Friday, 12 August 2011

Metplant '11 Conference Diary

MetPlant 2011, the 7th in the series of metallurgical plant design and operating strategies conferences organised by the AusIMM, was held at the Pan Pacific Hotel, in Perth, Western Australia, from 8-9 August 2011.

MEI was the conference media sponsor, and this is my diary of events, which I hope will be supplemented by comments from those who attended.

Monday 8th August
David Pollard
Metplant convenor David Pollard, Director of Salamander Consulting Pty Ltd, welcomed the record number of 330 delegates this morning, after which the conference was officially opened by Michael Catchpole, Chief Executive of the AusIMM. Although 13 countries are represented, 90% are from Australia. South Africa, Canada and Indonesia, the next highest represented, accounted for a mere 1.5% each. There is a good mix, however, of operators, academics and manufacturers, so it looks like being an interesting two days.

MEI is one of the 31 exhibitors at the event, and I look forward to meeting people at the exhibition, held in the coffee and lunch break-out area.

Chris, Joanne and Rachel of RJ Flotation
My neighbouring booth is occupied by RJ Flotation, an interesting consultancy team run by two dynamic young ladies, Rachel Morgan-Jones and Joanne Blair, pictured left with Joanne's brother Chris. Between them Rachel and Joanne have 25 years experience of delivering flotation services to the global mining industry. They operate from a commercial mineral processing laboratory in Perth and specialise in bench scale flotation testing using the latest Essa equipment.

Richard (Ted) Bearman called in at the booth during the short coffee break. He had just presented a paper on crushers, and their importance in comminution circuits, which declined with the introduction and resultant dominance of AG and SAG based circuits. The recent move to consider more energy efficient circuits has, however, caused the industry to reconsider the role of crushers.

Ted was a student of mine at Camborne School of Mines in the 80s. He is now Director of Bear Rock Solutions, his own consultancy company in Perth, and will be a keynote speaker at Comminution '12 in Cape Town.

Stuart Glen, Mike Battersby and Mike Adams
Mike Battersby, of Maelgwyn Mineral Services, UK is one of the two UK representatives at the conference. This week he is supporting Maelgwyn Australia, of whom Stuart Glen is General Manager and Mike Adams, of Mutis Liber, is consultant metallurgist. Mike Adams is also MEI consultant to Precious Metals '12. MMS is making advances in the Australasian market and is engaged in full campaigns of work with major mining companies, through laboratory and off-site then on-site pilot plant work, to demonstrate the potential of processes such as Leachox gold technology and the CN-D cyanide destruction process. Maelgwyn Australia is presently moving into vastly expanded premises in Welshpool, Perth, where they will locate the 2-stage Imhoflot G-Cell pilot plant. Results from work on this will be presented in 3 months time at Flotation '11.

Paul Toor of Scanalyse presented a paper after the coffee break on the influence of liner wear on milling efficiency. Over-design of liners leads to increased life but at a cost to grinding performance, a relationship which to date has not been studied closely. The paper showed how liner life cycle can be optimised using the Scanalyse MillMapper software. Data from surveys were modelled in JKSimMet to provide direct comparisons of mill performance. This potentially provides a methodology for the design of liners that maintain a favourable shape for the majority of liner life, yielding desirable production parameters such as lower specific energy consumption and higher throughput, while at the same time maintaining practical liner life cycles.

Paul Toor (centre) is pictured with Scanalyse chief technical officer Jochen Franke and business development manager Steve Chaffer.

Daniel, Francois, Karen and Pieter
Blue Cube Systems of South Africa is a Gold Sponsor of Metplant, and is represented by Francois du Plessis and Karen Keet. They are photographed at the Blue Cube/Mintek booth with Pieter Strobus, who represents Blue Cube and Mintek in Australia, and Daniel van der Spuy of Mintek. Blue Cube and Mintek have an alliance for grade measurement, control and optimisation, the product of this being the inline grade analyser (MQI) and Floatstar software for flotation control and optimisation. They will be presenting a paper at Flotation '11 on the separate measurement of copper oxides and sulphides for flotation control, a world first. Francois is also planning a guided walk on Table Mountain for those interested. Details will be posted on the latest news updates when available.

I talked to Brian Packer and Simon Abrams of Western Process Equipment, who are representatives of Derrick Corporation, well known for fine screening. Brian had just presented a paper on the benefits that high frequency screens offer over hydrocyclones in closed circuit grinding. Western Process Equipment also represent Eriez Magnetics and sepro mineral systems, the latter being purchased by Falcon Concentrators in 2008. They manufacture scrubbers, small rod and ball mills, and agglomeration drums, as well as the Falcon Concentrator. The new Falcon ultrafine (UF) model operates at up to 600G, and is being used to treat scheelite, tin and tantalum at low capacities down to sizes as low as 3 microns.

For gravity concentration at coarser sizes, the Gekko InLine jig has found favour for separation of material with less than 0.5 SG differential at sizes larger than 300 microns, the aim, as explained by technical director Sandy Lewis-Grey (pictured with sales manager Tim Bell (right) and Phil Reese (centre) of Manas Resources) being to efficiently increase effective liberation sizes. They are currently being used for separations in silver, tin and zinc operations, as well as for gold sulphides. Gekko Systems are sponsors of the gravity concentration section of MEI Online, but they are also actively involved with modular processing plants. The 'Python' units are increasingly being used in small gold operations and are currently in operation with Goldfields in South Africa, as well as in Vietnam and Mexico.

Diana Drinkwater, the metallurgy training manager with the JKTech presented a paper this afternoon on how professional development can improve the technical skills of metallurgists. The work schedules of today's metallurgists have a very different balance between technical and non-technical responsibility than those in the past, and she showed how a shift towards a more technical focus has potential to deliver a range of benefits for industry at large and for the individuals in it.

Diana organises the JKTech's programme of professional development courses and workshops, three of which are scheduled to run in conjunction with November's Flotation '11.

The JKTech and North America's InfoMine have formed a joint venture company called R2Mining, which is currently in the process of extending the CostMine products into Australia and Asia. Since 1983 CostMine (previously Western Mine Engineering) has been providing the most comprehensive data for mine cost estimation and cost modelling for mining and mineral exploration in North America. R2Mining's general manager, Sean Shafiee is pictured with Diana Drinkwater and the JKTech's group metallurgist Sarah Schwarz.

Tonight's conference dinner was held in the ballroom of the Pan Pacific Hotel. It was a very pleasant evening which gave delegates and their partners the opportunity to socialise in a very relaxed atmosphere. I enjoyed meeting undergraduate metallurgists from Murdoch University, who had been given the opportunity of networking at the conference and dinner in return for their assistance with the conference infrastructure. It was also great to share a table with Ted and Clare Bearman, both ex-students of mine at Camborne.

Conference delegates and partners at the dinner predrinks

With Murdoch University students

Tuesday 9th August
I had a pleasant chat this morning with a couple of the Murdoch University students who I had met last night. They were unaware of MEI Online and its comprehensive job vacancies section, and the fact that there are free subscriptions to the fortnightly newsletters of news updates and job vacancies. Although the job vacancy section is international, they were surprised to see that the majority of mineral processing vacancies are within Australia.

Another welcome visitor to the MEI booth was Dan Curry, who I had lost touch with since his Xstrata Technology days. I last saw him in 2006 at the Ultrafine Grinding conference in Falmouth. Dan is now development leader for metals and mineral processing with Aurecon, based in Perth. Traditionally Aurecon has been involved with the design of infrastructure, and Dan's current role is to develop the company's mineral processing business, particularly the design and development of plants.

AMEC Minproc delegates
Geometallurgy is attracting increasing attention and is the subject of the AusIMM's conference GeoMet '11 in September, and one of the themes in next year's Process Mineralogy '12. Greg Harbort of AMEC Minproc Ltd, presented a paper this morning on the integration of geometallurgy with plant design. The use of geological data for optimisation of operating plants has become a significant part of the modern process mindset. At a design stage the process designer can use geometallurgical information to evaluate bottlenecks and potential design flaws and propose the best investment strategies for the project benefit.

Greg is a co-author of the book History of Flotation, and is pictured with AMEC colleagues Sarah Ball, Dave Morris and Todd Back.

Outotec is the principal sponsor of Metplant, and has a strong presence at the conference. Process equipment manager Rob Coleman presented a paper this afternoon showing how the flotation mechanism plays a key role in the flotation process. It is used to provide the contact between solid particles and bubbles and also the energy for these particles and bubbles to attach. The mechanism must therefore provide sufficient mixing to keep the solids in suspension so that they can be transported into the froth and recovered to the concentrate. The design of the mechanism is critical and over the past decade Outotec has developed and optimised a new mechanism designed to improve metallurgical and energy performance. The FloatForce mechanism consists of a rotor and stator arrangement and has been specifically designed to provide sustained mixing at higher air flows and lower power inputs. Over 500 of the mechanisms have been installed in existing and new operations. The Outotec team are photographed with the FloatForce unit, left to right John Durie, Laura White, Chris Greenwood, Steve Casas, Krystle Lusk and Rob Coleman.

The FLSmidth booth
Following afternoon tea, Jeff Euston, flotation product manager at FLSmidth presented a paper reviewing the science which supports, and occasionally challenges, the ongoing trend to larger flotation cells. In the last 20 years flotation cell sizes have increased almost exponentially and designs of 250 to 300 m3 are well established standard with plans for full scale pilot installations of 500m3. The benefits of scale up are well known, with reduced numbers of cells required, lower power costs per unit volume, etc., but the sophisticated techniques required to model these 'supercells' have led to a critical review of the fundamentals of flotation science and engineering.

FLSmidth is a gold sponsor of Metplant, and regularly sponsors MEI Conferences. Jeff Euston is pictured (right) in the FLSmidth booth with sales engineer Amit Zadoo and global product manager Paul McCurdie.

I have enjoyed the two days at this conference, catching up with old friends and meeting interesting new people. I particularly enjoyed talking to the Murdoch University students, and wish them every success in their careers. I hope they realise how fortunate they are to be involved in this crucially important industry, where technology must continue to evolve to deal with increasingly complex feed materials.

The Proceedings of Metplant 2011 are available on CD, price A$55. Details are at Metplant 2013 will also be held in Perth. Details will be on the MEI Conference Calendar as soon as dates are known.

If you would like to be alerted to MEI Blog postings, submit your email address via the box in the right hand column.


  1. Great article Barry - seems like a great conference. Especially good to see all the photos from the event.

  2. Thanks Jamie. Yes, it was a great event for meeting people. Coffee and lunch in the exhibition area makes all the difference

  3. The AusIMM's photos can be viewed at

  4. Este blog é uma representação exata de competências. Eu gosto da sua recomendação. Um grande conceito que reflete os pensamentos do escritor.Consultoria RH


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