Monday, 10 August 2015

40 years of Mineral Processing Technology

It's hard to believe that 40 years ago I was hard at work writing the first edition of Mineral Processing Technology, and 40 years later Jim Finch and his team at McGill have just finished putting together the updated 8th edition, due on the shelves in October.
It's also hard to believe that all this came about by chance- writing a text-book was the last thing on my mind when I took up my post as a senior lecturer at Camborne School of Mines (CSM) in September 1974, with only 5 years' experience of mineral processing, in Zambia, and briefly with Johnson Matthey in Royston, under my belt.
At CSM my head of department was Frank Bice-Michell, a well-known authority on tin processing, the man who brought froth flotation to the Cornish mines, and author of The Practice of Mineral Dressing, a book published in 1950. But it was my fellow mineral processing lecturer, Dr. Dave Osborne, who was to have a profound influence on my subsequent career.
Dave and I got on very well right from the start, and he told me that he was thinking of writing a mineral processing textbook to replace the then standard book Mineral Processing, a voluminous text by E.J. Pryor, published in 3rd edition in 1965. He had in mind a more practical book, aimed at students, and he asked me if I would like to be involved. Rather impetuously I agreed, and we then drew up a work plan and assigned ourselves to taking responsibility for various chapters.
All went well for the first few months, until Dave decided to leave CSM to take up an appointment with Anglo Coal in South Africa, and it soon became apparent that his responsibilities there would preclude him from carrying on with the book, although he did publish the well-received Coal Preparation Technology in 1988.
By this time I was involved with setting up the new degree course in Mineral Processing Technology at CSM, and there was incentive to produce a text for the course, so I took over Dave's chapters and pressed on with the book, which was accepted by Pergamon Press and published in 1979.
Expecting it to be essentially a set of bound course notes for the new degree I was surprised by the reception that it received internationally, and its publication opened many doors for me, including visiting lectureships in Australia, South Africa, Malaysia and India, which helped me build up a network of contacts. I was also asked to write the annual review of mineral processing for the Mining Journal's Mining Annual Review, a great aid to updating the book for the next 5 editions, published in 1981, 1985, 1988, 1992 and 1997.
By the time the 6th edition was published I had left CSM to set up MEI, so was in the same situation as Dave Osborne in the mid-1970s, with little incentive to updating the book with only infrequent access to library facilities. So the book languished in the 6th edition for several years, until the new publisher Butterworth-Heinemann suggested that we appoint an editor of high international repute, who might like to update the text to take into account the rapid changes which were taking place in mineral processing.
Mineral processors had now become increasingly specialised with many researchers having little interest in areas outside their narrow fields, so there were few people who could provide the holistic approach necessary for taking on the task. One that I knew could was the highly respected Prof. Tim Napier-Munn, who was then Director of Australia's JKMRC. I knew Tim well, and he agreed to updating the book, a 'one-off' with his strong team from the JKMRC. As I expected Tim's group did an excellent job and the 7th edition was published in 2006, followed by a Chinese translation in 2011.
With Tim and the Chinese and English editions
Fully expecting the 7th edition to be the last I was not quite ready for the request from the publisher for a new edition only five years later. I had one person in mind, my old friend Prof. Jim Finch, at McGill University, Canada, who very much to my surprise agreed to set up a team to completely update the book. Jim and his team have done a marvellous job and I am pleased that this completely revamped edition is scheduled to be launched at Flotation '15 in Cape Town in November. The book is now available for pre-order, and you can obtain a 30% discount by quoting the MEI Promotion Code ATR30.


  1. Last week, we were conducting a short course to Mineral Engn students of M.Tech in Mineral Engn at Andhra University. I am happy (proud) to let you know that your name and of your book came up so many times.
    I am sure many are looking forward for this New Edition.
    Best wishes,
    Tadimety Rao, India

    1. Thanks TC. Hard to believe it is now over 26 years since I taught your students at the Indian School of Mines

  2. Best mineral processing book around - a must for mining and minerals students! I'll be getting a new copy as soon as it's out.
    Luke Rogers, Deister Concentrator, UK

  3. Excellent firsthand textbook for anyone interested in mineral processing. Looking forward to new edition.

  4. Barry, good to read the history of the Book so much valued by students, teachers and practitioners.
    As usual, you are modest about yourself.
    The whole detail shows what passion and working together can achieve; particularly in mineral processing.
    Congratulation to you and colleagues some of whom I know personally(Tim) and others whom II respect.

  5. We refer to this book as "The Bible" in our lab - My 6th Edition version has been read, referenced and used by Junior Technicians, Senior Engineers, Project Managers and admin staff alike. This is a testament to the way in which the book was put together - anyone can pick up a copy and teach themselves the fundamentals of mineral processing.

    Thanks Barry and Jim for continuing to update this book - might be time for me to replace my well used 6th edition with a brand new, shiny 8th edition!

    Dave Middleditch
    Blue Coast Research, Parksville, Canada

  6. You are the best guys.Your book contain almost everything about mineral processing

  7. I first read this book around more than 20 yrs ago when I was a sophomore in univ. in China.
    So happy to see the continuous update of this excellent text book
    and hope that there will be more contents about chemical treating processing in future edition
    BTW, also hope more systmatic unit operation calculation which cneters around separation/concentration can be provided

    1. Many thanks for your kind comments. Regarding a future edition- I doubt it, the 8th will probably be the last


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