Monday, 1 September 2014

International Mineralogical Association General Meeting, Day 1

MEI is represented at two major conferences this week, both of which started today. While Jon reports on Mill Ops '14 from Queensland, MEI's Process Mineralogy '14 consultant Dr. Megan Becker, of the University of Cape Town,  will be sending daily updates from Johannesburg, where the International Mineralogical Association General Meeting (IMA '14) is currently being held.

Megan reports on today's events:

One can consider this conference the “mineralogists” version of the IMPC: a large (800+ delegates), international conference (49 countries), with numerous scientific sessions (up to 10 parallel sessions), and of course something to interest everyone. This conference, the 1st of the IMA meetings to be held on the African continent, is organised by the Mineralogical Association of South Africa, in partnership with the Geological Society of South Africa: Dr Sabine Verryn (XRD Analytical and Consulting), Dr Craig Smith (GSSA), and Dr Desh Chetty (Mintek) being the key people who have worked long and hard over the past 4 years to make the conference a reality. 

Catching up at the welcome function: Prof Dee Bradshaw (University of Queensland), Dr Desh Chetty (Mintek),
Hanna Horsch (Hazen Research, USA), Dr Megan Becker (University of Cape Town)
and Dr Sabine Verryn (XRF Analytical and Consulting)
The theme of the conference “Delving Deeper: Minerals as Mines of Information” encapsulates the rich heritage of mineral resources within South Africa, but also talks to the very active community of mineralogists (many of whom practise process mineralogy) within South Africa. The Honourable Minister of Science and Technology in South Africa, Dr Naledi Pandor spoke at the opening ceremony on Sunday and reiterated the need for those of us associated with the mining industry to think about the impact of the sector on ALL aspects of the population and actively engage with the communities surrounding the mining industry: in other words practise sustainable mining. She spoke of the South African history in terms of the many migrant labourers who have been displaced from their families over decades of mining. These same migrant labourers developed the art of “gumboot” dancing as a means of expression – and of course we were lucky enough to be treated to some real gumboot dancing by a group of teenage boys one of the local high schools!  

Gumboot dancing demonstration at the opening ceremony: Part of South Africa’s cultural heritage
The scientific programme for the conference itself started off this Monday morning. I devoted my day to sitting in the session on process mineralogy and geometallurgy which started with a keynote by Dr Rob Schouwstra from Anglo American Technical Solutions. He spoke of their geometallurgy programme at Mogalakwena (their largest PGM operation in South Africa) emphasizing that its “not a quick fix”, and that the successful implementation of such a programme requires: a thorough understanding of the ore, determining what is currently measured, investigating whether suitable proxies be found to predict metallurgical response within existing measurement databases, minimising the use of jargon between disciplines, the importance of collaboration, growing the team, appropriate support from management, and of course plain perseverance. This does not happen overnight, and typically takes years to implement. Carlo Philander from Tronox also spoke of their geometallurgy programme at Namakwa Sands (a heavy minerals operation in South Africa) during the afternoon session, and again iterated that building a geometallurgical model is complex, but when tested, refined and implemented the gains can be very significant.

The day finished off with the plenary by MEI's Flotation '15 consultant Professor Dee Bradshaw from the University of Queensland on the “Valuable role of process mineralogy in the future of the mining industry”. This really was a fantastic and well received plenary - but given that she is going to present something similar at the IMPC next month in Chile, I’m not going to steal her thunder and write about it here.

All in all, a very exciting 1st day of the conference in what promises to be a great week.

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