Sunday, 27 December 2015

2015 with MEI

At the beginning of the year I looked forward to 2015 with optimism (posting of 1st January), hoping that the fortunes of the industry would take a turn for the better. My hopes were ill-founded, however, as this year was probably the worst that I can remember in terms of commodity prices- but more of that in my 2016 New Year posting.
The major conferences seemed to be little affected by the depression, the SME Annual Meeting reporting record numbers of exhibit booths and MEI's Flotation '15 being the most successful in the series, with record numbers of sponsors, exhibitors and papers. It is obvious that in difficult times people need to come together to discuss common problems.
Iceland had long been on top of my list of places to visit, as its geology is unique and of great interest, the island lying on the divergent boundary between the Eurasian plate and the North American plate. Many of the delegates who attended Comminution '10 will not forget that in 2010, a volcano in Eyjafjallajökull in the south of Iceland erupted for the first time since 1821.  The eruptions on 14th April forced hundreds of people to abandon their homes and the resultant cloud of volcanic ash brought major disruption to air travel across Europe, leaving Amanda, Jon and European delegates stranded for a week in Cape Town.
So in early January Barbara and I took off for 4 memorable nights in Iceland (posting of 22nd January), with some wonderful scenery around Eyjafjallajökull and the impressive waterfalls fed by its melt water.
Walking in the cold, with Eyjafjallajökull in the background
Skogarfoss waterfall, fed from the melt-water of Eyjafjallajökull

In February we spent 10 nights in the Colorado Rockies in the old mining town of Breckenridge (posting of 12th February), acclimatising with some great skiing at altitude, before descending to nearby Denver for the SME Annual Meeting.
As always the SME Meeting proved to be a great networking event, with a large turnout of over 7800 delegates. I always look forward to wandering round the huge exhibition, bumping into old friends, and often catching up with people who I have not seen for years. I look forward to the next one in Phoenix in February.
With old friends Donna and John Starkey, and Spencer Reeves at the Starkey & Associates booth
In March Barbara and I were privileged to be invited to the reunion of Camborne School of Mines' class of 1980, which was held at Falmouth's beautiful The Cove restaurant.
 The following night we were at the Falmouth Hotel, for the CSM Annual dinner, attended by around 250 past and present students and staff of CSM. Past students had flown in from all over the globe, from as far as Australia, for what is always a great occasion.
With Ray and Sally Manser. Ray was my PhD student in the mid 1980s
Although Cornwall's metal mines are now distant memories, there is much activity in the county, much of it on the site of the Wheal Jane mine near Truro. In March I called in to the Wardell Armstrong International Laboratories to see the installation of a SAGDesign test mill from Comminution '16 sponsors Starkey & Associates of Canada. Jenna Hedderson of S&A, on her first trip to Europe, had spent a week commission the mill with process engineer Ben Simpson.  
With Jenna and Ben
A reminder of Cornwall's industrial past was provided by the BBC with their adaptation of Winston Graham's Poldark novels, set in 18th century Cornwall.  The series had a huge following, due in large part to the glorious Cornish coastal scenery, and location managers couldn’t resist the rich mining heritage of the stretch of west Cornwall coast linking Botallack and Levant (see posting of 2nd October 2014).
West Wheal Owles, one of the Poldark series locations
This was just one of the areas that we hiked during the year, never tiring of the wonderful coastal path.
Below the Wheal Coates pumping engine house near St. Agnes
The rugged cliffs between Perranporth and St. Agnes
The first of MEI's five conferences in 2015 were held in May, Precious Metals '15 followed by Nickel Processing '15. As precious metals and nickel had suffered badly in the mining downturn it was not surprising that these conferences had a particularly low turnout, 29 for Precious Metals and 27 for Nickel. Nevertheless delegates were treated to some fine presentations, and the small numbers provided highly focused networking opportunities in the conference itself and at the local hostelries!

Relaxing with Precious Metals '15 delegates at Falmouth's historic Chain Locker pub
It was good to see Corby Anderson, from that other CSM, the Colorado School of Mines, attending his first MEI Conferences in Falmouth, and to entertain him, Ian Townsend of Outotec, and his wife Pat, this probably being Ian's last appearance at one of these events, as he retired later in the year.
With Corby, Pat and Ian at our home in Falmouth
After a brief break, two more MEI events in Falmouth in June, the very specialised Computational Modelling '15, now with a loyal following, and the ever popular Physical Separation '15 with an ever widening following, it being good this year to welcome a large delegation from the Chinese University of Mining Technology. 
 Again, a great week of networking, including a visit to the King Edward Mine Museum in Camborne for Physical Separation delegates.
Back at the Chain Locker!
At the KEM Museum
Successful conferences are dependent not only on quality papers, but on a fine venue and social events which bring people together. The SAIMM's Copper Cobalt Africa '15 conference in July had all these qualities in abundance.  Set on the Zambian side of the magnificent Victoria Falls, we have treasured memories of stunning African sunsets both on the banks of, and cruising on, the Zambezi River and a memorable close up view of the Falls on Livingstone Island in the middle of the river with Corby Anderson and Ian Townsend.

Livingstone Island with Corby Anderson and Ian Townsend

A close-up view of the Falls from Livingstone Island
And then the icing on the cake!  Following the conference we spent another couple of days at the conference hotel; we walked across the border into Zimbabwe, and also had a memorable day in Chobe in Botswana in what is, in my humble opinion, Africa's greatest National Park.

In September I was privileged to be invited to the official opening ceremony for the Drakelands tungsten-tin mine at Hemerdon in neighbouring Devon. Prior to that I joined the tour of the processing plant organised for media and brokers. Due to the high density of wolframite and the by-product cassiterite, gravity concentration dominates the flowsheet, DMS cyclones, spirals and shaking tables producing a combined W-Sn concentrate, from which arsenopyrite is removed by froth flotation.
 And then I was off to Vancouver for Semi-Autogenous and High Pressure Grinding Technology (SAG '15), a very different conference to my last event in Zambia, rather dour, and very intensive with presentations over 4 days starting at eight in the morning and finishing between 6.30 and 8.20 in the evening with only short breaks for coffee and food- even the conference dinner was held in the main conference room.  Nevertheless, with over 650 delegates I found SAG '15 to be a very rewarding event and despite the very short breaks between sessions I managed to make a lot of new contacts and catch up with many familiar ones.

In October it was Amanda's turn to represent MEI at a very enjoyable event, the 21st International Biohydrometallurgy Symposium (IBS 2015), in Bali, Indonesia. 
Amanda with IBS delegates

Barrie and Jan Johnson with traditional Balinese dancers
Amanda had a great time in Bali, and made many news friends, and we hope to see some of them at Biohydromet '16 in June.

In November the whole MEI team, including Jon's partner Kathryn, and their daughter Josephine, were in Cape Town for what turned out to be our most successful conference ever, despite the deep recession.  Flotation '15 attracted a record number of sponsors, exhibitors and papers and the four days provided great networking at the beautiful Vineyard Hotel, and at Kirstensbosch Botanical Gardens for the informal dinner.
MEI at the Vineyard
The Flotation conferences now have a loyal nucleus, which is continuing to grow. Dee Bradshaw calls it the 'flotation tribe'.  It is really good to see people who have attended a conference for the first time returning two years later with their families.
A great family atmosphere at one of the Happy Hours
Young people are encouraged to present their work at MEI Conferences, both in oral and poster presentations, and one of my most pleasant duties at the conference was presenting the 2014 MEI Young Person's Award to Elizabeth Whiteman, of Xstrata Process Support, Canada. Elizabeth then acted, along with 2011 Award winner Peter Amelunxen, as judge for the best student poster presentations.  As the 8th edition of Mineral Processing Technology had just been released, and my co-author Jim Finch was at the conference, Jim and I were pleased to be able to sign copies of the book as prizes for Yanhong Wang, of the University of Queensland and Kaiqi Jiang of the University of Newcastle, Australia.

Poster prize winners Yanhong and Kaiqi
It had been a hot and sunny week in Cape Town, but Friday morning following the conference dawned wet and cold and only 10 delegates braved the rain to join me, Amanda and Jon on our hike up Table Mountain via Platteklip Gorge. A pity, as the cold conditions made the hike relatively easy, and it was strange to arrive at the top of the mountain and head for the deserted café for hot chocolate and coffees, rather than our customary ice-cold drinks.
At the end of a great week, Amanda returned to her family in Cornwall, while Jon, Kathryn and Josephine based themselves at the Cape Town Waterfront for a week, and Barbara and I spent the week in the Winelands, based at the wonderful Diemersfontein Wine Estate at Wellington.
Jon, Kathryn and Josephine at the Cape of Good Hope
Diemersfontein Wine Estate

The Manor House, Diemersfontein
And so back to the UK, and after a get-together with friends and family to celebrate my 70th birthday, Barbara and I took the long train journey west to east to the beautiful University city of Cambridge, for our last event of the year, an enjoyable 2-day conference at Trinity Hall, organised by IOM3 in honour of Prof. Derek Fray.
Trinity Hall, Cambridge
Conference dinner with Mari Lundstörm, Stephen Neethling and Nick Wilshaw
So another year ends, and all that remains now is for me to wish you all, on behalf of all of us at MEI, a very pleasant festive season and a happy and prosperous 2016.

Christmas Day with the MEI family

1 comment:

  1. Nice summary of the events of the year, Barry.
    I am also an optimist and I hope we learnt a few lessons from this dip in commodity prices; I hope companies used this time to work out new technical and commercial strtegies so that exploration to mining to mineral processing to metal extraction becomes more cost effective with necessary environmental care.
    Let us all wish a busy new era for Mineral Industry.
    Barry, you please keep the spirits(all kinds) going in the positive direction


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