Monday, 6 December 2021

International Mineral Processing Congress 2022 is cancelled

As a media partner MEI was sad to hear that the IMPC Council, working closely with AusIMM, has announced that the XXXI International Mineral Processing Congress 2022 (IMPC 2022) in Melbourne will be cancelled.

In the face of ongoing uncertainties around border closures and travel restrictions, and the acknowledged impact this will have on hosting a global event, postponing the Congress honours IMPC’s commitment to driving immersive knowledge sharing across all facets of mineral processing innovation. 

With this announcement, numbering for future IMPC events will adjust accordingly. As a result, the next event in the series, to be held in Washington DC in 2024, will be titled the XXXI International Mineral Processing Congress. The last IMPC was held in Moscow in 2018, the subsequent IMPC 2020 in Cape Town also being cancelled due to the pandemic.

Recognising strong interest from industry, AusIMM, together with co-hosts CSIRO and the IMPC Council, have advised that they will instead present a regional event, the IMPC Asia-Pacific 2022. This will be the second Regional Mineral Processing Conference organised under the auspices of the International Mineral Processing Council.

IMPC Asia-Pacific 2022 will bring together delegates from Australia, the Asia-Pacific and other regions to share best practice and knowledge in mineral processing in Melbourne, Australia, in August 2022. This smaller, regionally-focused event will precede full IMPC Congresses in Washington in 2024 and Cape Town in 2026, before the full-format IMPC Congress returns to Melbourne in 2028. Preparations for IMPC Asia-Pacific 2022 are underway, with further information regarding the format, content and event logistics to be shared over coming weeks.

Thursday, 2 December 2021

November update: Covid rages in Europe; a worrying new variant and the effectiveness of masks

Coronavirus is still rampant.  The World Health Organisation is very worried about Covid-19 raging throughout Europe, with protests against new restrictions taking place in many countries as cases rise, and Austria is currently in full lockdown. 

Most of the earlier restrictions have been removed in the UK, but last week flights to many southern African countries were cancelled due to a worrying new heavily mutated strain, Omicron, reportedly originating in Gauteng, South Africa. Were the UK and other rich nations morally wrong in vaccinating as many of their populations as possible, rather than distributing the vaccines to the poorer countries of the world? "We are not safe until everyone is safe" has become a mantra, and maybe Covid will be back to bite us.

Wearing a mask is the most effective way in which the public can curb Coronavirus cases, a study has found. Global research has found that masks can slash incidences of infection by 53%. The first systematic review of its kind, published in the British Medical Journal, has found that non-pharmaceutical measures, such as mask-wearing, social distancing and handwashing, are all effective at keeping infection numbers down. Researchers at Monash University in Australia and the University of Edinburgh found that wearing masks was the most effective of the three and have called for their use alongside vaccines.

Prior to the last day of the month, when face coverings became a legal requirement again in shops and public transport, they were not mandatory in England, although they were in many countries in Europe. The UK Government guidelines had stated that "Face coverings are expected and recommended in indoor spaces where you come into contact with people you do not normally meet".  Not everyone abided by this guideline, but many did, in deference to other people.

So why did our embarassment of a Prime Minister not set an example? His main contribution to COP26 (posting of 15 November) was an excruciating speech to delegates imploring them to believe that the UK was not a corrupt country, but he perhaps gained the most media coverage by sitting next to the 95-year old Sir David Attenborough, while not wearing a mask.

An alert PM with Sir David Attenborough on his left

But worse than this, in the following week he appeared maskless on a hospital visit, where the advice to visitors is to keep visits to a minimum, and wear masks when entering the hospital. It's hard to be clearer than this, and any sensible person would agree that this not only applies to the act of entering the hospital, but also of being in the hospital. So why was Johnson not wearing a mask during his visit; all the doctors and nurses were wearing masks. It’s completely incomprehensible behaviour from this bumbling buffoon, surely the most egregious (word of the year apparently) prime minister in Britain's history, leading a government of inept weaselly sycophants.

Spineless government ministers, even the health secretary Sajid Javid, defended his hospital visit, saying that he followed the rules! Even if he had followed all the rules, which seems highly doubtful, why did he not go beyond the rules, setting an example, knowing full well that he would be photographed? Johnson said that he only took his mask off for about 30 seconds, but reports from the hospital suggest that he was asked 3 times to wear a mask.  More of his lies!

Spot the bare-faced liar in the Commons

According to a report early in the month in the i weekend newspaper, there are three Whitehall scenarios for when the public can forget about Covid-19. The paper says that an optimistic prediction will see the virus become routine in late 2022 or 2023, with the likeliest situation being that the world will escape the shadow of Covid in 2023-2024. The highly unlikely and most pessimistic forecast estimates mass infections until 2026, the paper adds. But this was all before the emergence of the Omicron variant.

In view of all this, we feel that MEI has probably made the right decision in making our next 3 conferences in 2022 online events, with the hope of running Process Mineralogy '22 as a hybrid at the end of the year.


Monday, 29 November 2021

MEI Conferences 2022

It is now over 2 years since MEI's last face-to-face conference, Flotation '19 in Cape Town.  All our conferences were postponed in 2020 and this year we have adapted to the era of the pandemic and this month completed our 4th on-line event of the year, Flotation '21, recently summarised by Prof. Jim Finch.

Coronavirus is still very much with us so there is still much uncertainty about what awaits us in 2022. Our feelings are that we should stay online for a while, so MEI's next 3 conferences, scheduled for Falmouth, will be virtual events.

From May 9-11 MEI's 7th Physical Separation conference (Physical Separation '22) will will bring together researchers and operators who have common interests in:

  • Gravity concentration methods - single and multi-G separators and dense medium separation
  • Classification techniques - hydrocyclones, air classifiers etc.
  • Solid-Liquid Separation - thickeners, clarifiers etc.
  • Electronic Sorting
  • Magnetic and electrostatic separation
  • Microwave technology. 

This event is currently sponsored by Hudbay Minerals, with media partners International Mining and Imformed, and our industry advocates are the Coalition for Eco-Efficient Comminution (CEEC), the Cornwall Mining Alliance and the Critical Minerals Association. Prof. Neil Rowson will present a keynote lecture on the role of magnetic separation in the development of critical and strategic metal recovery flowsheets.

A month later, from June 13-15, Integration, Optimisation & Design of Mineral Processing Circuits (IntegratedMinPro '22) is a brand new conference which invites papers on new approaches to mineral processing circuits, whether through design, modelling, optimisation or operation. This includes integration of unit operations (e.g. comminution and flotation), novel flowsheets that incorporate new equipment and new approaches to optimising circuit design.

This first conference in what we hope will be a series, is sponsored by Promet101 and Hudbay Minerals, with media partner International Mining, and industry advocates the Cornwall Mining Alliance and the Critical Minerals Association. Dr. Osvaldo Bascur will present a keynote lecture on digital disruption: a sustainability approach.

The 7th International Symposium on Sustainable Minerals (Sustainable Minerals '22), organised in consultation with Prof Markus Reuter, will be online from July 11-14 and is sponsored by Zeiss, Metso:Outotec Weir Minerals and Hudbay Minerals, with media partner International Mining, and industry advocates the Coalition for Eco-Efficient Comminution (CEEC), the Cornwall Mining Alliance and the Critical Minerals Association.

The rapid growth of the world economy is straining the sustainable use of the Earth’s natural resources due to modern society’s extensive use of metals, materials and products. An astute and conscious application and use of metals, materials and products supported by the reuse and recycling of these materials and end-of-life products is imperative to the preservation of the Earth’s resources. The realisation of the ambitions of sustainable use of metals, materials and resources demands that the different disciplines of the material and consumer product system are connected and harmonised. Sustainable Minerals '22  will discuss all aspects of material and metal usage and will include a keynote lecture from Prof. Selo Ndlovu on the complexities and opportunities for gold processing in a changing environment.

Looking further ahead, we are hoping that there will be some semblance of normality by the end of next year, and, very provisionally, Process Mineralogy '22, currently sponsored by Zeiss and Bruker, will be a hybrid event, with the possibility of a new venue, in Sitjes, Spain. 

Fingers crossed for 2022!

Friday, 26 November 2021

A quiet November sundowner, and encouraging news of an undergraduate mining degree in UK

For the first time since February last year we were back indoors in the Chain Locker, Falmouth, last night for the monthly mining sundowner. I arrived at 5.30 pm to find Dr. Tony Batchelor, Chairman of Geoscience, sitting on his own. We were soon joined by Dean Eastbury, former Elsevier, and Minerals Engineering, Publications Manager, after which Nick and Flee Wilshaw, of Grinding Solutions, arrived with their newly recruited Operations & Commercial Manager, Dan Abraham, to swell the numbers to a cosy six!  Although Covid restrictions in bars and restaurants were removed 4 months ago many are still wary about meeting in pubs, considering that the Covid infection rate in Cornwall is still 468 in 100,000, slightly higher than the figure of 432 for England.

Dan, Flee, Tony, Dean, me and Nick

The sundowner was a week later than planned, as last week there was a Cornish Institute of Engineers lecture in Penryn, the 18th Annual Vic Philips Memorial Lecture, in memory of my old Camborne School of Mines friend and colleague.

Vic Phillips with CSM mineral processing students, 1984

Unfortunately I was unable to make it to the lecture "Mining is essential and the world needs to know about it" delivered by Tim Biggs, formerly Head of Mining at Deloitte, UK. The pre-lecture announcement covered basically the ground that I, and many others, have been saying for some time, that mining is essential and the sustainability agenda, and particularly the energy transition, makes mining even more essential.

Tim said that we need to change this. The industry needs the support and understanding of society so miners can most effectively get on with the task of developing and running mines and producing all the metals the world needs. Very true but it is not too easy to get the message across to the wider society. I have always felt that I am preaching to the converted on the blog, and the media is not too interested in the positive aspects of mining, while relishing its negative aspects.

The lecture also covered the need to ensure an accurate understanding of mining if we are to attract the next generation of mining professionals to this most essential of industries. This is also very true, but since the University of Exeter "paused" the mining degree at CSM (posting of 15 September 2020) there is now nowhere in the UK where a school leaver can study mining engineering.

But there is a glimmer of hope! Throughout this year an Industry Advisory Panel, which includes several CSM Association members, has been working alongside the University to develop a pioneering new Mining Engineering program at CSM.

The Degree Apprenticeship (DA) model represents an innovative new partnership between employers and universities. Apprentices will be employed throughout the programme, spending part of their time studying (through access to online material and attendance at residentials) and the rest working. On successful completion of the program candidates will be awarded a BEng (Hons) degree in Mining Engineering from the University of Exeter. The program will be aimed at both the UK mining sector and the international mining industry through a blended learning offering.

To industry the DA represents both a completely different early talent recruitment model, and a novel opportunity for existing employees to gain a degree-level qualification. A recent industry survey around the DA provided very encouraging results and CSM and University Staff have agreed to develop the course. The Industry Advisory Panel will continue working with the University to develop a cutting edge curriculum and it is hoped that this will be delivered in partnership with the mining industry in September of next year.

Hopefully we will have a better attendance at the popular Christmas sundowner at Tyacks Hotel, Camborne, from 5.30 pm on December 16th.


Monday, 22 November 2021

Prof. Jim Finch summarises Flotation '21

We are fortunate to have Prof. Jim Finch as a consultant to the MEI series of conferences. Jim is Emeritus Professor of Metallurgical Engineering at McGill University, Canada, and a recent recipient of the IMPC's Lifetime Achievement Award, among many other honours.

Jim presented an admirable opening keynote lecture at this month's Flotation '21 on the life and work of Prof. Graeme Jameson and has now kindly provided us with a 15 minute summary of the conference, which is now available on YouTube.

If you did not register for this 5 day conference, it is not too late. as the 105 presentations, covering the whole field of flotation, and the two panel discussions, are available on demand, as are the discussions on each presentation. 

The full programme and registration details can be viewed on the conference website. Prof Finch's breakdown of the presentations into subject areas can be seen below.

A breakdown of the presentations in the fundamentals (left) and applications (right)
areas of the conference


Thursday, 18 November 2021

Innovative company Hudbay to sponsor 4 forthcoming MEI conferences

Canada's Hudbay is one of the most progressive mining companies, not afraid to bring new innovations into its operations. It is a diversified mining company primarily producing copper concentrate (containing copper, gold and silver) and zinc metal. Directly and through its subsidiaries, Hudbay owns three polymetallic mines, three operating ore concentrators and a zinc production facility in northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Canada, and Cusco, Peru, and copper projects in Arizona and Nevada, USA.

In 2015 Hudbay purchased the Snow Lake Project in Manitoba, which included the New Britannia gold concentrator. In August this year gold production commenced at the New Britannia mill after refurbishment, commissioning and start-up activities were completed earlier in the summer. 

The construction of a new copper flotation facility was completed last month and consists of an innovative and first-of-its-kind flotation circuit based entirely on Jameson Cells. First production of copper concentrate was achieved last month and ramp-up of the copper circuit is now underway.

Peter Amelunxen, Vice-President of Technical Services at Hudbay told me that the idea for all-Jameson cells came about before MEI's Flotation '19 conference (see posting of 7 April 2020) but the conference gave them an opportunity to discuss results, share ideas, and build relationships with Prof. Graeme Jameson and the Glencore Technology team and "even the guys from other flotation companies, who also provide very good technology that I would consider for other applications that may be less appropriate to pneumatic cells.  That’s the value of the flotation conferences and why we sponsor the events!", Peter said.

In choosing to sponsor four of MEI's upcoming conferences, Physical Separation '22 and Sustainable Minerals '22 next year, and our, as yet not formally unannounced, Comminution '23 and Flotation'23, Peter said "It has been Hudbay's pleasure to sponsor MEI and we are proud to continue supporting your mission to foster the sharing of valuable scientific and technical knowledge in the minerals industry.  As you well know, it is more imperative than ever for our industry to adopt more efficient and more environmentally and socially sustainable methods and practices, and this can only be done quickly by bringing together the best and brightest minds in our field to promote the sharing of knowledge.  For Hudbay, sponsoring MEI's mission isn't just about improving the operation of our mines and concentrators. It's about good corporate citizenship and it is perfectly aligned with our own vision and ESG principles".

Thanks Peter and Hudbay Minerals, we greatly value your support and your confidence in us.