Friday, 4 March 2011

SME '11 Denver- a mineral processor's view

Saturday 26th February
I am now in Denver, for this year's annual meeting of the Society of Mining Engineers.

I have been to well over a dozen SME annual meetings, and always look forward to them with a sense of anticipation. I know many people who avoid them, as they feel that the events are characterless, and I have to agree that there is always a feeling of déja vu when entering the familiar soulless convention centre, with the layout of registration desks unchanging from previous years and cities. I also agree with many that there are too many papers lacking innovation, in endless parallel sessions.

However the SME provides one of the great annual meeting places for minerals industry operators, equipment manufacturers, researchers and academics, and as such is an event not to be missed. I tend to avoid most of the technical sessions and spend time wandering around the large exhibition, registration and book store areas, meeting up with old friends and always encountering faces from the past. As the SME does not publish a list of delegates in advance of the meeting, there are always welcome surprises in store.

I am here until Tuesday lunchtime and in that time will be recording my personal diary of events, so this is not meant to be a definitive report of the meeting. I invite all those who attended to add their own experiences and views in the comments section at the end of this posting.

Sunday 27th February
Downtown Denver is the most pleasant of all the SME venues, and this morning I registered early and then Barbara and I took our usual walk from the mile-high steps of the State Capitol down the attractive 16th Street Mall.

Around 3500 delegates have registered in advance of the meeting, compared with just over 3000 last year in Phoenix.

The exhibition opened at 5 pm for two hours, and the first person I met was Fathi Habashi, Emeritus Professor at Laval University, Canada. He is truly inspirational, as at 82 years old he is as enthusiastic as ever, travelling around the world to present courses, and two papers at this meeting

InfoMine is the largest minerals industry web site and I met up with their team at their booth. They now run courses on various aspects of the minerals industry and we talked about associating these with relevant MEI conferences.

Moving on, I met up with Zhenghe Xu of the University of Alberta, Andrew Vince of Elsa Consulting Group Australia, and Kevin Galvin of University of Newcastle, Australia. Zhenghe is a reviewer for Minerals Engineering, and Kevin is a member of the Editorial Board.

I called in at the Outotec booth, to talk to our sponsors of SRCR '11 and Flotation '11. It was good to meet Misty Dobbins, Marketing Communications Officer for North America, pictured 2nd from right in the photo in front of the 1/20 scale Outotec grinding mills, one equipped with the new turbo pulp lifter. It was also interesting to hear from the Global Mills Technology Manager, Sanjeeva Latchireddi (3rd left) who I have known for some time, that he was one of my students when I taught a course in mineral processing at the Indian School of Mines in 1989!

International Mining are media sponsors for MEI's Physical Separation '11 and Flotation '11 conferences. They have had their best first quarter ever in terms of advertising commitments, which is surely a good indication of the state of the industry. Pictured are Phil Playle, Paul Moore and John Chadwick. Paul joined International Mining in December and he was previously editor of Mining Magazine from 2006.

It is a number of years since I last saw Steve Hearn, who is now with Huntsman in Colorado. He is pictured below left with Herninio Muchon and Noah Denson. Huntsman are involved with flotation and hydrometallurgy reagents, particularly with higher strength frothers with high flash points. They also manufacture depressants for pyrite, talc, clays etc. While at the Huntsman booth I caught up with Erik Spiller, an old friend and now Professor at Colorado School of Mines.

Monday 28th February

Not too many familiar faces in the registration area this morning. I have to keep reminding myself that although there are over 3500 people here, there may be only around 200 mineral processors. While waiting for the exhibition to open at 11am, I did manage to talk to Janusz Laskowski, who is presenting this afternoon's Gaudin Lecture, and Greg Hope of Griffith University, Australia.

It was good to see David Wiseman of Limn "the Flowsheet Processor". He tells me that a new version of Limn has been developed, which is compatible with XL 2007 and 2010 and is currently being beta tested. More news will be on MEI Online when available. David's company is now associated with Bratton Engineering & Technical associates, USA, who will handle marketing and support in the US.

Industrial Minerals magazine is a media sponsor of 3 upcoming MEI Conferences, and were represented by Hamish Dobson, Ismene Clarke and Mike O'Driscoll. Mike will be awarded the Hal Williams Hardinge Award at the SME, for services to the minerals industry, particularly for reporting on the Chinese industrial minerals industry. He is only the 4th Britain to achieve this award since its inception in 1952.

Starkey & Associates are sponsors of Comminution '12. John and his wife Donna and Paul Scinto are pictured in their booth. They have a new SAG mill at Inspectorate Labs in Vancouver, and a mill at Plenge in Peru awaiting commissioning. John is increasingly involved with consultancy and is currently working with Apogee Minerals Inc to assist in the redevelopment of the Pulacayo silver-lead-zinc deposit in Bolivia. He has also been hired by Claude Resources to supervise the testwork programme for development of the Amisk Project.

I called at the OSIsoft booth to see Osvaldo Bascur and his assistant Mariana Sandin. The new PI System which optimises the dynamic performance of mine to mill uses the latest data mining technologies. Hopefully Osvaldo will be presenting a paper at Flotation '11.

JKTech of Australia are serial-sponsors of MEI Conferences, and are very much involved with short courses and ran their Mine to Mill Process Optimisation workshop over the weekend attended by 26 delegates. They will run 3 courses in association with Flotation '11 and full details will soon be on MEI Online. In the picture are Mark Richardson, Dee Bradshaw and Sara Schwarz.

Major lectures from the Mineral & Metallurgical Processing Division were presented in the afternoon.

This year's Gaudin Lecture was given by Janusz Laskowski, Emeritus Professor of University of British Columbia, Canada. His lecture had the lengthy title "From amine molecule adsorption to amine precipitate transport by bubbles: a potash ore flotation mechanism".

He is photographed with Roe-Hoan Yoon (left), of Virginia Polytechnic & State University, who is honoured by a Symposium in his name which starts tomorrow morning.

The Richards Lecture was given by Gary L. Simmons of G.L. Simmons Consulting, USA. "Then and now 1972-2011"

The Wadsworth Lecture "Platinum group metal extraction" was given by William Davenport, Emeritus Professor of the University of Arizona.

I invite comments on these lectures from those who were present in the packed lecture room.

The greatest mine rescue of all time took place last year in Chile. The San Jose rescue of the 33 trapped miners was world headline news, and a highlight of the SME was a question and answer session with the major personalities involved in the rescue. This unfortunately clashed with many of the parallel technical sessions, including the Gaudin Lecture. This was surely important enough, and of such general interest, to have warranted a plenary session. A life-size replica of the Phoenix 1 capsule, which brought the miners to the surface, was on display in the exhibition hall. In the photo Dee Bradshaw experiences the confinement of the rescue capsule.

Tuesday March 1st

I called in at the popular SME Book Store this morning, and was naturally very pleased to see that my book Mineral Processing Technology is the SME's best seller. I was also pleased to see that the seminal SME Mining Engineering Handbook has recently been published in 3rd edition, incorporating all aspects of mining and mineral processing. Full details of the book will soon be on MEI Online. I was also fortunate to be recognised by the editor of the handbook, ex-Camborne student Peter Darling, who I have not seen for many years. Editing such a volume must have been a mammoth task, collating the information from over 250 internationally recognised mining industry experts.

The R-H Yoon Symposium began this morning, with a bewildering array of parallel mineral processing sessions all commencing at the same time:
Coal Processing
Base Metal Flotation
Surface Forces and Hydrophobicity

As before, I invite comments from those who attended any of these sessions.

Then on to a final walk around the exhibition hall.

I met Joe Querin of Eriez Flotation Group (below left) and had a look at their column flotation cell.

One of the big problems in flotation is pumping froth, but GIW of USA (below right) claims to have solved this problem with the HVF Pump, which gives the air a path out of the pump. They hope to display this at Flotation '11 in November.

KHD Humboldt Wedag is one of the world's leaders in high pressure roll presses, and have recently installed 4 units in CAP Mineria in Chile and 2 in SNIM in Mauritania. They showed me their small model of a HPGR installation.

Before leaving the exhibition hall I spoke to Starla Jackson of FLSmidth, one of our Flotation '11 sponsors, who was of the opinion that this has been one of the most successful SMEs, and judging by the number of people who were always in their giant display, I have to agree with her.

Finally I manage to see Tara Davis, SME's membership and marketing manager. She told me that at Tuesday lunchtime over 5200 people had registered, making this one of the largest turnouts in many years.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my two days at the SME and will certainly be at next year's meeting in Seattle.

Once again I invite your personal comments on this year's event.


  1. Hi Barry,
    Thanks for writing this article - great to hear about your experiences and thoughts. I've been thinking about attending the annual meeting, and your article does more to encourage me to attend than any marketing ever could. This type of thing (encouraging people with blogs to attend and write about their experience) is something I think conferenece and seminar organizers should be more aware of.

    Thanks again, hopefully see you in Seattle next year!

  2. It was another great meeting. I see the quality of the conference improving from three sides: 1) The board/ executive members are very active and adding new dimensions to SME, 2) the topics of the sessions represent the current needs of the industry (not traditionsl way), 3) Exhibitors show huge enthusiasm - and provide much broader view of industry as a whole.

    I think Peter Darling is a graduate of Imperial College (Royal School of mines).


  3. I think that the plenary session on Monday Afternoon with the four outstanding kspeakers , with breaks inbetween for catch up and discussion was a winner!! well done for Courtney Young for organising it !!
    I found the whole conference an excellent return on investment for time and I was particularly encouraged by the quality of the young peoples presentations!

  4. A very interesting conference report. This is typical of MEI - excellent publicity and networking with the mineral processing industry. Your blog radiates warmth and engagement with people.

    I look forward to Flotation '11 in Cape Town. Our discussions are leading towards the possibility of Xstrata Process Support contributing to one of the three JKTech courses that have been spoken of as supplements to this conference, being a first endeavour at practical sampling. This will build on the pilot scheme that I presented at the CMP in Ottawa this last January. The response in Ottawa was very positive and encouraging. I am looking forward to confirmation of this proposed arrangement and to the engagement of this course with interested parties.



  5. For an exhibitor, the floor traffic seemed to be less than expected, considering the health of the North American mining market.
    Ben Altman, GIW Industries Inc., USA

  6. I thought the conference was pretty good. I really dislike having the papers presented in areas so far apart (100 to 700) - I prefer to be able to go into more than one session and the distance makes it difficult.
    Laurie Tahija, Process at M3 Engineering & Technology, USA

  7. Good to meet you and Nikki, Ben. The froth pump is impressive. Hope to see you at Flotation '11 in Cape Town.
    Yes, I agree with you Laurie. The many conflicting parallel sessions has always been my criticism of the SME. But it is a great place for meeting people

  8. After reading the blog when I got home after the SME conference, I learned & saw things I missed: like the the 'Fenix 2' that they brought those Chileans up to surface in--& seeing the State Capitol from the top of the high steps-- & an overall look at the booths & people I missed meeting....thanks Barry, for the superb coverage of the SME this year. Your journalistic efforts are well appreciated by people like me!

    We also took advantage of your recommendation to eat at the 'Roija'--the quality of service and the cuisine offered were exceptional.

    Donna Starkey, Starkey & Associates, Canada

  9. Diana Drinkwater8 March 2011 at 03:38

    Such an impressive turn-out at SME bodes well for upcoming conferences, including Flotation '11 in Cape Town. As you mentioned, JKTech will be running 3 courses in Cape Town including the Sampling course with Norm Lotter of XPS (mentioned above), which received an excellent response in Ottowa, and which we're very enthusiastic about. We'll also be running Tim Napier-Munn's Stats course and Flotation Optimisation.

    One thing is perplexing me however - that Phoenix 1 capsule is going to be a tough act to follow..any plans?

  10. Thanks Diana, and look forward to more info on the courses.

    Re the follow up to the capsule: we are looking into installing a trapdoor on the podium, which the chairman can release whenever a speaker overruns the allotted time.


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