Friday, 24 February 2012

SME Annual Meeting, Seattle

This year the SME Annual Meeting was held for the first time in Seattle, Washington (posting of 19th February) from February 20th-22nd.

The SME meeting is one of the great networking events. Together with its huge exhibition, it also has a multitude of technical sessions on all aspects of the minerals industry, in a bewildering array of parallel sessions, as well as various receptions, symposia, awards ceremonies, workshops etc. So this is by no means a comprehensive report on the 3-day event, more my own personal diary, which I hope will be supplemented by comments from attendees, on this posting and also in the discussion in MEI's Minerals Engineers group.

Sunday 19th February
Almost 500 companies are exhibiting their services and equipment at the exhibition, and the Grand Opening Reception took place this evening, allowing delegates to share a few drinks with the exhibitors, and take in the scale of the show, which this year occupies a considerably greater area than in previous years. The first impression is therefore of much more space between rows of booths, allowing more relaxed browsing.

Monday 20th February
The delegate list shows that around 3300 people have preregistered for the event, roughly the same as last year in Denver.

The first day of an SME Meeting aways starts at an easy pace. Although there were very well attended morning keynote sessions on Mine to Market, the mineral processing sessions did not start until after lunch and the exhibition opened only at 11am, so it is always useful on arrival to spend some time at the on-site bookshop, to see what is new.

There were two new mineral processing books this year. Separation Technologies for Minerals, Coal and Earth Resources is a collection of papers discussing the latest developments in mineral processing, and is edited by Courtney Young and Gerald Luttrell.

The International Symposium on Water in Mineral Processing commences in the late afternoon, and the Proceedings of this symposium is available as a volume, edited by Jaroslaw Drelich. One of the major challenges confronting the mining and minerals processing industry in the 21st century will be managing in an environment of ever decreasing water resources.
Because most mineral processing requires high water use, there will be even more urgency to develop and employ sustainable technologies that will reduce consumption and the discharge of process-affected water. Water in Mineral Processing provides a comprehensive, state-of-the-art examination of this vital issue. A significant portion of the content is devoted to saline solutions and processing with sea water. Other chapters explore the latest in water treatment and biological methods, the effect of water quality on minerals processing, and water and tailings management.

The number of attendees well past normal retirement age is always noticeable at the SME, a testament no doubt to how lucky we are to be involved in this industry. I caught up with a few fellow senior citizens today, and was pleased to meet for the first time Nick Hazen, President and son of the founder of Hazen Research Inc (1st left) and Prof. Maurice Fuerstenau, of University of Nevada-Reno, one half of the well-known Fuerstenau brothers duo. Far right is 83 year old Fathi Habashi, who I have known for many years, who is Emeritus Professor at Laval University, Canada.

Age shall not weary them......
Gerald Luttrell, Phil Thompson and Corale Brierley
I spent the afternoon in the plenary mineral processing session, which contained presentations by the SME's three major award recipients. The Antoine M. Gaudin Gold Medal was awarded to Phil Thompson (posting of 31 October 2011) of FLSmidth, USA, who discussed bench scale laboratory testing for flotation concentrator development, emphasising the need to keep circuits as simple as possible. Prof. Gerald Luttrell, of Virginia Tech, presented the Robert H. Richards Award lecture on process engineering optimisation, showing how, through examples in coal preparation, attention to small details on a plant, which are often ignored as being insignificant, can lead to enormous cost savings. Finally Dr. Corale Brierley, of Brierley Consulting LLC, USA, and one of my very valued Minerals Engineering reviewers, presented the Milton E. Wadsworth Award lecture on the present and future of bioleaching applications. I found the history fascinating, and had not realised that bioleaching has been around for the past 55 years. Bioleaching has an exciting potential future, with possible major applications in the processing of limonitic laterite ores, and in situ leaching.

Mike Nelson, Robbe Dunne, Dariusz Lelinski and me
At the exhibition I caught up with Dariusz Lelinski, of FLSmidth, who will be presenting a keynote lecture at Flotation '13. Dariusz is just one of the very impressive team of mineral processors that FLSmidth have recruited in recent years. At this meeting alone, two of their members are recipients of prestigious SME Awards.  Dariusz was with Mike Nelson, of the University of Utah, co-author of the AusIMM book History of Flotation. Also joining us at the FLSmidth booth was Rob Dunne of Newmont Mining, a keynote lecturer for November's Precious Metals '12 conference, which is also sponsored by Newmont.

Rob also presented the first keynote in the late afternoon opening session of the Water in Mineral Processing Symposium. He showed how the demand for water is driven primarily by population and concomitant economic growth. Water requirements are predicted to grow considerably in the next decades, while supplies will remain relatively constant or decline due to over-pumping of aquifers, changing weather patterns and increased water pollution and contamination. Mining activities are often located in remote, arid environments, with limited access to high quality water. The impact of mining on water quality and quantity are among the most contentious aspects of mining development. The main problem for the mining industry is to generate confidence in developing a responsible, sustainable and transparent water management strategy that is recognised by all stakeholders. Rob provided an excellent overview of water in the wider global arena and compared this to how the mining industry has dealt with water stewardship over the last couple of decades.

Tuesday 21st February
An intensive day of networking in the exhibition area.

Although a relatively small company, Tons Per Hour, Inc. of California had the largest piece of equipment on display. This fully automatic filter press is one of a range of designs offered by the company, which claims to lead the industry with its quickest delivery time, high quality and cost effective equipment for use on coal, limestone, industrial minerals, mineral concentrates and tailings management.

I last saw Dan Curry at Metplant '11 in Perth. He had just taken on the role of development leader for metals and mineral processing with Perth-based Aurecon, to develop the company's mineral processing business, particularly in the design and development of plants. One of the results of this is that Aurecon and mining services company JKTech have recently announced (MEI Online) that they have entered into a strategic alliance to deliver client solutions that effectively reduce total costs on resources projects. The alliance will be known as JK Aurecon. Dan is pictured with JKTech's Mark Richardson and Sarah Schwarz at the JKTech booth.

Wolfgang Baum (right) with FLSmidth Global Marketing
Director Andrew Cuthbert and Public Relations
Specialist Barb Shelley
FLSmidth is completing the installation of a new ore characterization laboratory in its Salt Lake City Minerals Testing Center, which houses state-of-the-art equipment and offers services to sites around the globe. Dr. Wolfgang Baum is heading this new operation and will be presenting a keynote lecture at Process Mineralogy '12 in Cape Town (post of 4th April 2011). FLSmidth is providing corporate sponsorship for this event, as well as for Comminution '12 and Flotation '13.

Another Process Mineralogy '12 sponsor is FEI, who market both the QEM-SCAN and MLA electron microscopes for automated mineralogy. They will be providing a QEM-SCAN to FLSmidth for their new Salt Lake City facility. Pictured are the 4 FEI representatives, Kimball Skinner, Paul Gottlieb, Jose Ayala and Edward Camarillo.
Knelson is waving their company's flag under a new banner, and the new name FLSmidth Knelson, at the SME. FLSmidth acquired the assets of the privately owned company Knelson, a Canada based corporate partnership on September 19, 2011 (MEI Online). Knelson develops, manufactures, and installs equipment for the recovery of precious metals such as gold, platinum and silver, as well as the enhanced gravity separation of base metals and industrial minerals with over 3000 installations in over 70 countries worldwide. The customer base comprises all the major gold, platinum and silver mining companies. The company was founded by Byron Knelson in 1978. The company today employs around 140 people with son, Brett Knelson, and son-in-law, Doug Corsan, continuing to operate and manage the family-owned company after Byron's retirement in 2000. Sadly Byron died in August of last year (posting of 8th October 2011). Pictured in the FLSmidth Knelson booth are David Rahal, Technical Director Milling and Laurie Ashley, Marketing Director, with a model of the FLSmidth Stirred Mill. This was formerly known as the Deswik Mill and was manufactured and distributed in a joint venture agreement between Knelson and Deswik International Ltd (MEI Online).

I thought I knew a fair amount about gravity concentration and gravity devices, so it was interesting to see the Wave Table demonstrated at the Action Mining Services booth. I was informed that this device can recover minerals at sizes down to 5 microns and can recover values lost by other methods (but at what enrichment ratio?). The table utilises the standing wave principle,the wave itself moving, while the water beneath the wave tends to stand still. The further from the top of the wave the less motion there is in the water. Thus the heavier the particle the deeper it will ride and the less motion it will see. Full details can be found on the company website.

It was good to see Chris Martin, an ex-Camborne School of Mines student of mine, who graduated from CSM in 1984. He is now President of Blue Coast Metallurgy, Canada, and is pictured here with his Vice-President Operations, David Middlewitch (centre), who graduated from CSM in 2004. Founded in 2009, Blue Coast is a group of small companies based in Parksville on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The companies provide metallurgical consulting, testing and product assaying services, and develop flowsheets for new projects, both using their own testing facility and other laboratories around the world.

It was also nice to meet Ginny, a friendly Belgian Shepherd, the first dog to be trained for mine rescue, pictured with Rick McAllister of Alpha Natural Resources.

Canadian company Starkey & Associates Inc. is growing in strength, and is a sponsor of April's Comminution '12. S& A uses patented SAGDesign methodology to measure ore hardness and properly calculate the size of grinding mills that a client requires. This methodology improves the consistency of measured hardness, mill sizing and design power, and the resulting production and expected revenue. As mineral process design engineers, S&A also provides outstanding process engineering services to develop complete customized grinding circuit and concentrator flowsheet designs in a timely manner. John Starkey is pictured centre with his Director of Business Development, Brian Dalzell and metallurgist Paul Scinto.

Dave Wiseman was at the Limn:The Flowsheet Processor booth, demonstrating the latest version of his Limn software. This new version is Excel 2007/2010 compatible and uses a new "task pane" approach to the user interface. Limn:The Flowsheet Processor is sponsoring MEI's Physical Separation '13 conference in Falmouth next year and Dave is looking forward to a smaller, more focussed event after feeling a little lost in the huge SME conference and exhibition.

Finally I had a chat with friends from the two major UK trade journals represented at the conference. Both International Mining and Industrial Minerals are media sponsors for a number of upcoming MEI Conferences. International Mining's April issue will feature the annual Clean Processing report and Editorial contributions are welcome.
Mike O'Driscoll and Ismene Clarke
of Industrial Minerals
International Mining booth
Wednesday 22nd February
I stayed on for a 3rd day mainly to attend the Mineral and Metallurgical Processing Division (MPD) Luncheon.

There were inumerable awards presented during the luncheon, and it was good to see Nag Nagaraj of Cytec Industries Inc, , and co-editor of International Journal of Mineral Processing, receiving an award for outstanding services to SME. The Outstanding Young Engineers Award was received by Jacob Hohn of RSR Technologies Inc.

Dr. Nagaraj (right)
Jacob Hohn (right)

Peter Amelunxen, Courtney Young
and Dave Meadows
Dave Meadows of FLSmidth was a student of mine at Camborne, and graduated in 1985. Together with Peter Amelunxen, of Aminpro, Chile, one of my Minerals Engineering reviewers, they received the Arthur Taggart Award for the paper that best represents a notable contribution to the science of mineral processing (posting of 31 October 2011).

The final act was the handing over of the Chairmanship of the MPD from Courtney Young of Montana Tech to Jayson Ripke of Cardero Iron Company Ltd.

I have had an interesting and rewarding three days in Seattle and look forward to next year's Annual Meeting, in my favourite venue, Denver.

The preprints of papers presented in the technical sessions are available on CD from the SME.


  1. Barry, thank you for an excellent report on SME. It partially compensates for not being able to attend. Nevertheless, I missed seeing old friends and former colleagues.

    1. Thanks Ian. The Outotec guys sent their regards.

  2. Great report Barry, envious I couldn't be there. Hopefully next year! You prefer Denver to Seattle?

  3. Only because it is close to some great ski resorts!

  4. Thank you for the excellent overview Barry.

  5. Good convention. Many chances to catch up around the exhibit with vendors and old friends.

    I enjoyed a number of the papers that were part of the 'Water in Mineral Processing - First International Symposium'. Of particular interest were those discussing the impact of water quality on flotation response of Cu-Mo porphyry ores. It seems we are starting to learn more about pulp and froth phase mechanisms. Now, to find some solutions for improving performance in the difficult waters we will increasingly be using.

    Robert Seitz, Principal Advisor-Processing at Rio Tinto, USA (via LinkedIn SME group)

    1. Thanks Robert. Yes, there were good reports on Water in Mineral Processing, and I congratulate the organisers of this symposium. The papers are in the Proceedings Volume, mentioned in the main text of this posting

  6. This is an excellent illustrated and well documented report and I hope you will do that every year. You just missed the three International Sessions and the International Reception on Tuesday. In fact these sessions are now a characteristic of SME - - no other conference devotes presentations to mining and metallurgical experience in foreign countries. Thanks to the International Committee that has been organizing such events for nearly ten years now. Mining is global and there were very informative papers about China, Russia, Peru, Germany, Iran, Afghanistan, and others. Fathi Habashi

    1. Many thanks Fathi. I missed more than just the International Sessions. There is so much going on at SME that I only scratched the surface, which is why I appreciate other people's input. Everyone has their own agenda at SMEs and mine is basically meeting people, hence a lot of emphasis on the exhibition area.

  7. SME's attendance topped 5200 in Seattle. That is a very good turn out for a city off our normal Denver-Salt Lake-Phoenix rotation. Thanks to all that made the effort to come to the Annual Meeting. We even had a few days of sunshine!
    John S. Hayden, Director, Public Affairs and Government Relations at Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration, Greater Denver Area via SME LinkedIn group

    1. That's excellent John, and more or less the same final number as in Denver last year ( which I believe was one of the highest turnouts ever.
      I don't recall the sunshine though- must have missed that! But congratulations to all at SME, it really is an awesome annual event.

  8. BRAVO Barry.A vivid and epic narration of the SME Meeting Proceedings.I was not there but the picture is so clear that i am failing to convince myself that i did not attend the Meeting.Presentation par excellence. Cheers.

  9. Received by email:
    Hi Barry
    Thank you for the nice write-up. A number of people saw it before you sent this to me and commented to me and my boss so the world keeps moving faster. Final numbers below.
    5102 attendees; 690 booths; 93 sessions; 5 short courses; 2 field trips
    Tara Davis
    SME Membership and Marketing Manager

  10. Great summary and pictures from SME meeting in Seattle. Happy to finally meet you in person!
    Corale Brierley (via LinkedIn), Brierley Consulting LLC, USA

    1. Also really good to meet you and Jim at last. See you in Falmouth in June?


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