitioners from around the world and attracts corporate support from the major players in this field.
I asked the rhetorical question, why is a process which was patented over 100 years ago still so intensively researched?

Some people have argued recently that we are just going round in circles, and repeating the excellent work which was done many decades ago. To some extent this is true, but as we will see over the next four days, there are still developments taking place in new and existing reagents, flotation machines, the way that we control and optimise the process and in our understanding of the fundamental physics and chemistry of the process. Dee predicted at Flotation '11 that chemistry would dominate this conference series, but she now feels that process mineralogy does, as ore variability becomes increasingly of importance to flotation performance.

We have many eminent flotation researchers here today, including three recipients of the SME's prestigious Gaudin Memorial Award.  We are also fortunate to have the chairman of the International Mineral Processing Council, Prof. Cyril O'Connor, as well as national representatives of that council, including the chairmen of the next two IMPCs, Prof. Juan Yianatos of Chile, and Prof. Jim Finch of Canada.

Recently the IMPC published a monograph on the shortage of young minerals engineers in our profession. We are fortunate to have two of the editors of that monograph with us, Profs. Jan Cilliers and Kari Heiskanen.

We also have many young people who will be attending a major international conference for the first time. One thing that I have noticed over the last few years is that although the quantity of young minerals engineers may be under strength, those that do commit themselves to careers in our wonderful industry are with few exceptions highly motivated and ambitious. My message to them was to make the most of the opportunities that will arise this week, and talk to and get to know the researchers, manufacturers and operators who make this industry work.

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