Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Mining Companies' Revenues Rose 23% in 2008, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers

Despite the economic downturn in the fourth quarter of 2008, mining companies capitalized on early-year strong demand and record prices to increase revenue 23 percent in 2008 over 2007, according to "Mine -- When the going gets tough," a new report by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC). The sixth annual report analyzes the financial performance of the global mining industry and examines current trends in the industry, looking at the top 40 global mining companies, as measured by market capitalization. While financial results were strong, 2008 was a year of two parts with the good times quickly turning bad as the global economic crisis took hold in the last quarter and commodity prices went into freefall.

Operating costs continued to rise at a greater rate than revenue and net profit decreased 14 percent as compared to the prior year. Market capitalization of the top 40 mining companies plunged 62 percent in 2008 compared to the S&P 500, which declined 38 percent over the same period. Shareholders lost confidence in the economy and the industry and share prices plummeted. However, despite the sharp decline, the overall level of market capitalization is still above that recorded in 2005, which, at the time, was seen to be a 'spectacular year.' In 2007, the cut-off for inclusion within the Top 40 was a market capitalization of greater than $9.0 billion, but this total dropped sharply in 2008 to a cut-off of $2.3 billion.

Gold companies were the least impacted. Their market capitalization decreased 20 percent, based upon the perception that the commodity is a protector of wealth and a safe haven in a time of economic turmoil. Gold companies now comprise 26 percent of the total market capitalization of the top 40, more than double the 2007 level, replacing base metals, platinum and coal companies.

The first quarter of 2009 saw 14 of the top 40 announce mine closures, production cuts or moves to place mines on care and maintenance. Additionally, $13 billion of capital expenditure has also been deferred or cancelled. Combined, this has led to more than 40,000 planned redundancies across the industry.

"There is no doubt that the industry is facing a tough road ahead," said Steve Ralbovsky, U.S. mining leader for PricewaterhouseCoopers. "Reducing capital and operating expenditures and managing production levels to ensure they operate at the lowest possible cost will be crucial for mining companies wanting to combat the current economic conditions. However, given the long-term nature of mining projects and associated capital commitments, it may be difficult for companies to drastically reduce costs in the short-term."

Monday, 29 June 2009

On the South African decimal point

Can anyone shed light on the origin of the South African use of the comma, rather than the decimal point e.g. 10,2 tonnes, rather than 10.2 tonnes? It infuriates journal editors, as tables, text etc have to be edited to the international norm.

Once the preserve of South Africa, I notice the practice creeping into papers from other countries, particularly Eastern Europe and Asia.

The latest South African innovation is the omission of the full stops in a person's initials e.g. BA Wills, rather than B.A. Wills.

See also the discussion at LinkedIn.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Nchanga Metallurgists, early 1970s

I am currently writing up notes on my early days as a metallurgist on the Nchanga Concentrator, Zambia, and wonder if anyone can provide me with information on the whereabouts of my fellow mets at that time. In this photo I am pictured with Tony Watts (centre) and Mick Boylett (right). Does anyone know what became of them, and also Dave Spencer, Pete Deverill, John Duckworth, Roger Kelly, Roger Thomas, Michael Moats, Paul Piercy and Mike Horridge(?)?
Any information would be gratefully received. Photos particularly welcome.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Submitting a paper to a peer-reviewed journal

I have just spent an unproductive 2 hours rejecting papers submitted to Minerals Engineering, even before the peer-review process.

Please, please, authors, before you submit a paper to any peer-reviewed journal read the Guide for Authors first, and make sure that the paper is in the required format, with respect to length, figures, tables and references. Then ask yourself three very important questions:

1. Is the paper original?
2. Is it innovative?
3. Is it of generic interest- i.e. if it is a report on a particular ore or operation, will the findings be of use to workers not involved with that specific ore or operation?

If your answer to any of these questions is 'no' then please save your time, and that of the journal editor, by not submitting it.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Xstrata seeks merger with Anglo American

Anglo American, the mining and natural resources giant, was rehearsing its defence last night against a £41 billion merger approach from Xstrata, its Anglo-Swiss rival.

Anglo American confirmed a merger proposal from Xstrata but was markedly unenthusiastic, emphasising that the situation “is at a very preliminary stage and that there is no certainty that any transaction will be forthcoming”.

The Anglo American board is deliberating whether to enter talks with Xstrata, although it is understood to be opposed to a deal. However, the board is likely to be influenced significantly by shareholders, whom it began sounding out a few days ago.

The full story can be found at TheTimesOnline.

FEI becomes world leader in automated mineralogy

It's hard to believe that less than a year ago MEI organised Automated Mineralogy '08 in Brisbane. There was intense rivalry at the meeting between the two market leaders, Intellection with QEMSEM, and JKTech with the MLA.

By the beginning of this year Intellection had gone into receivership and its assets taken over by FEI. The latest news is that JKTech has sold its rights to the MLA to FEI, making FEI the new leader in automated mineralogy. I am hoping that they will be well represented at next year's Process Mineralogy conference in Cape Town.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Increasing optimism in the mining sector

I have just received this email from Will Coetzer, a consultant on International & Emerging Markets :

"During the last month we have steadily been seeing increased optimism around the world. In addition to the recent poll I embarked on researching the views of a number of mining analysts to also ask their views.

Mainly my research led me to Investment Banking Analysts and they offer very interesting insight as to the recovery of the mining sector. One analyst recently returned from China, observing “increasing evidence of a rebound in Chinese demand for mining-related commodities” With that in mind, they are more positive on the outlook for those commodities that China would need to import but which face structural supply issues. For that reason copper, coking coal and zinc remain a preferred commodities for China. China, of course, is the catalyst the world looks to when benchmarking any recovery. This then must be a good sign.

Regarding copper, another Analyst notes “similar to the early part of the last economic cycle, there exists today a significant amount of scepticism regarding both the current copper price and copper’s prospects. We believe such scepticism is misplaced. The bearish copper argument, as we understand it, is that copper is trading higher on the cost curve than most other metals. Therefore, the bears argue it is an easy short. With copper up 51% year to date, such bearish arguments have not been vindicated”.

In terms of our personal experience from a Talent point of view we have certainly seen optimism from clients. As reported in previous news letters, a number of our clients are gearing up for major construction projects again, and speaking to an Executives at a leading EPCM, he confirmed they’re working on more studies probably now than the last 12 months combined. "

Physical Separation- special journal issue

I am pleased to report that Prof. Kevin Galvin, of the University of Newcastle, Australia, has agreed to guest edit the special issue of Minerals Engineering containing selected papers from Physical Separation '09.
This special issue is scheduled for publication in early 2010.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Physical Separation '09- Day 2

After a long morning session, it was a late lunch and then off to the Camborne-Redruth area, 10 miles from Falmouth, to explore the ruins of the 19th century Basset Mines.

As can be seen from these photographs, the 12 hardy souls who venured out had to endure weather very much different from yesterday's coastal walk.

Whatever happened to Axsia-Mozley

Many people have asked me if I know whether Axsia Mozley, formerly Richard Mozley Ltd, and manufacturer of small diameter cyclones and the Multi-Gravity Separator (MGS), is still in existence.

A late registrant to Physical Processing '09 was Ian Daniels, Business Development Manager to the former Axsia Mozley, now Natco UK Ltd Mozley Group.

Although they are still involved in the minerals industry, their main business is oil and gas. Within the minerals field, small diameter (10mm to 250mm) hydrocyclones are still their main output, and the MGS is still being manufactured, in 3 sizes:
C-900 (laboratory scale)
C-902 (production size up to 4tph)
MegaSep (demo only at the moment and up to 25tph for heavy minerals and 50tph for coal).

Around 50 C-902 models are in use around the world, mainly in Turkey, Australia, South America, North Africa and India, treating various materials, including tin, chromite, copper and zinc.

I have asked Ian to send more news on developments, particularly the recent commissioning of a full-scale pilot plant in Gloucester.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Physical Separation '09 end of Day 1

After a long full day of technical presentations I took the delegates on a 4 mile walk, to introduce them to the beauty of Falmouth. We walked around Pendennis Headland, with great views of the 16th Century Castle, the Fal River and docks and then into Falmouth Town, where we stopped for a well deserved beer at one of the quayside inns.

Physical Separation '09. Day 1 Morning Coffee Break

Physical Separation '09

A beautiful day today in Falmouth for the opening of the conference. Only 34 delegates but a high calibre group of specialists from 13 countries:

Australia; Canada; Finland; France; Germany; Iran; Japan; Jordan; Netherlands; Portugal; Turkey; UK; USA.

One of the more interesting delegates is a medical doctor from USA, who has an interest in using ultrasonics to separate fine clay minerals from coal!!

The conference got off to a good start, with the keynote lecture Physical Separation: still much to achieve through innovation, presented by Prof. Kevin Galvin, University of Newcastle, Australia. This was followed, prior to the morning coffee break, by papers from France and Portugal on the Falcon and Knelson enhanced gravity concentrators.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Can anyone provide information on these young minerals engineers?

This is a photograph taken in the Transvaal, South Africa in 1978. I supervised Anglo American vacation projects for a group of mineral processing students from UK Universities.

I would be grateful if anyone can provide information on these students- their names where not known, and what became of them after graduation.

I know that 2nd left is David Binns, who now runs a minerals shop in Sussex, England; 3rd left is Neil Holloway who was then with Anglo American Coal; standing is Dave Dew who rose to the top in biohydrometallurgy research in South Africa, and on the far right is Martin Moloney, who I last saw several years ago in Australia.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Is the mining industry recovering- final poll result

Here is the result of the poll by LinkedIn, first posted in May. Click the image to enhance.

The question asked was “the new wave of optimism in the mining industry: premature or justified?”

The poll provides a glimpse into the minds of a variety of mining professionals from all corners of the world

The Birthplace of Modern Mining

Jon and I have spent the morning near the village of Carnkie, between Camborne and Redruth, checking out the paths to the ruins of the 19th century tin dressing plants. These ruins are seldom visited by tourists, and the paths are often overgrown, so we were planning our route for the delegates from Physical Separation '09, who will be visiting this area next Wednesday.
This area is often said to be the birthplace of modern deep mining, and in the middle to late 19th century was the centre of Cornwall's copper and tin industry, the county then being the world's biggest producer of these two metals.
When more economic deposits of tin were found in SE Asia, and copper in the Americas, many of the mines closed and Cornish miners took their expertise to all parts of the world.
A visit to the Camborne-Redruth area is a pilgrimage that everyone in the minerals industry should take. There will be more photos posted next Wednesday, weather permitting.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Gravity Concentrators

I met up with my old colleague Del Codd yesterday at cricket, and he was reminiscing about his time at Renison Tin in Tasmania. He mentioned the Kelsey jigs there, and we wondered if anyone still uses these- I have not heard of their mention for sometime.

Also Reichert Cones- they were very poular in the late 70s and 80s. Are they still manufactured or used?

Comments would be welcome.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Congratulations Tim

A very well deserved award has been made by the Institute of Materials, Minerals & Mining to Tim-Napier Munn, former director of the JKMRC in Australia.

I have known Tim for over 20 years, and have collaborated with him on conferences, special issues of Minerals Engineering and more recently on the 7th edition of my book Mineral Processing Technology.

Apart from being one of the brightest guys in the minerals industry, Tim also has a great sense of humour and fun. The photo shows him and his wife Georgie at the memorable African Night at the 2003 IMPC in Cape Town. Also in the picture is Don McKee, his predecessor as Director of the JKMRC.

Next year is Australia's turn for the IMPC, in Brisbane, and Tim would have my vote for the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Flotation '09, Cape Town - final call for papers

The beautiful Vineyard Hotel at Newlands, Cape Town, is once again the setting for MEI's biennial flotation conference. If you would like to present a paper at Flotation '09 abstracts should be submitted no later than the end of this month. Papers presented at the conference will be peer-reviewed after the event, with a view to publication in a special issue of Minerals Engineering.

After the success of Flotation '07, which attracted nearly 200 delegates, we are expecting a good turn-out again this year. Eleven exhibition booths will be available in the conference area, and three have already been booked, so it is not too early to register!

The conference dinner this year should be a memorable event, at Spier Wine Estate, near Stellenbosch.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Falmouth at its best

Only another 2 weeks to Physical Separation '09, and Falmouth is in full bloom - there is no better place than Cornwall when the sun shines- 25C today.

It's not too late to register!

Commodities and mining shares soar

The dollar slumped in foreign exchange markets yesterday, while the price of oil and base metals reached skywards as a fever of speculation gripped commodity markets. The celebration extended to shares with investors rushing to buy mining stocks.

A sign that recovery is just around the corner?

Monday, 1 June 2009

Congratulations Dr. Megan Becker

I have just received this email from Prof. Cyril O'Connor, Dean of Engineering at University of Cape Town:

It is with enormous pleasure that I can inform you that our colleague Megan Becker is now Dr Megan Becker having just last week received the news that she has successfully completed her PhD through the University of Pretoria where she was supervised by the eminent process mineralogist, Professor Johan de Villiers with Dee (Bradshaw) as her co-supervisor. Completing a PhD full time is in itself always a major achievement but doing so while carrying other important loads deserves very special accolades! This achievement by Megan is not only great for her but also for the CMR given the ever-increasing role which process mineralogy is playing in all of our research projects.

Well done Megan - you join an illustrious group of past and present CMR PhD graduates who also did it while on the job so to speak - not least of these being Dave (Deglon), Aubrey (Mainza) and Dee (Bradshaw).