Monday, 27 September 2010

Geometallurgy in mineral processing courses

Steve Williams of GeoMet Tech, Canada, writes on Twitter ‘should metallurgy courses have more geology and mineralogy’. I’m not quite sure what he means by more, but surely all mineral processing departments now know the value of mineralogy?

But what about geometallurgy, a relatively new word in the mineral processing lexicon? Is this working its way into mineral processing syllabuses?

Geometallurgy is the science of integrating geology and mineralogy with mineral processing and extraction. Although not really a new discipline, the new name has focused attention on its importance and next year the AusIMM will run the first international conference on geometallurgy in Brisbane.

In November of this year Steve will be presenting a paper The emerging study of geometallurgy – what is it and where might it go?, one of a number of geometallurgy papers scheduled at Process Mineralogy ’10 in Cape Town.


  1. Barry: Publish a definition, please. I'm all for teaching geometallurgy if it gets metallurgists and exploration geologists talking to each other, something that's badly lacking in the industry.
    Gus van Weert, University of British Columbia, Canada

  2. Hi Gus. Probably as good a definition as any is on the AusIMM Geometallurgy conference website (download call for papers):

  3. Well, we have known that mining has a direct impact on mineral processing for over 30 years ( ), so I guess since mining is directly influenced by the geology, it is a given that it must impact mineral processing.
    M.C. Albrecht, Mining & Minerals Project Management, USA

  4. There is no doubt that the integration between geology-mining-metallurgy is critical in both the development of new projects as well as in existing projects. The efficiency of this integration is apparent in the effectiveness of the mine.

    This is even more critical in "difficult" ore bodies and/or where there is variation in the orebody laterally or at depth.
    Ron Fickling, Metanza Mineral Processors, South Africa

  5. Step one - start introducing the Geomet language into basic mineral processing courses. We are already doing this at JKTech. We also address the concept when we talk about Met testing procedures.

    Step two - run courses for Mets about new testing procedures being developed for Geomet. We are in the process of developing these.

    I'd be curious to know else people from the Metallurgy/MinProc side are doing in this area.
    Diana Drinkwater (JKTech Pty, Australia)

  6. Julian ""5 October 2010 at 01:59

    I have a geometallurgical problem with a gold project I am working on in Chile. I am looking for a Perth based GIS geologist to work with on the modelling - yes I am based in perth! Any ideas and contacts from enyone.

  7. Barry, I like the reference to variability in the definition as it is management of variability risk against a relatively fixed and capital intensive plant that motivates 'geomet' as Ron has also alluded to.
    The quote also mentions that geomet 'is not new' and the term seems to suffer a little from being so broad that it can become somewhat meaningless. How is current practise different from 'older' versions for example? How is it different from process mineralogy? It would be nice to see a publication reviewing the history of geometallurgy as it has evolved to its current state.
    Angus McFarlane, University of Queensland, Australia

  8. I hope that your comment will encourage someone to write such a paper. I would certainly like to see it in Minerals Engineering.

  9. Angus, I would agree that GeoMet is about the management of risk and understanding the potential impacts of decisions on a project's viability and not only ore variability.

    When I started working the concept of GeoMet was a small part but not necessary critical in evaluating projects. Few boreholes were drilled and the risk element was not as important.

    Maybe as the "easy" ore bodies are depleted GeoMet is becoming more important but also in conjunction with the increased focus on risk management in terms of JORC or Samrec and the fact that capital for new projects is limited as competition for capital increases. In addition projects were smaller and 50ktpm was viable.

    Furthermore I would suggest that Process Mineralogy is part of the GeoMet scope which I understand to encompass the Geology-Mining-Mineralogy-Metallurgy-Product chain. All the decisions made along this chain will impact of the financial viability of a project and these decisions need to be evalauted on the overall impact on the project.

    For example the selection of the hydraulic oils used in mines can impact on the metallurgy. One mine I worked on changed the hydraulic oil supplier and this affected the float circuit, recoveries and grades plumetted. The anti-foaming agent used in the oil affected the froth, there was no bubble stability in addition the oil contained a thionophasphaste, if my memory serves, with non selective adsorption.

    Maybe the term GeoMet is not broad enough should it be GeoMinMet?

    Posted by Ron Fickling, Metanza Mineral Processors, South Africa

  10. It absolutely essential that we break down traditional silos in the industry to extract maximum value from resources. I guess metallurgists understanding more geology and mining will help us all to become true Mineral Engineers.

    From the comments in the blog it looks like the AusIMM GeoMet Conference next year is shaping up to be an excellent forum to discuss some of the hot topics around this area.
    Ben Murphy, Gekko Systems, Australia

  11. The trick to doing this is a new set of technical tools and tests fit for geomet and a language that is a blend of geology, mineral processing and mineraology. Then put this into a spatial system and get mining engineers to keep track of what came from where. If you can use ore trackers in the blast to manage the stockpile. Not trivial of course!
    Simon Michaux, University of Queensland, Australia

  12. Simon, you presented Geomet in a very interesting way!
    I think the big challenge is to get geologists, mining engineers and metallurgists all talking with each other and in the same language! Just a fascinating idea!
    Because in my undergrad I learned from mineralogy to waste management, it was not too difficult to buy the Geomet concept, I had the tools and geomet is a beautiful way to frame it all together. I truly believe this is the way to go, as the difficulty to find “book deposits” increases with time. As Ben wrote “to extract maximum value from resources”... is there any better way to go? Good for the pocket, for the environment and for the soul!
    Denise Nunes, Vancouver, Canada

  13. Which universities in Canada, US, UK or Australia offer MSc in Geometallurgy. I really like to explore more on this course...?

    1. I hope someone will be able to help with this


If you have difficulty posting a comment, please email the comment to and I will submit on your behalf