Sunday, 28 February 2016

SME '16 Conference Diary

It is six years since the last Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (SME) Annual Meeting was held in Phoenix. This was my 3rd SME in what is not my favourite American downtown, my first visit being back in 1988.
As I stress each year, the SME Meeting means different things to different people. For me it is one of the industry's great meeting places, with great networking opportunities. I forsake the technical sessions, so this report is really my diary of my wanderings, mainly around the exhibition area, seeking out familiar and new faces. Mineral processing is but a small part of the overall event, but is the area that I will concentrate on, and I really would appreciate the personal views of all who read this and attended the meeting.
Sunday 21st February
As always the SME got underway with a late afternoon reception in the exhibition area. And as always the huge exhibition was dominated on entry by the large displays of MEI Conferences sponsors FLSmidth and Metso. There were 844 booths this year, down on last year's 906, but not surprising considering the depressed state of the industry.
My first port of call was to the booth of International Mining, the highly respected UK trade journal which is a media partner for all MEI Conferences. Good to chat with John Chadwick and his team of Phil Playle, Robert Warren, Paul Moore, and Kevin Laphem.
Phil, Robert, Paul, John and Kevin
Also good to talk to Chris Martin, a regular at the SME, who will also be exhibiting his RSG Inc company at Comminution '16 in Cape Town in April. RSG has just sold its largest ufg-mill to date. The ufg500 is a 500 HP (375 kw) dry media mill, designed for ultrafine dry grinding of industrial minerals, cements, lime and ashes. This ufg500 coupled with the ACS-300TD air classifier will produce 15 tph of 45 micron power station ash. The milled ash is used as a cement pozzolan and reduces the necessity of land filling waste ash.
A couple of weeks' ago I was at the African Mining Indaba conference in Cape Town, where very little technology was on display. Very much different from SME where some very large pieces of machinery were on show, no more so than the huge filter press of the Tons per Hour company:
And the massive Derrick Corporation urethane screens:
Lovely to see Ron and Elspeth Woods, who I last saw at Flotation '07 in Cape Town. Ron and Elspeth have come over from Brisbane, where Ron is an eminent professor of flotation chemistry at Griffith University. Tomorrow afternoon he will present the Antoine Gaudin Memorial Lecture, and receive the prestigious Gaudin Award for his outstanding contributions to advancing the chemistry of flotation of sulfide minerals and precious metals. Ron and Elspeth are pictured below with Matthew Jeffrey, director of metallurgical technology at Newmont Mining Corporation, USA, and his wife Marianne.
Marianne, Matthew, Ron and Elspeth
Ron has kindly agreed to be interviewed for MEI's conversations series, as has Diana Drinkwater, who I caught up with at the Outotec stand, talking to Ben Murphy, who was one of her students at the University of Queensland in 1998. 
Formerly with the JKTech, Diana has recently joined the Mineralis Consulting group based in Brisbane, with expertise in operational effectiveness, due diligence, technical support and professional development. The group includes her old Mount Isa colleagues Joe Pease, Peter Munro and Bill Johnson among others. Diana has a particular interest in developing and delivering education and technology transfer programs for early-career mineral processing professionals. In 2013 she was the first female member appointed to the International Mineral Processing Council (IMPC), and she is currently chair of the IMPC Education Commission. She is an elected director of the Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM) and was chair of the AusIMM Metallurgical Society from 2012 to 2015.
Finally I stopped by the Starkey & Associates booth to see John Starkey and Spencer Reeves, who will be representing the company as sponsors of Comminution '16 in Cape Town. Also good to see Jenna Hedderson, who I last saw in Cornwall last March, where she was commissioning the S&A SAGDesign test mill at Wardell Armstrong International, near Truro.
Well known for his work on SAG mill design, I congratulated John on having a symposium named in his honour. The Starkey International Symposium on Sustainable Mineral Processing will be held in China in November, honouring his distinguished work and lifetime achievements.
Photographed below in the Starkey booth are Spencer and Jenna and on the far right John, next to Jessica Neumann of Freeport-McMoRan, USA. In the centre are three students from Queen's University, Canada, Spencer's alma mater.

Monday 22nd February
A long and interesting day with a few surprises.
As the exhibition did not open until 11am, I looked in at the Bookstore, and met my old friend Dave Osborne, who was buying a copy of Mineral Processing Technology.

It is 19 years since I last saw Dave, who played a big part in getting the 1st edition of Mineral Processing Technology off the ground in the mid 1970s (posting of 10 August 2015).

Dave is the 2015 recipient of the SME's Frank F. Aplan Award, for the development and application of coal preparation technologies, dissemination of knowledge through book publication, and maintaining a key global network of coal industry professionals. The award will be presented at the SME 2016 banquet on Wednesday, which unfortunately I will miss as I will be on the plane back to UK at that time.

Since leaving the Camborne School of Mines in 1975 Dave has become a truly global person; although UK born he has become an adopted citizen of Australia and Canada also with permanent resident status of South Africa. He is currently Research and Technology Director with Somerset International Australia, a recently formed company he has helped to establish that is striving to find solutions for fine coal recovery and beneficiation.
Dave introduced me to two of North America's leading coal preparation engineers, Peter Bethell, of Cardno, USA and Barbara Arnold of PrepTech Inc, USA. Barbara has recently been nominated for the 2018 Presidency of the SME.
Peter, Barbara and Dave
Two book signings were taking place in the bookstore. Scott Dunbar, of University of British Columbia, who I last met at Biohydromet '12 in Falmouth, was signing copies of his book How Mining Works, and Deepak Malhotra, of Resource Development Inc., was doing likewise with his book Plant Auditing: A Powerful Tool for Improving Metallurgical Plant Performance.
On the way to the exhibition I met two well known biohydrometallurgists, Corale and Jim Brierley (posting of 27 August 2014).
Corale is my specialist biohydrometallurgist on the Editorial Board of Minerals Engineering, and Jim is a regular reviewer. I am hoping to see them again in Falmouth in June for Biohydromet '16.
International microscope company Carl Zeiss, sponsors of Comminution '16 and Process Mineralogy '17, exhibited at African Mining Indaba earlier in the month, the difference being that at SME an array of microscopes was on display, including its optical microscope portfolio and the new mine site automated mineralogy solution, MinSCAN. This is a ruggedized SEM based on the Mineralogic Mining software platform that was launched in summer 2014. MinSCAN has been operational at Kansanshi Mine in Zambia for the last 18 months and Zeiss has recently shipped its first system to South America for the Las Bambas mine in Peru, owned by the Chinese mining major MMG.
At the Zeiss booth. On the right Ben Tordoff and Vivek Ganju with MinSCAN
There were many excellent scale-models of mineral processing equipment on display, including this 1 to 8 scale model of the Eirich Tower Mill ETM-1500.
With Eirich Machines comminution sales manager Mark Oles
In the giant WestTech booth was a scale-model of their feedwell, which provides quiescent conditions on any thickener. The two-stage EvenFlo is the first feedwell to achieve uniform distribution of feed across the entire thickener. Older design efforts concentrated on even distribution within the feedwell, but failed to extend that homogeneity to the thickener itself. The efficacy of the feedwell has been independently confirmed by CSIRO.
Javier Vizcarra, Mick McCaslin and Troy Nelson with a thickener cross-section and the WestTech feedwell
Eriez were demonstrating models of the HydroFloat Separator, designed to float coarse particles (posting of 5th August 2013), and their trunnion magnet, used to scalp residual steel media from grinding circuits.
Eriez staff demonstrate the trunnion magnet
It was really good to see University of Utah's Jan Miller, recovering well after his horrific car accident in Tibet (posting of 13 July 2013). He is pictured below with Gerald Luttrell of Virginia Tech, Chen-Luh Lin of University of Utah and Mike Mankosa of Eriez.
On my way to lunch I saw familiar faces at the Huntsman booth, including my old friend Steve Hearn, pictured with Hazel Kreuz, Jeff Aston, and (sitting) Andrew Smethurst. 2015/6 has seen the addition of new depressants, dispersants and frothers to the Huntsman range of mineral processing reagents and the company has established a flotation laboratory at its technical site in Melbourne to support its product development and reagent selection and optimisation studies.
Following the lunch break were the Mineral Processing Award lectures, where it was good to see Ron Woods again with his Gaudin Award, and also two of my valued Minerals Engineering reviewers, Dave Dreisinger, of University of British Columbia, Canada, and Rob Dunne, of Newmont Mining Corporation, USA. Dave was the winner of the enormous Milton E. Wadsworth Award, for significant contributions to extractive metallurgy research and education and for building strong bridges with the industrial metallurgy community to benefit all students of metallurgy. Rob was recipient of the Robert H. Richards Award for pioneering work in the applications of SAG milling, flotation, and gravity concentration for gold and copper recovery.
Dave, Rob and Ron
On the way back to my hotel I met up with Corby Anderson, of Colorado School of Mines, and his son Caelen, metallurgist with Oceana Gold, and his colleague Michael Spicher. Caelen holds the rare honour of having degrees from both CSMs, an MSc in Minerals Enginering from Camborne School of Mines, and a PhD from Colorado School of Mines.
Michael, Corby and Caelen

Tuesday 23rd February
A relaxing day today. I spent much of the morning by the SME Bookstore signing copies of the 8th edition of Mineral Processing with co-editor Jim Finch. Jim is Chairman of the International Mineral Processing Congress in Quebec City in September, and during the gaps between signings he updated me on the progress of the IMPC, which is obviously going well. Currently 950 abstracts have been submitted, from 50 countries, and already 700 have been reviewed and accepted for oral presentation. The social events include an evening boat cruise on the Saint Lawrence River, so there is a lot to look forward to in September, and all of the MEI team will be there.

With Guven Onal of Istanbul Technical University, Turkey,
and Erik Spiller and Hunter Sceats of Colorado School of Mines
Strolling round the exhibition I spotted Wolfgang Baum, recently inaugurated into the International Mining Technology Hall of Fame (posting of 5th November 2015). Wolfgang has contributed to many MEI Conferences, in flotation, biohydrometallurgy and process mineralogy, and was a keynote speaker at Process Mineralogy '12 in Cape Town, when he was representing FLSmidth. He left FLSmidth at the end of June last year and formed a consulting company Ore & Plant Mineralogy LLC. He is an innovator in the integration of mineralogical analyses into geo-metallurgical programs for several base metal mining operations in the USA and overseas, so it was appropriate to see him at the Tescan booth, talking to CEO Michal Rabara and Business Development Manager Paul Gottlieb. Czech company Tescan, a sponsor of Process Mineralogy '14, manufacture very rapid SEM based Automated Mineralogy systems, and I look forward to their involvement in Process Mineralogy '17.
Michal, Wolfgang and Paul
Now, watch this space! IMPC Lifetime Achievement Award winner Roe-Hoan Yoon (posting of 23 October 2014) and Nikhil Gupta, of Virginia Tech, have patented a process similar to flotation which they claim will process particles of all sizes, and will simultaneously separate and dewater ultrafine particles. The process, known as hydrophobic-hydrophilic separation (HHS) has been tested successfully at pilot scale, and once fully proven I have suggested that they might publish their results in Minerals Engineering!

It has become an SME tradition that non-American delegates get together on the Tuesday evening at an International Reception, and the day ended with drinks in convivial company at the nearby Sheraton Hotel.

Wednesday 24th February
The last half day of the convention, which finishes at noon. I took a last stroll around the exhibits, hoping to catch up with a few familiar faces, and, although there was a distinctly subdued atmosphere today, I wasn't disappointed.

I first met David Miller and Chad Brown, of Chevron Phillips, USA, at the excellent SAIMM Base Metals conference last year in Zambia. Unlike most chemical companies, who use conferences to showcase new, more efficient, reagents, it was interesting to hear that Chevron Phillips are highlighting mercaptans, well known flotation reagents, but they have drastically reduced the odour associated with these reagents, which has often inhibited their use.
David Miller, Jim Byers, Chad Brown and Mark Kastl of Chevron Phillips
Omar and Rob
I stopped by the Metcom Technologies booth to update Rob McIvor on Comminution '16. Rob will be playing a big part in April, presenting a keynote lecture and a pre-conference workshop. Rob is Chief Metallurgist with Metcom, and he and Business Development Manager Omar Arafat explained the company's development of a specialised method for designing ball charges to best suit the characteristics of a given ore and circuit performance requirements, making use of a comprehensive database of numerous tests and plant data.
Finally, before taking my leave, I called in to see some of the many people who make this great convention happen. This year, behind the desk were Membership and Development Manager Samantha Roe, Education Coordinator Mona Vandervoort and Gwen Lipkie of Customer Service. They informed me that registrations this year were around 6500, well down on last year's 7800 in Denver, a reflection on hard times in the mining industry. Hopefully things will have improved by next year, when the meeting is in Denver again, the home of SME and my favourite American city. All being well I will be there at what is truly one of the industry's great networking events.
Gwen, Sam and Mona
Twitter @barrywills


  1. Hi Dr. Barry
    That's a good representation of people from Industry and research.

    Nice to see Dr. Dave Osborne too .

    Rama murthy

  2. This was my first SME conference and I certainly felt it lived up to its reputation as a great networking event. The technical program was massive, of course, but I attended some interesting presentations on comminution and flotation, as well as some in the stream called "focus on innovation" relating to data management and process control.

    And downtown Phoenix was ok - the margaritas weren't too bad!

    1. Many thanks for this Diana. I would like more comments and views on the technical presentations, which I did not attend, wanting to concentrate more on the networking at SME. And I am slowly warming to downtown Phoenix, especially having found superb pub grub at Seamus McCaffrey's Irish pub on Monroe Street!

  3. Hi Barry. It was great to see you at the SME annual meeting in Phoenix! Thanks for capturing the event in writing and in pictures. The best part of the SME meeting is catching up with friends and colleagues. We do hope to see you in Falmouth at Biohydromet '16 this summer.
    Corale Brierley, Brierley Consultancy, USA (via LinkedIn)

    1. Good to see you and Jim, and do hope you can make it to Falmouth in June.

  4. Thanks Barry for the photos and recap. Although fewer visitors to this year's SME, I still felt it was a good event with a greater proportion of qualified people. The warmer weather was also welcome. Good to see you and be able to network with everyone.
    Andrew Cuthbert,FLSmidth,USA


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