Thursday, 4 September 2014

International Mineralogical Association (IMA '14) Day 4

Megan Becker reports on Thursday in Johannesburg:

This morning I chose to devote the day to the computed tomography session – pushing frontiers in imaging in the 3rd and 4th dimension. This is the first time that this conference has had a full day session devoted to this topic which reflects the growing popularity of this technique for imaging rocks and minerals samples in 3D. The plenary for the morning was Prof Richard Ketcham from the University of Texas, who back in 1997 was responsible for running the 1st industrial grade CT scanner in an academic science department (Geosciences) in the world. During the course of the day it really came through that this technology is progressively reaching maturity, becoming routinely available, and is starting to deliver some really exciting possibilities for future research imaging solid systems into the nano-scale. I was really impressed by the research coming out of the University of Gent in Belgium where they have built a CT device with an environmental cell allowing them to visualise pore flooding over time (minutes), crack expansion over sequential freeze – thawing cycles (hours), and so the possibilities are endless. 

However, in terms of CT technology delivering direct value into the field of process mineralogy with respect to providing routine information on bulk mineralogy, mineral liberation and association, I suspect it will be several more years before this technology will start replacing auto-SEM technology (QEMSCAN, MLA, TIMA, Mineralogic etc). For the moment though, auto-SEM and CT really do complement one another providing valuable information that can be used in the design and optimisation of various minerals beneficiation operations. 

Igor Tonzetic from Zeiss South Africa demonstrating the “Mineralogic” system to students
The conference dinner was held in the ball room of the Sandton Convention Centre and the organisers of the conference really put on a good show and gave it an African flavour with the decorations and entertainment, providing local music and even a mini-live drama set in the local “shebeen” (beer tavern) that reflected on some of the social – political aspects of the mining industry.

Following the formal proceedings of the dinner, the mood of the dinner changed when dancing and the DJ got going. I initially thought Wednesday’s casual dinner was quite something, but now I’ve changed my opinion and indeed have seen a new side to many of the conference delegates (I’m not sure if this is a good or a bad thing!). Anyway, the party broke up around midnight and we will see how many make it to the morning plenary starting at 09.00.


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