Monday, 2 November 2015

Prof. Alban Lynch interviews MEI's Barry Wills

Over the past couple of years it has been my privilege to interview some of the great names in mineral processing, two of these being Profs Alban Lynch and Tadimety Chakrapani (TC) Rao, famed amongst other things for their collaborative and pioneering work on hydrocyclone modelling. I was surprised and delighted to receive an email from TC a couple of months ago suggesting that Alban might interview me for the blog. This I regarded as a great honour, and I gratefully accepted the offer. Over the past few weeks Alban and I have been bouncing emails back and forth, and the interview is published below, with Alban’s text and questions italicised.
Ore dressing was the technology which underpinned the industrial revolution by producing mineral concentrates from which were made many metals. Excellent textbooks were published describing the principles and practice of ore dressing, for example by Peter von Rittinger (1867), Henry Louis (1894), Robert H Richards (1908), Samuel Truscott (1923), Arthur F Taggart (1927), and Antoine Gaudin (1939). We are greatly indebted to these outstanding authors. To that distinguished list I add the name of Barry Wills. During our interview I will discuss with Barry the unique contribution he has made to mineral processing, how it occurred, and invite him to speculate about the future.
Barry, you were born into a working class family in the Lancashire cotton-mill town of Ashton-under-Lyne, 6 miles from Manchester, in November 1945. Your sister Pat was born in 1949 and the family lived with maternal grandparents until 1950 when they moved into a council residence.

Barry with friends outside his grandparents back-street shop, with large display firework, November 1949
With sister Pat, parents and grandparents in Blackpool, 1952
From 1957 to 1963 you were educated at the Ashton-u-Lyne Grammar school where your interest in science led to academic grades which were suitable for university entrance.

Barry, middle front row, captain of Ashton Grammar Junior XI, 1958

You were almost 18 when you started your University course, was it easy to commit to a three year course of study when post school education must have been expensive and was not a family tradition?
None of my family had been fortunate to have had a University education, but my parents took a very keen interest in my education, and that of my younger sister, who also became a University graduate, in pharmacy. However I was personally reluctant to pursue higher education. I had a steady girlfriend, Barbara, and I had been working weekends as a freelance photographer (posting of 29 March 2013), and a full time position as photographer on the local newspaper was available to me on leaving school. In the end I compromised, and opted to study (physical) metallurgy at Leeds University, only 30 miles away, and to travel home each weekend to see Barbara and friends and to undertake photographic assignments to supplement my meagre student grant.     
Barry and Barbara (centre) partying with friends in Ashton, 1966

It seems that your choice of metallurgy was to some degree accidental but an aspect of it became your lifetime vocation. Were there other reasons to choose metallurgy?
I wanted to do something different to my peers, who were thinking of physics, chemistry or biology degrees, and metallurgy seemed a good option. It was certainly something that no-one else from the grammar school had ever studied before, and it looked quite interesting.   On graduating with upper second class honours I was offered the opportunity of staying on to do PhD research funded by ICI. This 3 years taught me two things- I did not want a career in physical metallurgy, nor in research! I had spent some time in my vacations working in steel works and foundries, and fancied trying production, so when the Zambian mining companies came to Leeds recruiting, I was very interested, particularly being attracted by the salary offered! Barbara and I had only recently been married, so the opportunity of a new life in an exciting continent was very attractive.
Graduation and wedding days, 1966 and 1967

The mining boom during 1960-1975 was similar to the 2003-2014 boom. Did it influence your plans for the future?
No, not at all. Unlike many of the people that I have interviewed for the blog, my family had no mining background at all, so I was unaware of any mining booms.

Your move to Zambia set up your future career. Would you discuss what was involved in making what was a serious change in your life?
The decision to take a job in Zambia turned out to be the most important of my life, but I was not aware of it at the time. Barbara and I went out to Zambia with our eyes wide shut, knowing nothing of what to expect, except that it sounded exciting, and a much better option than the jobs in the steel industry which most of my peers were taking (and which they lost a few years later with the demise of the British steel industry).

Southampton to Cape Town on the RMS Windsor Castle, September 1969
First night on the Copperbelt, in the Kitwe transit flat with new mining engineer Dave Moore

I remember my first day at Nchanga being taken around the concentrator, and seeing for the first time bubbles collecting minerals in large tanks, and huge (at that time) rotating drums grinding the ore. It was all completely alien to me at the time, and made me aware of something that I had always suspected- that the lecturer in extractive metallurgy at Leeds had obviously never seen a working concentrator, which highlighted in later years the benefit of industrial experience to a University lecturer.
The Nchanga ball mill circuit, now replaced by a single SAG-ball mill-cyclones circuit
 I spent two years in the Nchanga concentrator and two mainly on shift as part of the team commissioning the new tailings leach plant, probably the most valuable period in my career.
Shift work on the Nchanga leach-cementation plant, Stage 1 of the Tailings Leach Plant, 1972
The basic plant experience that I gained at Nchanga proved invaluable in my later career, where I could relate fundamental scientific innovation to eventual application, an awareness that is often sadly missing from many modern university lecturers who have had very little, if any, plant experience.

There must have been engineers at Nchanga who could discuss the link between innovation and application with you. I worked with similar people at Broken Hill. I think that they are now scarce. Does our industry value them?
With Nchanga fire brigade, 1973
The four years at Nchanga proved to be of vital importance for my future career, although I did not know this at the time, as I had no plans at that stage to pursue a career in mineral processing. I had no idea what I would do when my contract ended, and gave it very little thought. A career in the fire service was one option, as I had joined the Chingola auxiliary fire brigade and was enjoying being called out on sometimes quite dangerous assignments! I suppose at that time a hedonistic lifestyle was more important, and we enjoyed life to the full in Zambia, travelling, playing sports and socialising. The last thing on my mind at the time would have been sitting down with engineers to discuss the link between innovation and application.

In the Zambian bush with new friends, 1969

You had experience with hydrometallurgy in Zambia for two years from 1971 but the time had come to return to return to UK with your family. Mineral processing was fading in UK and you had to look for work in another area. Any comments on what you thought about the prospects which the change in your career would offer?
After Amanda's birth in Chingola, we decided that the time was right to return to UK, but the UK we returned to was very much different from the one that we had left in the 'swinging 60s' only 4 years previously. It was a time of austerity; high rates of inflation had forced Edward Heath's Conservative government to impose pay rise capping, which in turn led to unrest amongst the powerful trade unions, as wages could not keep up with prices. The National Union of Mineworkers had ordered its members to work to rule, a result of which was dwindling coal stocks at power stations, and associated power cuts. It was depressing, and was exacerbated by the fact that I did not have a job, and we were now living in Ashton again, and with my parents. I was desperate to find a job, but it was fairly obvious that I would have to find one in physical metallurgy, as the chance of finding something in mineral processing in the UK was remote. Eventually, however, I found what seemed to be a suitable position, as a senior development engineer at Johnson Matthey’s associated company Matthey Rustenberg Refiners, in Royston, Hertfordshire. It sounded ideal, as my position would involve research and development of the processing of platinum group metals (PGMs).      
Barry (right) with Johnson Matthey workmates, 1974
The job turned out to be tedious and unsatisfying however, but on one particularly dreary afternoon there occurred one of those chance moments which dramatically change the course of a life. While waiting for the hands on the clock to move interminably to five o’clock, I idly picked up an old copy of the Mining Journal, which was lying on one of the desks. I had never seen one before so I casually browsed through it. One thing caught my eye, an advert on the back page for a senior lecturer in mineral processing at the Camborne School of Mines in Cornwall. The deadline for applications was long gone so at first I thought little about it. Then I gave it more thought- what an ideal job this would be; I had never been to Cornwall, but knew that it was one of the best areas in Britain for scuba diving, and I had dived a few times in neighbouring Devon prior to leaving for Zambia. The School of Mines I had never heard of, but lecturing in mineral processing would be appealing. So thinking that I had little to lose, I sent off an application for the position, and to my surprise was offered an interview. A week or so later I was off on the long but impressive train journey to Cornwall, on the famous Great Western route from London to Penzance, which in part skirts the coastline of Devon.
I was interviewed by the Principal, Dr. Peter Hackett, and the Vice-Principal, Frank Bice-Michell, who was also head of mineral processing, and, as I discovered much later, a world authority on tin processing and gravity concentration, two things that I knew absolutely nothing about, and he had played a big part in the introduction of froth flotation into Cornwall! He came from a distinguished line of Cornish mining engineers, which extended back to the eighteenth century.
During the morning Mr. Michell (as he was always known to staff and students) showed me and the other candidate around the School’s laboratory facilities. The other candidate was Richard Burt, who I got to know well in later years. He worked for a local mining equipment supplier so was very knowledgeable about the various machines that we were shown, such as spirals and shaking tables, all new to me, so I did not rate my chances very high.
The interview went reasonably well. Thankfully Mr. Michell did not probe my limited knowledge of mineral processing, and Peter Hackett seemed more interested in my sporting prowess, particularly the fact that I had been coaching squash, a game that he played. I left Camborne feeling not too confident that I would be moving east to west, and in fact after several weeks had heard nothing from CSM regarding the interview, so I phoned them to ask if there was any news. Imagine our surprise and delight when a few days later I received a telegram from the registrar, followed by a letter, offering me the appointment of Senior Lecturer in the mineral processing department. Two months later the next stage of my career began in Cornwall.

From 1974 to 1996 you were Senior Lecturer at Camborne School of Mines (CSM). This period at CSM must have been very satisfying. Can you discuss why you flourished there?
 After only a few months at CSM I was captivated by the place, its reputation, its staff and its students, and Barbara and I were falling in love with this beautiful part of the world called Cornwall, with its mining history and stunning coast line. And finally, five years after leaving University, I knew that my life would be spent as a mineral processor.  
Crowns Engine Houses, Botallack, North Cornwall
Camborne had an international reputation as one of the world’s foremost mining schools for teaching mining engineers, who on graduating took their knowledge to all parts of the world, rather like the Cornish miners of the previous century when the tin and copper mines became uneconomic. Virtually all the staff had prior industrial experience, many like me on the Zambian Copperbelt. Research and publication of papers was of very low priority, but this was all to change in the 1990s as the school was absorbed into the University of Exeter (about the time that I decided to leave).
 I initially taught mineral processing to the mining students, but in 1976 the new degree course in mineral processing began, and having only just left Zambia, and remembering the value of shift work, I discussed with my mineral processing experimental officer, Tony Clarke, the possibility of linking up all the disparate pieces of equipment in the mineral processing laboratory to set up a working pilot plant which students could run 24 hours a day for a week, performing duties of shift foreman, operator, metallurgist, sampler and sample preparer. The circuit that Tony and I, and fellow lecturer Jim Turner, designed, involving rod and ball mills, spirals and shaking tables, and operating on ore donated by nearby South Crofty tin mine, was so successful that South Crofty adopted the circuit in later plant extensions. Of all the things that I did at Camborne, this is what I look back on with most pride, and would have been impossible without the enthusiasm of Tony Clarke, who still maintains that enthusiasm today having played a major role in the setting up of the early 20th century milling circuit at the excellent King Edward Mine Museum.
Mineral Processing students in the CSM Pilot plant, 1984, with the late Jim Turner (2nd right)
Falmouth 2015 with Tony Clarke and first CSM mineral processing
graduates Dave Dew and Pete Walsh 
Dave Osborne and Barry at
Minerals Engineering ’95, St. Ives, Cornwall
You asked why my career flourished at CSM. Two people had a profound influence on my life in the early days. Dr. Dave Osborne became a great friend despite the fact that he left CSM not long after my arrival, to go into the South African coal mining industry. Despite our brief time together at CSM, Dave undoubtedly had a profound influence on my career. He was planning to write a text book on mineral processing, and asked me if I would like to be a co-author, and rather foolishly, due to my as yet limited knowledge of the subject, I agreed. We split the proposed book into allocated chapters, and then I set to work, as well as trying to keep up with writing lecture notes for my new courses. A few months down the line it became obvious that, due to the pressures of his new job, he would not be able to continue, so I decided to go ahead alone, and three years later the 1st edition of Mineral Processing Technology came into being. The new Vice-Principal, Roger Parker, had a text book on pyrometallurgy in print, and had recommended my book to his publisher, Pergamon Press, owned by the notorious Robert Maxwell.     
The other person who influenced my career was the Principal, Dr. Peter Hackett, who recognised that my main talent was teaching rather than research, and interacting with people, so he gave me almost free reign to travel the world, meeting people (networking) at conferences and taking up visiting lectureships at Universities in Australia, South Africa, France, Malaysia and India. This allowed me to build up a large network of contacts which proved invaluable in my later career.  
With Dr. Peter Hackett during visit of H.M. Queen Elizabeth to CSM, 1980

In 1978 you published Mineral Processing Technology: An Introduction to the Practical Aspects of Ore Treatment and Mineral Recovery. This book is now into its 8th edition and its sales show no sign of flagging. The new edition every 5 years puts it into the best seller category. To what do you attribute this great success?                                                                  
Looking back 40 years to when I began writing the 1st edition, this was essentially a book aimed at students of the new BEng course in Mineral Processing Technology at Camborne. My knowledge of mineral processing at the time was fairly rudimentary, so out of necessity the text was fairly simple and clear, but this proved to be a winning formula, and I have tried to ensure that this clarity be maintained in subsequent editions. Although essentially aimed at mineral processing students, the book has been used on mines around the world to give mining engineers, chemists etc a basic grounding in mineral processing. There are many specialised books available for those who wish to dig deeper into the subject.

In 1988 Pergamon discussed with you the feasibility of publishing a journal concerned with Minerals Engineering. The result was to establish it with you as editor. Would you like to comment on this assignment?
 Although I was never seriously involved with research, in the mid-1980s I became interested in the thermally assisted liberation of ores, in collaboration with Birmingham University’s Dr. Terry Veasey, an extension of my earlier PhD work with ICI on the thermal fatigue of reformer tubes. However I became frustrated by the inordinate length of time that it took to have papers reviewed in the then main mineral processing journals, IJMP and Trans. IMM Section C. There was obviously the need for a journal which could offer rapid publication and the success of my book led me to convince Pergamon that a new peer reviewed journal in mineral processing might be a good idea, and in 1988 I started my long association with Minerals Engineering. There were many obstacles to overcome in establishing the journal, which celebrated its silver jubilee two years ago, and I described these at length in the blog posting of 8th January 2013.

In 1996 you resigned from CSM and set up MEI. As a successful author you had experience with publishing but as an independent, self-funded operator you must have learnt quickly about many other aspects of the business. Any comments?
 Initially, on leaving CSM after 22 years, I worked with CSM Associates on the organisation of annual Minerals Engineering conferences. CSM Associates was the consultancy wing of Camborne School of Mines, and was modelled on the very successful JKMRC. MEI was launched in January 1999, initially just me and Amanda, who was finishing her PhD in Chemical Engineering at Birmingham University. Jon joined us in 2003.
The first photo of the MEI team, Falmouth 2003
Amanda was instrumental in setting up the MEI Online website which has grown to be the world’s largest source of mineral processing and extractive metallurgy news. Jon’s people skills have proved invaluable in attracting sponsors to MEI Online and to the MEI Conferences. I must acknowledge their contribution to the success of MEI, and my award of the Distinguished Service Award received at the IMPC last year I accepted on behalf of the family team, including Barbara, who has supported me in everything that I have done over the last half century.
With the IMPC Award in Chile with IJMP editor Prof. Mauricio Torem
and IMPC Chairman Prof. Cyril O’Connor

20 years at CSM give you the authority to comment on our current mineral technology education system. Your comments in 1966 when you finished the course at Leeds were ‘The lecturers at Leeds were, with a few exceptions, not particularly inspiring. It was fairly obvious that to be a good, inspirational lecturer required a combination of enthusiasm, confidence and deep knowledge of the subject’. High quality mineral courses are being abandoned because student numbers are small and they do not fit the modern university which emphasise large numbers. Should courses for the mineral industry have different standards to other courses for evaluation?
 I agree that the era of the mineral processing first degree course may be over. I was saddened to hear of the demise of the BEng course at Camborne, as I helped set it up, but I was astounded by the decision to end the 1-year MSc course. Such courses have great value in taking graduates with degrees in chemical engineering, metallurgy and related subjects and giving them a basic grounding in minerals engineering. I would have benefited enormously from such a course before leaving for Zambia.

You have unrivalled experience of mineral technology. What problems do you see ahead as we cope with declining grades and rising tonnages of metal ores?
Everyone is aware that ore grades must decline, and ores become more difficult to treat, as we cherry pick the easiest ores first. We must not forget that mineral processing is used to concentrate metallic ores prior to energy intensive extractive metallurgy, but the energy involved in concentration is also increasing, particularly in comminution. Comminution is evolving fast, as the rod mill-ball mill circuits of the 20th century are being replaced by HPGR and SAG mills and stirred mills, the latter being unheard of in the mineral processing industry a few decades ago. Initially designed for ultrafine grinding, the upper size limit for feeds to stirred mills is now being pushed higher, so that in the future we may see comminution circuits involving only cone crushers, HPGRs and stirred mills, and the SAG mill may become a thing of the past.
 Comminution energy consumption is an obvious concern and it is becoming apparent that reducing the load to the circuit will be of paramount importance, and that there will be an increasing role for electronic sorting within the circuit, scalping off low value rock. Due to the development of multiple sensors and rapid computing this will be a major feature in future circuits, as will coarse flotation in devices such as the Eriez Hydrofloat Separator. And in flotation the multiple banks of small flotation cells are being replaced by ever larger flotation machines.
 It may be, however, looking further into the future, that there will become a time when the concentration of very finely disseminated and complex ores becomes practically impossible, and where direct smelting or in-situ leaching might be the only solutions. The Warner Process is waiting in the wings for complex sulphide ores, but in-situ leaching might be the answer for ores where the values can be solubilised. I discussed this on the blog on 3rd June 2013. The problems with in-situ leaching might be as much social as technical, however. There has been much opposition in the UK to ‘fracking’ to release gas from shales, by pumping relatively benign liquids into fractures. So imagine the outcry if acids (and cyanide!) were to be pumped underground into fractures (or bacteria in the case of in-situ bioleaching).

USBM has gone, do we have the right research structure to solve these problems?
 USBM closed in 1996 after 86 years in operation. I feel that the days of the big centralised research organisation are drawing to a close. I hear that many of those still in operation are finding things difficult. Future research is likely to be collaboration between disparate organisations. A good example of this is the recently formed Global Comminution Collaboration, which identifies comminution research needs and unifies the approach to working on these needs. Six institutes are involved with this, Australia's JKMRC, the University of Rio de Janeiro, Sweden's Chalmers University, the University of Cape Town, Germany's Technische Universitat Braunschweig, and Turkey's Haceteppe University.

Unfortunately we must finish this fascinating interview. I have two final questions
• For years you have contributed superbly well to the task of transferring our experience to the next generation with your book, journal, blog, and the conference series. Can we do better?
• What does the future hold for you?
Whether we can do better is dependent on the next generation as you suggest. China is undoubtedly going to play a big part in the next generation. Chinese research capabilities and resources have grown rapidly with the Chinese economy in the past three decades. There are now over 30 Universities and colleges teaching mineral processing, and more than 20 research institutes dedicated to mineral processing, with the largest number of students, teachers and researchers in the world, so there are great opportunities for international collaboration. Around 40% of all papers submitted to Minerals Engineering in 2014 were from China, and the number of delegates from China attending international conferences is on the increase. What is encouraging is how young and vibrant these people are. They are a pleasure to work with and they are keen to network with western delegates. They have fresh ideas and both east and west can benefit from this interaction.

In contrast to China, most of the minerals engineering programmes in western universities have died or are dying, while the technical challenges of designing and operating effective process plants are increasing, such that the ability to run efficient mineral processing operations has been severely compromised. I don't have an answer to how we might encourage more young people into our industry, the Institutes and the IMPC must take a lead here, and are doing so, but while quantity may be a problem, my perception is that the quality of young metallurgists and researchers graduating into the industry has improved markedly.  Little over a decade ago many post-graduate students presenting their work at international conferences lacked confidence and looked to their supervisors to respond to difficult questions from the audience. Now, however, there is an authority to their presentations, and the manner of their handling of discussions shows a real depth of knowledge of their work and this is a cause for optimism for the future.
Looking back on my now long career in mineral processing, the serendipitous way that a career develops is evident. I never planned my career, but if there is one message that I have learned and that I can pass on to young people it is to talk to, and get to know as many people as possible. The more you do this the greater the likelihood of opportunities arising, and when they do don’t be afraid of taking advantage of them.
 As to my future, I have no plans to retire, but realistically I know that I will not be a part of MEI or Minerals Engineering journal for ever, so the succession is already slowly taking place. I now have a very capable associate editor, Dr. Pablo Brito-Parada, of Imperial College, and he is a pleasure to work with. Amanda and Jon have been taking over some of my MEI duties, leaving me free to act more in a journalistic role. It is ironic that I began my career over 50 years ago as a photojournalist, and now the circle has fully turned, although now I am privileged to travel around reporting on and photographing events, people and innovations in the wonderful world of mineral processing, and of course my beloved Cornwall.

Barry, I also was an accidental participant in mineral processing, a few years before you. So I speak with authority when I say how much I admire your contribution to recording its social and technical development during 50 years. Thank you for the opportunity for such a memorable conversation.   
 And thank you Alban (and TC) for instigating this, which was a very pleasant surprise, and a great honour to be interviewed by a man of such stature in the industry.

More conversations


  1. Great interview, it is a privilege to read of your career, and how your decisions turned out for you. You are an inspiration, Barry!

    1. Thanks Frank. The decision to dip into the minerals industry was the best one. Hope to catch up with you soon

  2. Great interview! Loved the photos and your memories of CSM. Very interesting read.

    1. Great days at CSM, Linda. A big decision and a great wrench to leave in 1996

  3. Amazing interview, but I would have expected no less from two of my favourite people.

  4. Professionally I knew Barry since ’79 through his article on hydrocyclones. He is known for his
    transparency in his news and review blogs at MEI. He kept himself
    abreast of the past and present of the happenings/developments in
    mineral processing and let others know of these developments. By his
    unfailing efforts through his book ‘Mineral Processing Technology’, as
    Editor of ‘Minerals Engineering’ and through the MEI annual thematic
    conferences Barry created Global identity to Mineral Processing.

    I was always curious to know early and formative years of Barry
    Wills. I am personally grateful to Dr. Lynch and Dr. TC Rao (my Guru) for this blog. Barry’s
    contribution to the mineral processing fraternity will be remembered
    by future generations. I admire Barry. Will post detailed comment some time later.


  5. What a great article!! - and Yes, indeed a privilege to read (a tribute to both the interviewer and interviewee) - but more so, that you have spent your time in the minerals industry and contributed so richly, - not underestimating Barbara's role and the support from the rest of your family !
    I missed the story of you and Barbara driving from CapeTown to Nchanga in your red MG though - and the also the famous Nchanga rugby team photo - with Sandy Lambert also in it!!

    1. Thanks Dee. Actually it was a white Triumph Spitfire. See you in Cape Town in a couple of weeks

  6. Dear Dr. Lynch
    Hmm... going through the interview it seems I was really sitting beside you and Dr. Barry. Though I met Dr.Barry in India during IMPC. Well for me the story does not end so early.
    It is so good and inspiring to know about Dr. Barry as well as Mineral Processing origin.
    Thanks a lot to bring the chapter but I hope another editions still to come
    Rama Murthy

  7. Thanks for this very interesting interview! It is very detailed account of your history in the industry.
    I loved all the photos. I was especially surprised to see the Mineral Processing "Class of 85" who LOVED running your Pilot Plant in 1984.

    1. I think you supplied me with that photo, Gaynor. I also greatly enjoyed the pilot plant runs, and great pity to see all that equipment scattered in various disparate labs in Cornwall now

  8. Thanks for bringing the real facts through an inspiring interview with an iconic figure like Prof Alban Lynch. In fact, I met him personally in the month of June, this year at Brisbane to get myself energized. The narrations you placed on the blog, could form a firm footing to the youngsters to shape up as complete Mineral Engineers. The sequence of accomplishments through the conversations, in which Prof Lynch and you made, prompted me to read it again and again and again several times, rather emotionally.

    Both Prof Lynch and Prof T C Rao (Teacher and the Student) have left a legendary footprints in the field of mineral engineering, which undoubtedly will take many more decades to forget. The manner in which Prof Lynch has interviewed is very touchy and convincing. I appreciate your valuable comments, the walkways around mineral industry and lot more experiences through which you learnt Mineral Engineering, and also to place frankly on the blog.

    The most interesting part and in fact, a silent message you have left on the blog which I liked it very much is; Mrs. Barbara Wills, who had been a supportive wife to you, is always there behind ‘your success’ in one or the other way. I thank you once again.
    With warm regards
    Prof Nikkam Suresh, Professor of Mineral Engineering, Department of Fuel & Mineral Engineering, Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad

    1. Many thanks Nikkam, and all the best for Indian SOM. I will never forget the time I spent there in the late 1980s with TC Rao

  9. Well Barry, it has been a good time since I was in your 1981 graduating class, and your enthusiasm remains a credit to our industry.
    As Linda said, great photos.
    Oh the days (and nights) of Pilot plant operation, as an introduction to the plants we now operate.

    1. Thanks Trevor. A while since I last caught up with you- Flotation '11? I assume you are still in Canada

  10. Wonderful piece Barry and Alban. I wonder just how many of us kind of fell into mineral processing. Like you i wonder about our profession and education path ways in the future. Like you when i graduated from the School of Mines in Kalgoorlie in 1969, our big adventure, being just married, was off to Bougainville and for a young engineer that was a wonderful experience.
    Thank you both
    Brian Rear

    1. I would bet that you never regretted your Bougainville experience, Brian.

  11. Thanks Dr. Prof alban & Dr. Tc rao sirs to conveyed us about Dr.B.A wills sir. It was really very inyersting part to knowing about all greater peoples in Mineral Processing. Sharing their experience , the way they fallen into mineral processing field and facing problems, what not, all things might be interesting and will be inspiration for all young Mineral Engineers.
    Thanks a lot
    T Trinadha Rao.

  12. Wonderful interview, interesting to read. When Dr. Barry Wills was at Indian School of Mines, we shared the sitting room in the Department of Mineral Engineering ( Thanks to Prof. T. C. Rao, the then Head of the Department). As an young faculty, I found him to be very jovial. I also remember that we organised a trip to near by place (Mithon Dam) along with students and played cricket. It was an wonderful experience.

    Thanks for rekindling the memories.

    Dr. N. R. Mandre
    Prof. and Head, Dept. of Mineral Engineering, Indian School of Mines Dhanbad India

    1. I remember the trip to the dam and the cricket match. There is a photo on the posting of 12 November 2009

  13. Personally i rate this interview as a model interview in mineral engineering . This facts discussed is worth reading for every mineral processing engineer in general and to mineral engineering academic fraternity in particular. The combination of Iconic stature personality like Prof Lynch and his disciple Indian Mineral engineering Guru Prof. TCRao with renowned Prof Barry Wills and their discussions are invaluable asset to present day young mineral engineers.

  14. During visit of Dr. Barry to ISM Dhanbad, I was just 1 year old but now I am serving Mineral Engineering Department as faculty. Our senior faculties were really lucky to meet you (Dr. Barry) during your 1980s visit. However, I can feel you through your book and MEI Blog. I am very small person to appreciate your contribution to Mineral Engineering but I can confidently say that you brought mineral engineering world together.
    I heard a lot about you from my oldest GURU (teacher) Prof. T C Rao, whom I could meet many a times and enlightened my ideas.
    Thanks to Dr. Alban, Dr. Barry and Dr. Rao to enhance my learnings about Dr. Barry through this interview.

    With kind regards,
    Dr. Shravan Kumar, Assistant Professor, Department of Fuel and Mineral Engineering, Indian School of Mines Dhanbad, India.

  15. I remember Gaynor and Trevor (via their replies, and Nidal in the photo of H.M. The Queen's visit, 1980), and many of the other students that made 'Pilot Plant Runs' such a valuable addition to the MinPro curriculum at CSM. The change in their confidence by the end of the week was something special to behold, and the source of a lot of satisfaction.
    One point in respect of KEM. Actually, a very great deal of the setting-up at KEM, and the putting back of the Californian stamps etc. into working condition had been done before I joined the volunteers, largely under the influence of Tony Brooks and indomitable and hard-working people like Frank Kneebone, of Newquay, and a number of others.
    What we have done since has contributed to the rebuilding of pieces of equipment needing extensive repairs, and the re-vamping of many of the working exhibits, with additions to the displays of items that are useful for school visits etc.
    Hope to see you on the 19th, when I'll give you a disc with all the Pilot Plant photos that I have managed to dig up, arranged in chronological order (to the best of my ability).
    Tony Clarke, KEM Museum, Camborne

    1. Thanks Tony. Look forward to receiving the photos. I will miss the next sundowner as will be in Cape Town, but hope to make it in December

  16. As students of Mineral Processing at Nandihalli, we were used to study the books of Prof TC Rao in the beginning followed by a simple versatile text book of Mineral Processing by Prof Wills and others followed by Books by Prof Lynch. We are fortunate to see the passionate discussions between Prof Lynch and Prof Wills. Going through the comments by ISM professors, now we understand how Indian Mineral engineering professionals were blessed by above Iconic trio Mineral engineering professors like Prof Lynch, Prof TCRao, Prof Wills and IIME. The above blog will certainly motivate us to take small but determined steps in the path already directed by Prof Lynch - Prof Rao and Prof Wills.
    Some PG and Research Students,
    Mineral Processing Department,
    VSKU PG Centre, Nandihalli

  17. I have met Prof. Wills twice, once in my plant where I was working in India and the next time in his office at CSM. On both occasions I was able to discern his interest in explaining & disseminating information which he seemed to have on the topic being discussed. He never tried to hold back. The true mark of a teacher.In the pages of his blog he has tried to create interest in a similar fashion and generate a discussion so that the concepts become clear and the applications understood. At least I can say for myself that even after being in the industry for over 40 years I have learnt a lot from these exchanges. I have a copy of his text book on mineral processing and refer to it from time to time to revise my concepts when in doubt. It was really interesting to learn how it all began. It is indeed amazing to know that he had no intention to be what he eventually became. Anyway it resulted in great benefit for the profession which he has promoted and taken to great heights. I hope and trust he will keep challenging us to respond to various intriguing processing issues through his blog.

    Arabinda Bandyopadhyay ( Bandyo), CDE Asia Ltd, India

    1. Many thanks for your kind comments, Bandyo. I remember seeing you in India, but not at CSM- must have been some time ago!

  18. Prof Nikkam Suresh, ISM-Dhanbad23 November 2015 at 07:48

    Mineral Industry’s Business Model

    1. Today, the business models which people apply to manufacturing/service sectors etc., should not be applied to mineral industry because mineral resources are nation’s natural assets and belong to everyone. These resources are finite/site specific (country’s)/non-renewable and also non-perishable. Therefore, the concerned governments (country’s) must frame their policies, conservation rules such that diligent exploitation should take priority. As other educational/health sectors etc., get special status, mineral industry should also get special support.

    2. The universities should judge the performances of the mineral oriented departments with different yardsticks. International papers/patents should not be the main criterion in promotions etc.

    3. The intensity of interaction and contribution towards better practices of mineral exploitation are to be given more importance.

    4. May be special incentive packages are required to both teachers and students to make the profession more attractive.
    In Summary:
    a. Should one look at mineral industry as different from others?
    b. Is it proper for Academic Institutes to use the same yardsticks in evaluating teacher/student/departments performance as they use for other Depts.
    c. What kind of incentives have to be built into the system so that
    mineral industry gets its unique stature.

    Prof Nikkam Suresh
    Professor of Mineral Engineering
    Department of Fuel & Mineral Engineering
    Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad-826004

  19. Very interesting and relevant issues, Dr.Nickam
    I fully endorse a view that our industry is different and we have to put across this point very effectively.
    I am looking forward to comments from others.

  20. Bary,
    During your long years of attending most of the events related to mineral processing, you must have listened and talked to many students,researchers,teaching faculty. people working in industry apart from many decision makers on the issues raised by Prof.Nickam.
    I personally feel you may kindly make your remarks to start to get other's views..


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