Tuesday, 31 July 2012

From the MEI Archives #20- Chingola 1972

This time next week I will be visting Nchanga, Zambia's largest copper mine. It will be my first visit to the Copperbelt since Barbara, Amanda and I left in August 1973.

The photo below was taken 40 years ago of the Nchanga Metallurgists rugby team, a motley crew who played 'friendly' matches against other mine department teams.

I hope some of you might be able to fill in a few gaps, but the faces that I remember are:

Bach row: ?, Mike Blowers, Phil Cudby, Giles Day, Jock McGregor, me, ?, Stuart Mellor, Doug Edmunds
Front row: John Farthing, Crawford Masson, Sandy Lambert, ?, ?, ?

It would also be great to hear from anyone in the picture.

Phil Cudby I am still in touch with. He is retired and lives in the UK. Giles Day has his own business in Cyprus. Jock McGregor sadly passed away in the USA several years ago. Stuart Mellor I last saw in 1982 on the Harmony Gold Mine in South Africa. Doug Edmunds is in UK, and founded the World's Strongest Man competition. Sandy Lambert frequently attends MEI Conferences and is an adjunct professor at the University of Cape Town.

After 40 years, I expect to see major changes to Chingola next week and will be sharing memories and photos if internet access allows.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Is this scientific suicide?

I have ranted many times about the insane need for academics to publish at all costs, which has led to a profusion of cases of plagiarism and multiple- submissions, and the almost total reliance on impact factor in choosing where to publish their material.

So it was interesting to read a blog posting by David Colquhoun, Professor of Pharmacology at University College London, which was also printed in this morning’s Times. I have copied it verbatim below and invite your comments:

There are moments when the way a university runs its affairs is so boneheaded that it deserves scorn far beyond the world of academia. Queen Mary University of London is selecting which staff to sack from its science departments in a way that I can describe only as insane.
The firings, it seems, are nothing to do with hard financial times, but are a ham-fisted attempt to raise Queen Mary’s ranking in the league tables. A university’s position is directly related to its government research funding. So Queen Mary’s managers hope to do well in the 2014 “Research Excellence Framework” by firing staff who don’t publish a paper every ten minutes.

To survive as a professor there you need to have published 11 papers during 2008 to 2011, of which at least two are “high quality”. For lecturers, the target for keeping your job is five papers, of which one is “high quality”. You must also have had at least one PhD student complete their thesis.

What Queen Mary defines as “high quality” is publication in “high-impact journals” (periodicals that get lots of citations). Journals such as Nature and Science get most of their citations from very few articles, so it is utterly brainless to base decisions about the quality of research from such a skewed distribution of citations. But talk of skewed distribution is, no doubt, a bit too technical for innumerate HR people to understand. Which is precisely why they should have nothing to do with assessing scientists.
I have been lucky to know well three Nobel prizewinners. None would have passed the criteria laid down for a professor by QMUL. They would have been fired and so would Peter Higgs.

More offensive still is that you can buy immunity if you have had 26 papers published in 2008-11, with six being “high quality”. The encouragement to publish reams is daft. If you are publishing a paper every few weeks, you certainly are not writing them, and possibly not even reading them. Most likely you are appending your name to somebody else’s work with little or no checking of the data, let alone contributing real research.

It is also deeply unethical for Queen Mary to require all staff to have a PhD student with the aim of raising the university’s ranking rather than of benefitting the student.

Like so much managerialism, the rules are an active encouragement to dishonesty. The dimwitted assessment methods of Queen Mary will guarantee the creation of a generation of second-rate spiv scientists. Who in their right mind would want to work there, now that the way it treats its scientists is public knowledge?

Friday, 27 July 2012

Precious Metals '12 programme published

Sandwiched between Process Mineralogy ’12 and Nickel Processing ’12, Precious Metals ’12, MEI’s 4th international conference on the processing of precious metals ores and concentrates, has attracted corporate sponsorship from major players in the gold and PGM fields, and a high profile technical programme, which has just been published.

The two keynote lectures will be presented by Dr. Rob Dunne, of Newmont Mining Corporation, USA, and Keith Liddell of Platmin Ltd, South Africa.

Registration for Precious Metals ’12 is now open, and if you would like to submit a paper, please send us your short abstract as soon as possible.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

A successful Sampling School in Brisbane

Dr. Norman Lotter. of Xstrata Process Support, Canada, has sent me this photograph, taken during his recent successful sampling course in Brisbane, organised by the JKMRC for their research students, and others.

Pictured standing (left to right) are Vannie Resabal (PhD student), Dr. Cathy Evans (Senior Research Fellow), Gerson Sandoval (PhD student), Dr. Norman Lotter, Devan Govender (FLSmidth, USA), Jocelyn Quinteros (Research Assistant), Cristian Carrasco (MPhil student), Bianca Foggiatto (PhD student), Francois Vos (Research Fellow), Tim Napier-Munn (Professorial Research Fellow), Chris Akop (PhD student).
Kneeling are Ezhilan Selvapandian (OneSteel Whyalla, Australia) and Dee Bradshaw (Professorial Research Fellow).

Norman Lotter is a CIM Distinguished Lecturer and he will be presenting a paper at November's Process Mineralogy '12 in Cape Town.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Process Mineralogy '12 provisional programme published

As ores become ever more complex and refractory, the importance of mineralogy on their processing increases in importance, and this is reflected in the reputation that MEI’s Process Mineralogy conferences are achieving.

Process Mineralogy ’12, the 2nd in the series, has attracted high profile corporate sponsorship, and the high calibre programme has just been published.

Process mineralogy applied to base metals, precious metals, industrial minerals and coal processing is supplemented by a keynote lecture on ore characterization, process mineralogy and lab automation by Dr. Wolfgang Baum, of FLSmidth, USA.

Strongly featured in the programme are papers on geometallurgy, and mineralogical measurements, such as EDS/SEM techniques, XRD and image analysis, as well as the continued development of X-Ray computed tomography as an effective tool in process mineralogy, the subject of the second keynote lecture by Prof. Jan Miller, of the University of Utah, USA.

Registration for Process Mineralogy ’12 is now open, and the conference is followed by two more MEI events, Precious Metals ’12 and Nickel Processing ’12, so the Vineyard Hotel in Cape Town is the place to be in November.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Minerals Engineers group now exceeds 3000 members

I am pleased to report that MEI's Minerals Engineers group on LinkedIn continues to grow, and today membership passed 3000 members.

I have been very selective regarding membership, so that the group has become a dynamic forum for networking, and the next best thing to face-face contact.

The group is essentially the discussion forum for MEI, and supplements MEI Online and the MEI Blog. There are no News or Jobs sections in the group. Relevant news or jobs should be sent to amanda@min-eng.com, and these will be published free of charge in MEI Online. Conference announcements can be posted in Promotions, and/or submitted to Amanda for MEI Online.  Vendors may list their company products and services in the Business Directory section of MEI Online.

If you are already a member, please encourage your colleagues and contacts to join. If not, then please join without delay!!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Laterite Processing a Major Feature of Nickel Processing ’12

Laterite ores were the major source of early nickel, the rich laterite deposits of New Caledonia being exploited from the end of the nineteenth century. However, the discovery of the sulphide deposits of Sudbury during the early part of last century shifted the focus to sulphides.

About 73% of the world's known nickel resources are laterites found mainly in tropical areas such as Indonesia, Cuba, Columbia and New Caledonia. The remaining 27% are sulphide deposits with notable locations in Canada and Russia. Australia and Brazil have both sulphide and laterite nickel deposits.

Currently, the majority of today’s nickel is produced from sulphide deposits, as it is easier and cheaper to mine and process than lateritic ore. However, known sulphide deposits, which are large in scale and of high nickel grade, are depleting. As a result a higher proportion of future production is expected to come from laterite deposits.

Nickel laterites typically occur in regions where prolonged weathering of ultramafic rocks has occurred, favoured by warm conditions with abundant rainfall. Such deposits commonly exhibit graded layers containing a limonite layer dominated by goethite and a saprolite layer, which is usually magnesium-rich (10-20% Mg), with iron substituting for magnesium in serpentine, as well as being present as goethite.

For typical deposits, the limonitic layer is not very suited to upgrading, while some upgrading in the magnesium-rich saprolitic layer can often be applied to improve the nickel concentration, the major difference between lateritic and sulphidic ores being that the latter can be upgraded to yield high-grade concentrates. Both pyrometallurgical and hydrometallurgical processes are applied commercially to the recovery of nickel and cobalt from lateritic ores, the former mainly with saprolite and hydrometallurgy with limonitic laterites.

The importance of laterites is highlighted by the recently published technical programme for Nickel Processing ’12. The first day will concentrate solely on laterite processing, with a keynote lecture discussing the integration of pyro- and hydro-metallurgical processing techniques.

The call for abstracts is still open, so if you have anything to contribute on the processing of laterite or sulphide deposits, we would like to hear from you.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Good news for Elsevier journals

The 2011 impact factors have just been published, and once more Elsevier journals lead the mineral processing field:

Hydromet                                2.027
Minerals Engineering             1.352
Int. J. Min. Proc.                     1.304
Min Proc. & Ext. Met.Rev.    0.667
Can. Met. Quart.                     0.443
Int. J. Coal Prep. & Util.        0.289
Minerals & Met. Proc.           0.280
J.SAIMM                                0.182
The specialist journal Hydrometallurgy has, as always, the highest impact factor, as it specialises in the area having the most researchers and hence the most citations.

In the general field of mineral pocessing, Minerals Engineering has increased its impact factor, but the gap between Minerals Engineering and its sister journal International Journal of Mineral Processing has closed, the difference between the two being virtually insignificant considering the vagaries of the impact factor system.

What is most noticeable, however, is the big void between the leading Elsevier journals and other peer-reviewed journals servicing this field.

Although I should rejoice at Minerals Engineering’s renewed status as the number 1 mineral processing journal, I have often gone on record expressing my dissatisfaction concerning impact factor, and gain much more satisfaction from feed back from the journal authors (see posting of 28th June). I do not have author feed back data for Hydrometallurgy or International Journal of Mineral Processing, but if the editors would like to share them I will be happy to publish in MEI.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Biohydromet '12 Proceedings available

The 6th in MEI's series of biotech conferences, Biohydromet '12 was the most successful and well attended.

The Proceedings of the event is now available on MEI Online.

Biohydromet '14, the 7th international symposium, will be held in Falmouth again in June 2014, and will be immediately followed by the 2-day event, Sustainability through Resource Conservation and Recycling '14 (SRCR '14).

Sunday, 15 July 2012

New Comments Alert

There are new comments added to the following blog postings since the last comments alert:

Are journal papers containing advanced mathematics treated fairly?
Biohydromet '12 conference diary
The Higgs boson- waste of effort and money or the best of blue sky research?

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Friday, 13 July 2012

Hydro-Pyro Integration in the Processing of Nickel Laterites

Hydrometallurgical process routes are seen to be the future for the treatment of the lower grade nickel laterite ores. Hydrometallurgical projects of recent years have focused on HPAL and have been largely unsuccessful economically, with huge capital cost overruns. The simplest and least capital intensive of the possible alternatives to HPAL is atmospheric heap leaching; development work is also underway by several companies into atmospheric tank leaching which is also a potentially viable alternative. The natural product for a leaching process is a high grade nickel intermediate either from a direct precipitation process (containing approx. 36% Ni) or via Ion Exchange (>50% Ni).

There are many existing pyrometallurgical facilities which could easily be adapted to take this nickel intermediate giving them significant potential benefits especially as raw ore grades diminish. The nickel production from these plants could also be increased and for new plants large capital and operating cost savings achieved. There are also potential environmental benefits with much less energy consumed and lower greenhouse gases emitted per tonne of nickel produced.

In the future an integrated hydrometallurgical plant with attached existing smelter or a more advanced pyrometallurgical smelting process (e.g. a DC Arc Furnace) could well be the way forward for new projects, and this will be the subject of the keynote lecture at Nickel Processing ’12 in Cape Town in November. This will be given by Anne Oxley of Alyssum Ventures Ltd, UK) and Nic Barcza, Metallurgical Engineering Consultant, South Africa, but it would be good to hear the views of others on the future of nickel laterite processing.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Computational Modelling special issue published

Twelve of the papers presented at last June’s Computational Modelling ‘11 conference in Falmouth, UK, have now been published in Volume 33 of Minerals Engineering, and the papers are available for downloading from ScienceDirect.

The conference proceedings, containing unrefereed papers, is available on CD from MEI.

The next conference, Computational Modelling ‘13, will be held in Falmouth in June 2013, immediately preceding Physical Separation’13, and again will provide speakers with the opportunity of presenting their work to an elite international audience, as well as having the opportunity of publishing the work in the world's leading mineral processing peer-reviewed journal.

Monday, 9 July 2012

John Rayner making the most of his early retirement

It is good to hear that Dr. John Rayner, a long serving member of the Minerals Engineering Editorial Board and a regular attendee at past MEI Conferences, is putting his early retirement to great use.

John (63) will be riding in the Rio Tinto Ride to Conquer Cancer®, a unique, two-day cycling event to take place on August 18-19, 2012, journeying over 200km through Queensland scenic countryside to Conquer Cancer. The money raised by participants in The Ride will benefit the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR), a worldwide leader in cancer research and discovery.

Through donations John is aiming to raise A$2500 to support the important work of QIMR.

To follow John’s ride preparation and to learn more about this ride go to his event web site

Immediately prior to his retirement John was working for the Queensland Government where he ultimately had a role handling emergent issues with a strong technical component. Prior to that he was with CSIRO Minerals, initially in a research management role, then as International Business Development Manager.

He is a former Fellow of AusIMM and received an Australian Postgraduate Research Award to support his PhD work at JKMRC.

John is now enjoying life - good food, good wine, good company and a very little consulting.

We all wish him well on his new venture.

Friday, 6 July 2012

The Higgs boson- waste of effort and money or the best of blue sky research?

What do you think of the quest for, and the recent discovery of the 'God particle' at CERN's £4 billion underground proton smasher, which has tied up the most brilliant minds in science (apart from MEI conference authors of course!)?

Is it a vast waste of time and money, or is it the very best of blue sky research, and what science is all about?  What we should not forget is that at about the same time a century ago, the best minds in science were applying their intellect to the new science of quantum physics, and the strange behaviour of atoms and electrons. Many scientists, including Albert Einstein, were disparaging, feeling that it had no practical significance, but now our modern world is dependent on it.  Not that we truly understand what it is all about- a bit like the Higgs boson really, and those other esoteric fields of research, such as string theory.

Let's have your thoughts.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

A rugby legend in the Picos de Europa

One of the great joys of travelling is meeting new and interesting people, and there were many of them in our hotel in Cosgaya this week in Spain's Picos de Europa.

Rugby is one of the major minerals industry sports, so many of you will have heard of Ray Williams, OBE, one of the illustrious fathers of Welsh rugby, and regarded as the doyen of rugby coaches, his coaching manual, published in 1967, introducing the art of coaching to this then totally amateur game. Ray was secretary of the Welsh Rugby Union from 1981-1988 and was Tournament Director for the 1991 Rugby World Cup.

It was a pleasure to get to know Ray and his wife Meg in Spain and we will always remember his wry humour and the night in the hotel bar where he led the singing of Welsh rugby songs, fending off my attempts at 'Swing low sweet chariot...'.

Picos de Europa

Barbara and I have just returned from nine days spent in one of Europe's last mountain wilderness areas.

A few days after Biohydromet '12 we took the car ferry from Plymouth to Santander in northern Spain, and then the short drive to the Picos de Europa.

The central massif of the Picos de Europa
The Picos de Europa are a geological unit composed almost purely of carboniferous limestone, and are the largest single mass of mountain limestone in Europe. Laid down over 300 million years ago, later periods of uplift during the Pyrenean and Alpine orogenies thrust the limestone high above sea-level, fracturing and folding it due to the great stresses involved, until three huge lumps of limestone remained - the three massifs. More recently, glaciations during the ice ages widened the fractures into narrow but deep gorges. The actions of ice and rain continue to erode and dissolve the rock, forming the characteristic landscapes of today.

With a highest altitude of 2648m the Picos de Europa do not have the majestic grandeur of the alps but the scenery is nevertheless spectacular, with jagged peaks, deep canyons and glacial lakes, as shown in our photos below.

Walking near the glacial lake, Lago Enol
Lago de la Ercina

The village of Bulnes
Fuente De

Valle del Naranco
Our essential guide to the area was the excellent Picos de Europa by Teresa Farino (Sunflower Books), and for the first 6 nights we stayed at the Parador de Cangas de Onis, which proved to be very disappointing, as did the restaurants in the town. Our final 3 nights were in the southern Picos at Cosgaya's Hotel Del Oso, which we would highly recommend, both in terms of the accommodation and the excellent restaurant.

Driving around the Picos has been an unexpected pleasure.The long winding roads are immaculately maintained and were almost devoid of traffic, at least at this time of year.

Cooling off in the Rio Casano in the
La Molina Gorge

It is also a fine area for walking and on some of the walking trails we had perfect solitude, the icy rivers in the deep gorges providing a great way to cool off when temperatures became excessive!