Monday, 13 January 2014

The evolution of MEI's Flotation conferences

We are pleased that the MEI Flotation conferences have become, as described recently by Prof. Cyril O'Connor, Chairman of the IMPC, 'must attend' events for flotation researchers and practitioners from around the world. Last November's Flotation ’13, the 6th in the series, was attended by 257 delegates from 28 countries, with sponsorship from 17 companies.


Thirteen years ago, the first in the series, Flotation 2000, was held in Adelaide, Australia. The 3-day conference was jointly hosted by the Ian Wark Research Institute located in Adelaide and the Julius Krutschnitt Mineral Research Centre located in Brisbane. Sponsors of the conference were AMDEL, AMIRA, Baker Process and CSIRO. The conference attracted over 170 delegates representing 17 different countries. Delegates to the conference were provided tours to AMDEL’s laboratories and pilot plant for wine tasting and to the Ian Wark Research Institute to view the research facilities there.


73 papers were presented in oral and poster sessions, and conference co-organiser Dr. Stephen Grano, of IRWI, reported that “the conference was of sufficient magnitude and breadth to be able to make some general comments on the direction of flotation research and practice. Of specific interest was the introduction of new techniques such as ToF*SIMS for the surface analysis of individual mineral phases in mixed system, and a strong research thrust on particle transport mechanisms in flotation froths. Image analysis of flotation froths is rapidly becoming a routine technique for flotation plant control, while the chemistry of flotation froths requires further research. Another feature was the wide application of polymers in non-sulphide mineral flotation, while these reagents are yet to make their large and expected impact on sulphide mineral flotation. Flotation devices are continuing to be developed to improve the capture efficiency of both fine and coarse particles. However, in general, these new devices are yet to make a large impact on plant practice while the fundamental processes of particle capture, particularly for fine particles, requires further research. Flotation circuit modelling will have a large impact on plant design and optimisation in the future.”

 

 
Three years later we were in a very cold Helsinki, Finland, for Flotation ’03, held in association with the Helsinki University of Technology, and the Ian Wark Research Institute. Sponsors of the conference were Outokumpu Technology, Metso Minerals, David Wiseman Pty Ltd, and the Minerals Gazette. The conference attracted over 110 delegates, representing 18 different countries. Again Dr. Stephen Grano of IWRI reported “ Of specific interest was the continuing emphasis on new techniques such as ToF*SIMS for the surface analysis of individual mineral phases in mixed system, and a strong research thrust on water transport mechanisms in flotation froths. Image analysis of flotation froths is rapidly becoming a routine technique for flotation plant control. However, a key feature of flotation froths, which still needs research, is how the frother surfactants and particles together influence froth water drainage and froth stability. Modelling and improving the capture efficiency of fine and ultrafine particles is a continuing research theme, while research on coarse, composite, particle flotation behaviour is still in its formative stages.”

Due to the AusIMM’s Centenary of Flotation Symposium in 2005, there was then a 4-year gap before the next conference in the series. During that time we had been running conferences at the Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town, but in 2006 stumbled on a venue tailor-made for our events, the Vineyard Hotel at Claremont, nestling under Table Mountain.  Flotation ’07 was the first MEI Conference to be held at the Vineyard and was attended by 195 delegates from 18 countries, with 11 companies providing corporate support. It was also the first in the series to adopt our now familiar 4-days, split into symposia on Fundamentals and Applications. Feedback from delegates was encouraging and suggested that we might have hit on a winning formula.

Table Mountain from the Vineyard Conference Centre
The conferences then became biennial, Flotation ’09 being attended by 193 delegates and Flotation ’11 by 283, currently the highest ever for a MEI Conference.

In closing Flotation '13, consultants Dee Bradshaw and J.-P. Franzidis stressed the important role that these events now have in bringing together flotation people from around the globe every two years. They are unique, neither academic nor operators' events, but an ideal blend of the two. The consistently high turnout for these biennial conferences is testimony to the continuing importance of flotation in the minerals industry. Despite being patented over 100 years ago, 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. No doubt there will be many more developments and innovations before Flotation '15, which we look forward to, and which has got off to a flying start with six major sponsors already on board.


 

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