Tuesday, 1 October 2013

World Gold '13

MEI was a media sponsor for World Gold '13, which was held in Brisbane, Australia from  September 26-29, and organised by The AusIMM. Dr. Mike Adams, MEI's Precious Metals '15 consultant, of Mutis Liber, Australia, represented us at the conference, and has kindly supplied this report on the event.

The World Gold series of conferences is held about every two years, the previous one being held in Montreal (see posting of 7th October 2011), which the author also attended. Last week’s event was staged over two days with some parallel sessions covering various aspects of gold including exploration, geology, mining, processing, finance and environmental. The conference was surprisingly well attended given the margin squeeze due to lower gold price and increasing costs, and attracted almost 300 delegates from many countries. On the other hand, this fact may itself be an indication that companies may be looking for new paradigms towards profitability in a difficult market, a mood that was revealed in presentations and informal discussions alike.
Mike Battersby, Will Goodall, Mike Adams and Chris Dunks at The AusIMM booth
To this end, the conference did not disappoint. The excellent plenary speakers on Day 1 commenced a guided tour by Eduard Eshuys (Drummond Gold) of major Australian gold discoveries. A more controversial topic was covered by Professor Jannie van Deventer (University of Melbourne), in “Is there gold that we do not recognise”, which elicited food for thought as well as several questions, some tongue-in-cheek. The three Day 2 plenary speakers (curiously whose names were all Mark) received an enthusiastic response. These speakers robustly (and indeed almost brutally) exposed the paradigm shift that is required for a successful gold producer in the current market condition. Mark Clark (Regis Resources) asked “How did the gold mining industry squander the golden decade?” and convincingly concluded that the industry should go back to basic principles in cost reduction and operational excellence. Mark Morcombe (AngloGold Ashanti Obuasi) exposed various factors both internal and external that impinged on the profitability of a gold operation. The third Mark, Mark Bristow (Randgold Resources) described the logic behind the great success in the company “Building a successful African gold mining business”, again highlighting simple back-to-basics business principles as being the key that may have been partly forgotten by some operators in the heady boom years.
The 60 technical papers that were accepted were trimmed from about 120 submissions and were generally well presented and with sound content, with only a few general review papers and one or two that elicited probing questions. Best presentation to a young researcher aptly went to Dr Megan Becker (University of Cape Town and an MEI consultant), who made a lucid and professional presentation covering an important topic covering the use of mineralogy to interpret acid rock drainage. 
Megan Becker with Mike Adams and Will Goodall
Several papers covered processing of refractory gold ores, suggesting that despite the current issues that many of these operations have been experiencing, these ore types remain prominent on the radar of explorers and developers. Interestingly, roasting was addressed in several papers, suggesting that for specific ores such as double refractory ones, it remains a potentially viable process route provided the off gases are adequately handled. On the other hand, the interesting paper covering Barrick’s Goldstrike thiosulphate leaching process represents a new technology that expands capacity rather than replacing the roaster plant.

Greg Smith and Nigel Ricketts

David Morgan and Mike battersby

Other papers that stood out included two covering the 6.4 Moz resource 5.8 Mtpa Tropicana gold operation  in Western Australia (first gold pour occurred two days after the conference). Both gravity and flotation methods of concentration were covered in very interesting sessions, demonstrating various innovations. The environmental and water aspects of gold ore processing elicited interest, and the author was fortunate to be able to present a paper demonstrating how to obtain cyanide code compliance without installing a detox plant, on the basis of using hypersaline process water.
CEEC's Elizabeth Lewis-Gray opens
the CEEC Reception
There were several pre- and post-conference workshops, including one on “Cyanide Management in the Gold Industry: Showcasing leading Practice”, which elicited robust discussion amongst the ~25 delegates and speakers. For the more intrepid delegates, particularly those attending the back-to-back Geomet conference the following week, there were also workshops in the intervening weekend. In addition, other events were held around the conference, such as the Delprat lecture (Professor Graham Jameson) and the CEEC (Coalition for Eco-Efficient Comminution) reception, which was held simultaneously with the official networking reception, so again decisions had to be made as to which to attend.
As usual, the “gathering of the clans” with a mutual interest in gold proved to be useful networking and catching up with old colleagues and friends, some of whom were present at the MEI Precious Metals ’12 conference in Cape Town (the next Precious Metals ’15 conference is to be held in Falmouth, UK over May 11-12, 2015 and is expected to again present discussions from cutting edge minds).

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