Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Building the networks of the future

It is only 22 years next month since the first Minerals Engineering conference was held in Singapore. How things have changed beyond recognition since then.

The internet was in its infancy, and very few companies had websites, or even email. All correspondence was by mail or Telex, and the emerging fax machines. We had built a data base of names and addresses, to which we would mail registration brochures, and delegates would mail their completed forms, together with a cheque for payment.

There was no PowerPoint of course, so all conference presentations were by 35mm slides. Singapore itself was the window into the future of technology, and I remember bringing back one of the first digital cameras, a crude low-resolution device, which nevertheless created a lot of interest on returning home.

It would have been impossible then to predict our modern world of high speed internet, digital cameras, mobile phones, Skype etc. And probably, given the exponential increase in change, totally impossible to predict what the world will be like in another 20 years time, and how we will be going about our business.

The whole point of my waffle is that the news in Britain at the moment is dominated by the proposal to build a high speed train network, from London to Birmingham, then branching to Manchester and Leeds, at an estimated cost of £33 billion. The proposal is highly controversial, as the line, which by necessity has to be as straight as possible, will cut through areas of outstanding natural beauty, and many people on the route will lose their homes and businesses.

There are compulsive arguments either way, but the one that convinced me was an article in The Times (29 January), by Andrew McGuinness, which considered the points that I mentioned above, and argued that saving an hour on the journey from London to Leeds may be of little importance to the business world of the future, where working from home might be so commonplace that it would be hard to imagine a time when hours were wasted in commuting.

The article proposed that if we want to invest in a network, it should be a digital one. McGuinness suggests that we should emulate what South Korea did in 1997 to rebuild its economy, by investing in a high-speed fibre optic network. This allowed the country to avoid recession in the current global crisis. He argues that Britain should use the billions proposed for the railway to make the country a leader in the digital age, as many of our high-tech companies are let down by a creaking infrastructure. It has been estimated that high speed broadband could be put in every home for £5 billion, and could create over 600,000 jobs in four years. With decent internet across the whole country, entrepreneurs could do business in remote areas such as Cornwall and never need catch a train!

So, is the High Speed Rail network a potential white elephant? What do you think?

Monday, 28 January 2013

High quality programmes announced for Computational Modelling '13 and Physical Separation '13

Falmouth, Cornwall, is the venue for these two conferences in June, which will run back to back. Two outstanding programmes of papers from international experts will be presented over the four days, in oral and poster sessions. The programme for Computational Modelling '13 can be found here, and that for Physical Separation '13 by clicking here.

The first day of each conference will end with the ever-popular coastal path walk, ending with beers in old Falmouth, and on the last day of Physical Separation '13 there will be a tour of the historic Camborne-Redruth mining area, the 'birthplace of modern mining'.

The coastal path walk and Chain Locker pub
Conference delegates in the Camborne-Redruth area

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Padstow and the Camel estuary

We have just returned from a 2 night stay in Padstow, on Cornwall's north coast, only 35 miles from Falmouth. 

Padstow harbour
Padstow is a small village at the mouth of the River Camel, and in summer is a haven for tourists. With a reputation as the seafood capital of the UK, it is noted for TV chef Rick Stein's extortionate Seafood Restaurant (Dover sole and chips £36!). It is also very picturesque, and yesterday we walked along the estuary to the mouth of the river at Stepper Point.

The River Camel estuary
After walking the three miles back to Padstow we took the ferry across the Camel to Rock, then walked a mile through the dunes to the ancient church of St. Enodoc. The church, with its distinctive 13th century crooked spire, dates back to Norman times, and from the 16th century to the middle of the 19th century it was almost completely submerged in sand. Excavated and fully restored, it is associated with the poet John Betjamin, who lies buried in the churchyard.

St. Enodoc's church
During our stay we avoided the over-priced fish and chips at The Seafood Restaurant, and ate at the Hotel Metropole, with great food and views and the excellent little Margot's bistro in town, with food and service second to none. We also recommend the Metropole for its clean and comfortable accommodation.

More Cornish Walks
More on Cornwall

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Nchanga Metallurgists Rugby XV, 1972

Some time ago (posting of 31st July 2012) I posted a photograph of the motley Nchanga Metallurgists rugby XV, taken in 1972.

I received another photo of the crew today from Sue Silcock (she was Sue Glass in 1972), and this one has names:

Back row: Alan Milligan, Phil Cudby, Barry Wills, Tony Jones, Dick Rushmore, Chris Morley, Stuart Mellor, Doug Edmunds, Giles Day, Brian Griffiths
Front Row: Sandy Lambert, Martin Baines, John Farthing, Alistair Scott, Geoff Davies

A few of those in the photo I have heard of since; Phil Cudby, Stuart Mellor, Doug Edmunds, Giles Day and Sandy Lambert I mention in the previous posting. Dick Rushmore was a concentrator metallurgist, and Tony Jones plant metallurgist on the tailings leach plant. I worked with both of them, but have heard nothing of them since leaving Zambia in 1973. Chris Morley is a principal process consultant at Ausenco in Australia, and has attended a couple of recent MEI Conferences.

Any news on any of these people would be very welcome.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

What is the future for electronic sorting?

This is a question that I asked two and a half years ago, but things have moved on since!

Ore sorting is the original concentration process, having probably been used by the earliest metal workers several thousand years ago. It involves the appraisal of individual ore particles and the rejection of those particles that do not warrant further treatment. Hand sorting was used on the Cornish copper mines, women being employed to separate the high grade copper ore from the waste rock, and I remember seeing it being used in Greece in the late 1970s to separate high grade magnesite rock from waste.

Electronic sorting was first introduced in the late 1940s, and became an important technique for the pre-concentration of certain types of ore, such as diamond ores, but its application was fairly limited, due to simple sensors and low-power computers.

In recent years, however, the potential of dry ore beneficiation has become increasingly apparent, particularly where water conservation and other environmental issues are involved. Sensor based sorting technology, particularly using X-Ray-Transmission (XRT), has proved to be viable in industrial scale applications. High efficiencies and recovery rates can be achieved using the latest technologies. Increasingly powerful computers and sensitive X-ray scintillation counters have enabled the development of high-performance units. The machines have reached a status of rigid and reliable field stability and can be operated at grain sizes of 8 mm up to 70 mm, depending on the individual ore.

The leading player in this field in recent years has been CommodasUltrasort, which now operates under the name TOMRA Sorting Mining. Recognising the future importance of sorting in the physical beneficiation of ores, TOMRA are one of the major sponsors of Physical Separation ’13 in Falmouth in June.

Jens-Michael Bergmann of TOMRA will describe the basics of XRT-sorting technology, followed by an example of how a chromite processing plant in South Africa is using a state-of-the-art XRT sorting machine, together with spiral concentrators. The sorter is pre-concentrating the ROM chromite ore by removing barren waste and low grade rocks while after comminution the spirals are concentrating the ore to a market grade of above 46% Cr2O3. This paper will supplement papers from Australia on the potential of ore sorting and the next generation machines.

What are the limits to this technology?

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Memories of Bulawayo and the Veaseys

Terry opening Complex Ores '97
It is three and a half years since I last caught up with my old friend Terry Veasey (see posting of 21 August 2009). Terry was a popular lecturer at Birmingham University and also for a short period at the National University of Science & Technology in Zimbabwe. It was as a result of a short visit to see Terry and his wife Pauline in Bulawayo that we set up the very enjoyable Complex Ores’ 97 conference. A couple of photos from that event in Bulawayo are shown below.

With the Veaseys and John Hope
Lunch in the Matopos Hills with Frank Crundwell and Yaw Asamoah-Bekoe
This morning Barbara and I took the ferry across the River Fal to the little village of St. Mawes, for a pub lunch with Terry and Pauline, who are relaxing for a few days in Cornwall. Terry is still very much involved with the greyhound racing scene, but also spends a lot of time these days on philately and the restoration of  cast iron artifacts.

Lunch today at the Victory Inn, St. Mawes

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Where are they now: Universiti Sains Malaysia staff of 1985

In the 1980s I spent three separate periods on the island of Penang in Malaysia, as a visiting lecturer, setting up a course on mineral processing at the Universiti Sains Malaysia.

My last visit was in 1985, and here I am pictured with the USM staff, Radzali Othman, Tuan Basar, Abdul Latiff and Kok Keong Cheang.

If anyone knows what they are doing now, nearly 28 years on, I would love to hear from you.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Around Godrevy

Godrevy lighthouse from Gwythian beach
Grey seals on Godrevy beach

At last a respite from the rains!  Today was bright and sunny, and very cold (4C); perfect conditions for a 3 mile walk on the North Cliffs, west of the 3mile long Gwythian Beach. In my Camborne School of Mines days I spent many lunch hours walking this area, with its rugged 60m high cliffs and precipitous drops.

Close to the Camborne-Reduth copper and tin mining area, this is a heavily faulted area, subject to intense erosion and spectacular landslides, a recent one being caught on video.

More Cornish Walks
More on Cornwall

Friday, 11 January 2013

Dedicated followers of fashion

I note that Amanda and Dean Eastbury had good sniggers at my 1980s clothes on Tuesday's posting. White trousers were the style at that time, and as a fashion icon I did, of course, have to set the trends.

As I did in the 1970s also, but it is hard to believe that I actually ventured out to functions wearing this suit and tie. At least you can't see the trousers! And before you ask Amanda, yes the hair was real.

Amanda and husband Richard did at least have the excuse of being at a fancy dress party in the recent photo below (can you guess as who?).

But no excuse for Dean, who insists on wearing The Shirt, without any trace of embarrassment, at all MEI Conferences. For some reason it always reminds me of pea soup and red peppers.

Sartorial elegance at Process Mineralogy '12

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Minerals Engineering’s Silver Jubilee Year

Volume 1 Number 1
I received my copy of Volume 40 (January 2013) of Minerals Engineering last week. Very few people will realise that this is the 25th Anniversary issue of the journal, which first appeared in print in January 1988.

These days Minerals Engineering is established as one of the leading peer-reviewed journals in our field. I have an Editorial Board of 24 high calibre scientists from around the world, and a data base of over 270 reviewers who supplement the Editorial Board and ensure smooth running of the peer-review process. Submission of papers and reviewing is all carried out in ‘the cloud’ via the Elsevier Electronic Submission (EES) system, and papers are rapidly published online, as well as in hard copy. But things were very much different a quarter of a century ago.....

In the mid-80s I was a senior lecturer at the Camborne School of Mines, and supervised a number of PhD research projects. At the time there were only two journals of high reputation for submission of mineral processing research papers, the International Journal of Mineral Processing, a long established journal run by Elsevier, and Transactions of the Institution of Mining and Metallurgy Section C.

Having submitted papers to both these journals, I was frustrated at the lack of communication from the editors, who often failed to acknowledge receipt of a paper and then spent an inordinate amount of time supervising the review process. I was also dismayed that on final acceptance of a paper, there could be a delay of up to 12 months before publication, during which time the paper may have lost much of its impact. There was obviously a need for a journal with a dynamic Editorial Board, which could provide rapid publication of topical papers.

In 1978 the first edition of my book Mineral Processing Technology had been published by Pergamon Press, and by the mid-80s it was well established and in its 3rd edition. Pergamon was also a scientific journal publisher, so I approached them with the idea of setting up a new journal, Minerals Engineering, and much to my surprise they responded enthusiastically. The hard part was now ahead- instilling the same level of confidence in the mineral processing community!

The first thing to do was to set up an Editorial Board, and luckily I had been travelling around the world for a few years ‘networking’ so was able to recruit people who I had met on my travels. I managed to get together 22 enthusiastic and well known mineral processors and it is worth listing these, as many of them are still very active, some have unfortunately passed on and a few I have lost touch with:

Cyril O’Connor (South Africa), Don McKee (Australia), G. Ferrara (Italy), Gilles Barbery (Canada), Dave Osborne (Indonesia), Les Adorjan (Canada), Fernando Concha (Chile), Ronald Crozier (Chile), B. Dobias (Germany), Rob Dunne (Australia), Eric Forssberg (Sweden), Steve Hall (UK), Jeff McKay (USA), Gulhan Ozbayoglu (Turkey), Roger Parker (UK), Victor Phillips (UK), Fred Pooley (UK), S. Raghavan (USA), K. Rajamani (USA), John Ralston (Australia), Roberto Villas-Boas (Brazil) and John Watson (USA).

Once the Editorial Board had been formalised, I got the green light from Pergamon to go ahead, with 4 issues per year planned, the first one scheduled for January 1988. But if I thought it would be plain sailing from thereon, I was very wrong, as I now hit the first major obstacle. Any researcher of any note would want to submit his or her work to a journal of high repute, and for a journal to achieve such a reputation, it needs to be well established with the publication of high calibre papers. A classic “Catch-22” situation.

There was only one way I could solicit such papers, and that was to get out and about and persuade people face to face that publication in this new journal would be a good thing. Luckily the Principal at CSM at that time, Dr. Peter Hackett, was very understanding and let me have more or less free-reign in my travels. This was the start of my love affair with conferences, undoubtedly the best places to be to meet people and generally have a good time! The first conference that I organised was in Falmouth in 1986, where I met for the first time Jim Finch and Gilles Barbery, who kindly submitted articles for the first issue.

With Gilles Barbery, H. Oberndorfer and Nick Miles

With Jim Finch, Derek Ottley,
Jim Watson and Wally Kop

I attended my first International Mineral Processing Congress (IMPC) in Stockholm in June 1988. Quality papers were beginning to trickle into the journal, but I detected a degree of coldness in Stockholm, not only due to the climate, but also from the ‘old guard’ of International Journal of Mineral Processing (IJMP) contributors. This climaxed with an approach from a senior executive from Elsevier, who strongly advised me to abandon Minerals Engineering, as there was no place for another mineral processing journal of similar scope. I argued about ‘healthy competition’ but he was not interested. This made me even more determined that the journal should succeed. If the mighty Elsevier was worried, then we must have something special evolving here!

The launch of Minerals Engineering at the Stockholm IMPC, 1988
Although good papers were now coming in, it is hard to believe 25 years later how difficult, frustrating and archaic the peer-review process was then. Not everyone had email- including some members of the Editorial Board! The Guide for Authors requested that manuscripts be submitted to me in triplicate on “good quality white paper”, and authors were encouraged to submit their work on a 5 ¼ inch diskette as well as hard copy, recommending WordPerfect word processing software.

On receipt of papers by mail, I would then mail copies off to two members of the Editorial Board (there were no supplementary reviewers at that stage), who would then send me their reports by mail, which I would then mail to the author. A long and tedious process, but once a paper had been accepted, the tedium worsened......

Pergamon had provided me with a cheap Amstrad PC and a daisy-wheel printer. Once a paper had been accepted, if on floppy disk I had to format it for production of camera-ready copy. If no disk was provided, then Barbara would painstakingly type out the paper in the journal format. I then had to print it out on camera-ready paper. A single paper could take well over an hour to print, as the daisy wheels would have to be changed to accommodate italics, bold, underlined, and the use of mathematical and Greek symbols- an absolute nightmare. Once a set of papers had been printed, they would then be sent to Oxford via a secure courier service.

It was hard work, but we stuck at it, and slowly email became common and after a few years papers were regularly passed from authors to me, then to the Editorial Board electronically. The journal began to grow in stature, and so did the paper flow, such that in 1990 the number of issues per year was raised to 6, and then in the following year to 12, the first special conference issue (Comminution ’89) appearing in 1990 (in 2000 the number of issues increased to the present 15 per year).

The first Minerals Engineering Editorial Board meeting, Singapore 1991
Rob Dunne (Australia), Glen Dobby (Canada), BW, Prof. Wakamatsu (Japan),
Terry Veasey (UK), Cyril O'Connor (South Africa),
Dave Osborne (Indonesia) and Don Mckee (Australia)
Just when the journal was establishing a reputation we had what appeared to be an insurmountable set back. The owner and founder of Pergamon Press was Robert Maxwell, a flamboyant Czechoslovakian- born character who lived at Pergamon’s Headquarters, Headington Hill Hall in Oxford, often flying into work in his helicopter.

Barbara, and Maxwell helicopter, at Headington Hill Hall, 1991
In 1989 he had to sell successful businesses including Pergamon Press to cover some of his enormous debts, and having once attempted a hostile take over of Elsevier he now approached that company, hoping to sell Pergamon — the jewel in his publishing empire crown. The £440 million sale was finalized in 1991 and later that year Maxwell was found dead, floating in the Atlantic Ocean having apparently fallen overboard from his yacht. His death triggered the final collapse of his publishing empire as banks called in loans. His sons briefly struggled to keep the business together, but failed as the news emerged that Maxwell had stolen hundreds of millions of pounds from his own companies' pension funds to save the companies from bankruptcy.

So, three years after being warned off by Elsevier, the journal was now in its mighty hands and the future looked bleak- would IJMPs major competitor be immediately and ruthlessly axed?

Well, here we are, so obviously Elsevier turned out not to be the ogre that I had imagined. Much to the contrary in fact; the Elsevier journal team has been a pleasure to work with over the last 22 years. I have had a number of production managers during that time, all of whom have been efficient and professional, no more so than my present manager, Dean Eastbury, who has also become a great friend of the family.

Hiking in South Africa with Amanda, Jon and Dean Eastbury
By attending MEI Conferences and IMPCs, all of the Elsevier managers have made the effort to get to know the people in our industry and this has helped considerably in establishing the journal in its number 1 spot.

Elsevier's Michael Mabe (centre) at Minerals Engineering '94, Lake Tahoe
Elsevier's Louise Morris (2nd left) at IMPC '06, Istanbul
Elsevier's Dylan Parker (centre) at IMPC '08, Beijing
Elsevier's Dean Eastbury (right) at SRCR '11, Cornwall
The last 25 years has been a roller-coaster ride, but I would not have missed it for anything. On behalf of myself and the Elsevier team I would like to take the opportunity of thanking everyone who has contributed to the success of the journal- the many, many authors who have submitted papers, the Editorial Board, past and present, and all those who give up their valuable time to participate diligently in the all-important peer-review process. Here’s to the next 25 years!

Monday, 7 January 2013

New look for Elsevier's Hydrometallurgy journal

Dean Eastbury of Elsevier is the Executive Publisher for Minerals Engineering, International Journal of Mineral Processing, and Hydrometallurgy, amongst others. He has emailed me to advise of major changes to the editorial structure of Hydrometallurgy:

"Nick Welham has decided to step down as Co-Editor after 10 years service in that post but will continue his association with the journal by remaining on the Editorial Board. On behalf of Elsevier, I would like to thank Nick for his efforts in helping to make Hydrometallurgy one of the leading journals in its field, being ranked 5th of 75 journals by ISI in the subject category Metallurgy and Metallurgical Engineering with an impact factor of 2.027.
Jochen Petersen has taken on the newly created role of Editor-in-Chief. He will lead a team of four new Associate Editors whose breadth of knowledge covers all topics that lie within the scope of the journal. They are Mike Adams of Mutis Liber, Perth Australia, Versiane Leão of the Federal University of Ouro Preto, Brazil, Jesús Muñoz of Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain and Sadegh Safarzadeh at the University of Utah, USA.

At the same time there have been some retirements and new appointments to the Editorial Board and all details of the new structure can be found on the journal homepage. This is an exciting time for Hydrometallurgy and I’m sure that the new team will continue to build on past successes.

May I offer my best wishes for 2013 to all those associated with Elsevier’s mineral processing and metallurgy titles, and I hope to meet some of you in person throughout the year."

Dean Eastbury
Executive Publisher, Elsevier, Oxford, UK

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

A new year to look forward to

2012 was an interesting year for us, the Olympics contributing in no small way to the feel good factor in UK. Unfortunately the year ended with devastating floods, particularly in the south west of England, and Cornwall effectively became an island at times, with no trains in and out, and travel by road perilous.

The rains continue, and Falmouth's coastal path is now a quagmire, virtually impassable in places.

Part of the Falmouth coastal path, familiar to many MEI Conference delegates
However, looking on the brighter side, spring is only a few months away and in June we have two conferences back to back in Falmouth. Computational Modelling and Physical Separation are two conferences which always attract a loyal nucleus of delegates, and we have very interesting programmes developing. The provisional programmes will be announced at the end of this month, so there is still time to submit abstracts.

Delegates on the Falmouth coastal path in drier times!
Our main event this year is Flotation '13 in Cape Town in November. Signs are that this is going to be bigger and better than ever. Fourteen companies have weighed in with corporate support and exhibition space is now almost sold out. We have four 2m x 2m booths available, so sign up now if you wish to display your services. We have no doubt that the technical programme will once again present the state of the art of this premier concentration technique, and in Kari Heiskanen and Dariusz Lelinski we have two keynote speakers of the highest repute. Abstracts should be submitted by the end of June.

Coffee break in the exhibit area at Flotation '11
Apart from the 3 MEI conferences, there are many other events of note during the year, and I will be representing MEI at the SME Annual Meeting in Denver in eight weeks' time, as well at Metplant '13 in Perth in July, Base Metals '13 in Mpumalanga in September, and the National Meeting of Ore Treatment and Extractive Metallurgy in Brazil in October. Dependent on family commitments, Amanda will be at the Mineral Engineering Conference 2013 in Poland in September.

So, let's hope that commodity prices remain high, and that we all work together to strive to reduce energy costs and water consumption, improve existing processing techniques and seek innovation in all that we do.

Once again a happy New Year to you all.