Monday, 17 May 2021

St. Mawes to St. Just in Roseland

Hopefully we will be well back to face to face conferences next year, and if you are coming over to Falmouth for the June conferences in 2022, do stay on for a few days as there is plenty to do in and around Falmouth (posting of 11th March 2015).

If you enjoy walking there is perhaps nothing better than the 6 mile circular walk from the beautiful town of St. Mawes to the lovely church at St. Just in Roseland.

Image: iWalk Cornwall

St. Mawes lies across the River Fal estuary from Falmouth and the 3 mile ferry journey from the Prince of Wales pier in Falmouth centre crosses the estuary, known as the Carrick Roads. This large waterway, created at the end of the last Ice Age, when sea levels rose dramatically and created a huge natural harbour, the world's 3rd largest, is a classic drowned river valley and the entry is guarded on either side by the Tudor castles Pendennis, in Falmouth, and St. Mawes, both built in the early 16th century in the time of Henry VIII to defend against expected invasions from Spain and France (see also posting of 4th April 2012).

Approaching St. Mawes harbour, with the castle on the left

It is worth spending some time in St. Mawes, maybe for lunch overlooking the water, before setting out on the walk, for which I recommend that you be guided by the excellent iWalk Cornwall App.

Leaving St. Mawes

The walk soon follows a footpath up the Percuil River, a tributary of the Fal, and then crosses fields towards St. Just in Roseland.

The Percuil River

The church at St. Just in Roseland is one of Cornwall's gems, its gardens described by the poet John Betjeman as ‘to many people the most beautiful churchyard on earth’. 

The church is on the site of a 6th century Celtic chapel, and for 400 years after its foundation it was served by clergy from the adjacent cell of Lanzeague, until Roseland was taken over by the Saxon Bishops of Crediton and Exeter. 

The 13th century church is set in beautiful gardens beside a peaceful tidal creek and a local legend tells of Joseph of Arimathea bringing his boy nephew, Jesus, to Cornwall, and that he landed at St Just in Roseland.

From the churchyard it is a short distance to the Fal, and an easy walk back to St. Mawes with wonderful views across Carrick Roads of Mylor and Falmouth Harbours.

Back in St. Mawes

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Thursday, 13 May 2021

The Rare Metals War

The resources race is on. Powering our digital lives and green technologies are some of the Earth’s most precious metals - but they are running out. And what will happen when they do?

The green revolution will reduce our dependency on nuclear power, coal, and oil, heralding a new era free of pollution, fossil-fuel shortages, and cross-border tensions. But there is a hidden dark side to this naive and seemingly Utopian vision.

In the international bestseller The Rare Metals War, Guillaume Pitron reveals that by breaking free of fossil fuels we are in fact setting ourselves up for a new dependence - on rare metals which are essential to electric vehicles, wind turbines, and solar panels, as well as our smartphones, computers, tablets, and other technologies. But the majority of consumers know very little about how rare metals are mined and traded, or their environmental, economic, and geopolitical costs.

Much of what Pitron says is not new, and has been highlighted on the blog over the years, but the book brings together in a single volume an exposé of the ticking time-bomb that lies beneath our new technological order. 

Last November in Critical Metals and the UK's "Green Industrial Revolution" the focus was on the many metals and non-metals which are essential in the manufacture of wind turbines and electric vehicles, noting that huge amounts of energy are required just to mine and extract these materials. Some of the most important metals are classed as 'critical' mainly due to geopolitical reasons or shortage of supply and their production in many cases cannot be classed as 'green'.

Around 2.5 tonnes of neodymium are required in a wind turbine, but neodymium and other rare earth elements are not actually rare at all. They occur in the earth's crust in much greater abundance than the so-called common metals such as copper, lead and zinc, but they are very thinly distributed among the crustal rocks, and only occur in economic deposits, mainly of the minerals bastnaesite and monazite, in certain parts of the earth. Unfortunately we are almost completely dependent on China for their supply, accounting for 90% of the world’s rare earths production. China also controls the refining and processing sectors and mining and extraction is highly energy intensive, using mainly fossil fuels, and is by no means environmentally friendly (posting of 11th February 2013), as also vividly described by Pitron.

The book comes at an opportune time, as last week the International Energy Agency (IEA) reported that the world won’t be able to tackle the climate crisis unless there is a sharp increase in the supply of metals required to produce clean energy technologies, the demand soaring for copper, lithium, nickel, cobalt and rare earth elements. But they are all vulnerable to price volatility and shortages, the agency warned, because the quality of available deposits is declining and mining companies face stricter environmental and social standards.

Limited access to known mineral deposits is another risk factor. Three countries together control more than 75% of the global output of lithium, cobalt and rare earth elements. The Democratic Republic of Congo was responsible for 70% of cobalt production in 2019, and China produced 60% of rare earth elements while refining 50% to 70% of lithium and cobalt, and nearly 90% of rare earth elements. Australia is the other power player.

The average electric car requires six times more minerals than a conventional car, according to the IEA. Lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese and graphite are crucial to batteries. Electricity networks need huge amounts of copper and aluminum, while rare earth elements are used in the magnets needed to make wind turbines work.

Meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement will require a “significant” increase in clean energy, according to the IEA, which estimates that the annual installation of wind turbines would need to grow threefold by 2040 and electric car sales would need to expand 25 times over the same period. Reaching net zero emissions by 2050 would require even more investment (see also posting of 21 July 2019).

“The data shows a looming mismatch between the world’s strengthened climate ambitions and the availability of critical minerals that are essential to realising those ambitions,” Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, said in a statement. “The challenges are not insurmountable, but governments must give clear signals about how they plan to turn their climate pledges into action.”

To address the looming challenges, the IEA advocates setting a clear policy agenda to encourage miners to develop new sources of supply, and boosting recycling of raw materials, an area which will be the subject of sessions at next month's Biomining '21 and Sustainable Minerals '21.


Monday, 10 May 2021

Flotation '21: Call for Abstracts

We still live in a time of great uncertainty, but whatever happens over the next few months, we have absolute certainty that Flotation '21 will take place in November, either as a hybrid event, or totally online.  If hybrid, authors will have the option of presenting live in Cape Town, between November 8-11, or submitting recorded presentations for viewing online. In any case, all presentations will be available on demand for 6 months after the event, via the conference website.

There is now a call for abstracts, which must be submitted online by the end of August. Authors will be notified of decisions on papers during September.

After the conference authors will be invited to submit their papers for peer-review for possible publication in Minerals Engineering. Papers will be handled exclusively by me, as the journal's Editor-in-Chief, and I will take into account discussion at the conference and effectively fast-track the reviewing process.

If your paper is accepted for publication after refereeing, it will be published immediately in the first available regular issue of Minerals Engineering, and included in the Virtual Special Issue of the conference on ScienceDirect. This is an ideal opportunity to present your work to an international audience and have your paper published in a refereed journal of high repute.

We would like to thank our sponsors, who have supported us throughout these difficult times, and welcome two new sponsors, who will be involved with an MEI flotation series conference for the first time.

Newmont is a sponsor of next month's Biomining '21 and is the world's largest gold mining company, with gold mines in Nevada, Colorado, Ontario, Quebec, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Australia, Ghana, Argentina, Peru, and Suriname. In addition to gold, Newmont mines copper, silver, zinc and lead.

Cancha was one of the sponsors of last month's Comminution '21. Cancha is an integrated solution for geometallurgical sample selection, result interpretation, prediction modelling and reporting and is used by geologists, miners, metallurgists and geometallurgists to accurately, efficiently and transparently project metallurgical performance for mineral resources. Its unique geostatistical functions are used to ensure that samples are representative. Advanced data science is used to propose domain and regression models for parameters such as recovery, concentrate grade, and tonnage.

Current sponsors

Prof. Jim Finch, Emeritus Professor of McGill University, Canada, has been a long-standing consultant to MEI's flotation series, and we were proud to announce last year that he was the recipient of the IMPC's 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award. Jim will present a keynote lecture at Flotation '21 on the appreciation of the life and work of Prof. Graeme Jameson, of the University of Newcastle, Australia, also a holder of the Lifetime Achievement Award and a regular contributor to the flotation series.

Graeme and Jim at Flotation '15

Few can claim a process or equipment that carries their name. The Jameson Cell is a rare example: an industrial endorsement of Professor Jameson’s already secured academic reputation that sets him apart. Taking the Cell as the unifying theme, Jim's talk will assess Graeme’s contributions to the technology of flotation, from fundamental models and innovative experiments to his continuing quest for the universal flotation machine.


Sunday, 9 May 2021

Prof. D.V. Subba Rao, 1954-2021

Sad news from India of the death of Prof. D.V. Subba Rao, just one of over 215,000 people in India who have succumbed to Covid in the pandemic.
Prof. Subba Rao was a former Head of Department and Associate Professor at SDS Autonomous College (affiliated to Andhra University, Visakhapatnam), Garividi, India. An eminent academic he taught at the institute for more than three decades, his students admiring him for his unique teaching skill and simple explanations for different mineral and coal processing topics. 
Prof. Subba Rao published five textbooks on mineral and coal processing (Mineral Beneficiation, Minerals and Coal Process Calculations, The Belt Conveyor, Coal Processing and Utilization, Textbook of Mineral Processing) under different leading international publishers. 
He also trained many practicing engineers from different industries, including Vedanta Ltd, Essar Steel Ltd (Now ArcelorMittal/Nippon Steel), Tega Industries Ltd.  He also served as the Executive Council Member at the Indian Institute of Mineral Engineering and as President of the Indian Institute of Mineral Engineering Student Chapter, Garividi. 
Prof. Subba Rao is survived by his wife and two daughters.

Thursday, 6 May 2021

Gwennap to Carn Marth

Gwennap, a small village just 7 miles from Falmouth, gives its name to the surrounding area known as the Gwennap Parish, which in the 18th and early 19th centuries was the world's richest copper mining district, having the soubriquet 'the richest square mile on earth'.

It is estimated that there were around 3000 mine shafts in this area, relatively few being associated with the iconic Cornish Engine Houses which housed the massive pumping engines, and hoists to bring ore to the surface. The majority of these shaft were just small holes in the ground, wide enough to accommodate ladders down which the miners would descend a couple of thousand feet or more to their place of work.

It is hard to imagine what it must have been like to spend hours each day descending and ascending these ladders, but the 19th century author W. Wilkie vividly described what it was like and in 1787 the novelist William Beckford visited the Gwennap Parish and wrote "at every step one stumbles upon ladders that lead into utter darkness.... the miners who crawl out of the dark fissures are woeful creatures in tattered garments with pickaxes on their shoulders, while the mine officials regale upon beef, pudding and brandy'.

There is little evidence of this intensive mining now. Most of the mine shafts are either capped or fenced off and on a 6.75 mile walk towards Redruth, once the UK's richest town, former Elsevier journal manager Dean Eastbury and I passed only one lonely engine house, that of Pennance Consols, and the remains of granite quarrying at Carn Marth.

What was once a polluted area of smoking chimneys is now a quiet country landscape, a pleasant afternoon walk to the granite hilltop of Carn Marth, looking down on the village of Lanner, with a sweeping panorama from St. Agnes on the north coast, to Falmouth on the south. 

Our circular walk, directed by the excellent iWalk Cornwall app, began at the Gwennap Parish church, which dates back mainly to the 15th century, and took us north to Carn Marth.

Gwennap Parish church

Of historical significance on the walk is Gwennap Pit, an ampitheatre which probably originated from a mine collapse or an open-cast working. It is famous for being used by John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, to preach on 17 occasions between 1776 and 1789. 

Gwennap Pit

Cornwall took to Methodism like no other county in England. For a community of miners, facing danger at work every day, and for farmers and fishermen, Wesley's simple doctrine of justification through faith and instant salvation offered comfort, security and hope. There are few towns and villages in Cornwall which do not have a Methodist Chapel.

The lone engine house which we passed was the pumping house of the Pennance mine, built in 1866. Pennance Consols, previously known as Wheal Amelia, was a small mine which produced copper, and later tin, and closed in 1874.

In 1877 there were four granite quarries on the top of the 235m high granite hill known as Carn Marth, and two of these merged to form a small lake at the top of the hill.

From the top of the hill, which looks down on Lanner and Redruth, the hills of Bodmin Moor can be seen and the hill was used as a beacon for centuries, and in Tudor times was an early warning system, where a chain of hilltop fire beacons, including the plainly visible beacon at St. Agnes, were used to warn of invasion.

Returning to Gwennap we walked through open countryside with the south coast and Falmouth visible in the distance.

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Monday, 3 May 2021

Biomining '21: Provisional programme now available

Biomining '21, MEI's 10th International Symposium on biomining, will be held online in June. Due to the interest shown in the conference, the number of abstracts received has allowed us to extend the event to 4 days, from June 7th-10th, and the call for abstracts remains open. 

Biomining '21 has been organised with the advice of Prof. Sue Harrison, of the University of Cape Town and Dr Chris Bryan of BRGM, France, and is sponsored by AFX Mixing & Pumping Technologies and Newmont. Media sponsors are International Mining and Industry Associates are the Cornwall Mining Alliance, the Critical Minerals Association and Ocean Mining Intel.

The provisional programme is now published, and the schedule contains sessions on:

  • Bioleaching of ores and concentrates
  • Biooxidation
  • Microorganisms
  • Secondary processing
  • Recycling
  • Environmental

with 3 keynote lectures:

How green was my biomining?; a personal critique of the limitations and untapped potential of applying bioprocessing techniques for metal extraction and recovery, by Prof. Barrie Johnson, of Bangor University, UK

Bridging gaps in biomining research and application, by Dr. Chris Bryan, of BRGM, France

Environmental applications of biotechnology in mining, by Dr. Anna Kaksonen, of CSIRO, Australia

Supplementing these presentations will be a panel discussion on the future of biomining.

There is also a virtual exhibition, which will be open throughout the conference and is a great way to showcase your company. 

Registration is now open and registered delegates will be able to view recordings of all presentations and the panel discussion on demand until December 31st.

We look forward to meeting you virtually in June.