Monday, 10 September 2018

AusIMM Mill Operators' Conference- the final two days

I am deeply appreciative of the time spent by Dr. Kathryn Hadler, of Imperial College, in aiding MEI's Jon Wills in preparation of a report on MillOps 2018. Jon, Kathryn and family returned to UK last week, and their report on the final two days in Brisbane is below. Their report on Day 1 was published on 30th August.
The Brisbane Convention Centre
Thursday August 30th
Day two of the 14th Mill Operators’ Conference started with a plenary session focusing on education.  Neville Plint, director of the Sustainable Minerals Institute at the University of Queensland, gave a keynote talk on resourcing the mining industry, which included the interesting statistic that less than 1% of employees in the mining industry are metallurgists.  This statistic highlights the need for greater awareness of the work that metallurgists do, both within the industry and to the wider world.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, the number of graduates in mining engineering and metallurgy is predicted to drop to below 50 in Australia, underlining the reality of the much-discussed future skills shortage.  One of the big challenges for universities is that courses need to be financially viable, which means they need to attract critical numbers of students.  While the mining industry needs educated mining engineers and metallurgists, young people, particularly in countries such as Australia, are not attracted to the perceived dirty and polluting world of mining.  University courses, therefore, cease to run, and industry does not benefit from new graduates bringing new ideas.

To address this, rather gloomy, state of affairs, Neville suggested a raft of measures that could be taken, including more partnerships between universities and industry, and steps to increase undergraduate intake.  More importantly, he highlighted the changing expectations of students and graduates to an increased focus on entrepreneurship.  Many young people, he argued, are no longer interested in working in a big company as a small cog in a big wheel, but rather are motivated by setting up their own businesses, even with the high risk of failure.  Perhaps we should be reaching out to these groups of graduates and engaging differently with the new generation of engineers, scientists and innovators?

This keynote talk was followed by a panel discussion chaired by Diana Drinkwater of Mineralis, and chair of the IMPC’s Education Commission.  Diana presented the results from a survey of delegates, showing that over 75% thought that the work of metallurgists was critical to successful mining operation.  Although this might have been expected from a conference predominantly for metallurgists, it does show that this small but important sector should perhaps be shouting more loudly about the work that it does.  The following discussion covered many topics, but one recurring point was the lack of promotion of the mining industry as a viable and modern career option.

The exhibition hall was once again busy during day 2 where it was great to catch up with old faces and to meet some of the Australian branches of companies that regularly sponsor MEI Conferences.
Jon with Craig Brown of Resources Engineering & Management
Glencore Technology, sponsors of MEI's Flotation '19 and Comminution '20
John Russell of Comminution '20 sponsor Russell Mineral Equipment, with Randolph Pax
Comminution '20 sponsor King's Ceramics and Chemicals were represented by
Cathy He and Alex Wang
2017 MEI Young Person's Award Winner Grant Ballantyne of JKMRC (right)
with Outotec's Sherwin Morgan
The Metso booth
The FLSmidth booth
The Mill Ops conference dinner is always a grand affair with entertainment to suit. Dinner sponsors Glencore admitted that the usual sponsor talk isn’t something that people want to hear and so they instead went live to the Woodlawn mine site in New South Wales where the latest IsaMill had just been installed. This became the first IsaMill to be named after a person following a competition and this was revealed as the Cameron Brown IsaMill!
Instead of the usual comedian this year's entertainer was “The Unusalist” Raymond Crowe who performed magic, mime and shadow plays to the highest standard, while as usual, the wine and conversation flowed.
 Friday August 31st
Day 3 started with a keynote talk from Andrew Newell of RPMGlobal on metallurgical testwork, and on the importance of getting it right.  This was a thorough overview of all the areas that metallurgical testwork is used, and highlighted the importance of communication with and involvement of the testing lab through all stages of development.  Andrew gave some handy hints on how to select the most suitable lab for testwork, including past experience with the ore of interest, and suggested that one of the most common issues is insufficient sampling and/or testwork.  There was an interesting discussion on standards in testing, and whether there were any guidelines for labs, outside of the standards set by the JORC code.  This, it was discussed, would be very difficult to implement, since every ore is different.
There followed a session on emerging technologies, including the Albion Process and high voltage pulse comminution, at the end of which the CEEC medal was awarded by Alison Keogh, CEEC Chief Executive, to Sam Palaniandy, Hidemasa Ishikawa, Matthew Spagnolo, Huiwen Zhou and Rinto Halomoan for their paper presented at 2017’s MetPlant conference entitled ‘Fine grinding circuit process improvement at the Karara Mine concentrator’.
The conference was closed by Katie Barns, who awarded the prize for best paper to Dirk Baas of PanAust Ltd and Luke Mikhael Gurieff for their optimisation work entitled ‘Developing flotation circuit control and automation at the Phu Kham copper-gold concentrator’, while the best presentation prize was awarded to Thomas Waters and Amanda Rice of Newcrest Mining for their presentation ‘The evolution of the Cadia 40’ SAG mill to treat the Cadia East orebody – a case study of incremental change leading to operational stability’.  Congratulations to the winners!
The final comments from Katie included a tribute to the graduates entering the field, stating that they are motivated, engaged and bring new ideas to address old problems. 

The theme of Mill Ops 18 was “Back to Basics”, and this was the underlying message of many of the talks in this interesting and informative conference.  There was great interest in subjects that are often overlooked (e.g. tailings), which will continue to grow in significance in future, and in the new generation entering (or yet to enter) the industry.  
More views and comments at #MillOps2018.

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