Monday, 17 October 2016

Mill Operators Conference '16 - how was it for you?

Jon's brief notes and photos from Perth (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3) suggest that last week's AusIMM Mill Operators Conference was a great success, so we now invite feedback from those who attended.
I gather from reports that the papers were of high quality and there were fewer than 50 presentations, such that there were no parallel sessions - which can be a real problem at other conferences (see IMPC 2016 report), and no posters, unusual in a conference with over 450 delegates. As Jon says, although this was a multi-disciplinary mineral processing event, the lack of parallel sessions meant that everyone broke out for coffee at the same time, and there was a real buzz during these breaks in the exhibition area, where everyone was talking about the same thing.
As at all conferences these days it is increasingly difficult to attract operators, and although Mill Ops is essentially an operators' conference series, out of the 460 delegates, only 99 were operators. This is a worry for all conference organisers, and we are still searching for an answer to this problem.
So, I invite you to submit your views- how was Mill Ops '16 for you?


  1. The conference was great and several speakers alluded obliquely to the fact that FIFO operations and 12 hour shifts are the cause of many of the problems, especially in regard to maintaining project momentum and continuity.

    Of course, remote processing operations hundreds of kilometres from the nearest residential town mean that FIFO is the only practical operational manning solution. However, when you have a substantial residential town all around the processing plant, in fact only 5 minutes’ drive away, there is no justification for FIFO and 12 hour shifts. So why do some companies do this? Probably to save on their training costs, as man hours worked would be exactly the same under a 3 x 8hour shift system. The fact that competitive sport and after hours social activity have been largely decimated by 12 hour shifts is irrelevant to the head office bean counters - their purpose in life is to only maximise profit.

    One keynote speaker complained that he was sick of going to operating plants to find out that most of the metallurgical staff were not actually doing any metallurgy, they had all been reduced to metallurgical clerks, filling out tables of performance data to be sent off under pain of death to bean counters in some remote head office. All too sad and all too true - I often come across the same thing myself. One suggestion was that metallurgists should play Pokemon, and get points for getting up and actually going out to look at the floats!

    The most enthusiastic paper was given by Kelly Jones of CMOC’s North Parkes plant . She enthused about a site based quantitative SEM system that they use to regularly perform mineralogical analysis on composites of their feed, concentrates and tails. At her plant, metallurgists now actually talk about MINERALS and percent mineral compositions of various streams, instead of just % metal grades! (ALLELUYA!) But more than that, the extra insight and understanding has given process improvements so quickly that their investment has already paid itself off!

    I just hope that the plant managers present at the conference were listening attentively when these lost jewels were re-presented for their benefit.

    Mike Wort

    1. The question time at the end of every session was a great innovation. Overall an excellent conference - best I have attended in many years. Did not attend IMPC but have read several papers of questionable quality.
      John O'Callaghan, Newcrest Mining, Australia

    2. I could be biased but I had the best conference ever. Prompted to change the format by the inventor of the Mill Ops concept, Peter Munro, we made significant format changes and we focused on quality of papers over quantity. Participation was paramount and we wanted everyone in the room to benefit from the gathering of minds through 30 minute moderated question times at the end pf every session. We also proved that given appropriate threats no one ran over time by more than about 30 seconds. One measure of success for me was that the room was full for the 12th and last session. We probably need a few unbiased opinions to balance mine though.
      Dean David, Chairperson AusIMM 13th Mill Operators' Conference, Amec Foster Wheeler, Australia

    3. I noticed in Jon's report that there were fewer than 50 papers, so no parallel sessions, and as you say Dean, the aim was quality rather than quantity. Please take note IMPC!

  2. The Mill Operators 2016 organising committee put a lot of effort into developing the new format. Instead of 5 minutes question time after each paper, the questions were all held over for a 30 minute discussion at the end of every session. This meant a really meaty discussion which focussed more on overall session themes than individual experienced, and encouraged much wider audience participation than the previous format. The feedback has been very positive, so you can expect to see more of this at future Mill Operators conferences.
    Planning is already underway for 2018!

  3. This was my first Mill Operator's conference and I was impressed by the use of the keynote presentations and the long question time to stimulate discussion within the wider audience. I also thought the papers were of a high quality.
    Pamela Naidoo-Ameglio, AusIMM Director

  4. Judging by the comments above, and Jon's experience in Perth, it would seem that I missed out on a great conference. And it reinforces my belief that a great conference is about quality and not necessarily quantity.

    1. We took a lot of time to finalise the program and I believe we finished later in the preparation period compared to previous committees. Up to that point our delegate numbers were tracking parallel to the previous conference. Once the program went live the trajectory of registrations increased dramatically. To me this was vindication that taking time and being very selective with the program preparation pays handsome dividends. My interpretation of the response is that people wanting to attend Mill Ops had a powerful document - the program - to put in front of the boss and say this is conference we must be at. My personal experience is that if you have trouble justifying attending a conference to yourself (because there are only a smattering of papers that are worth listening to) you will never justify it to the one handing out approvals, especially in a downturn. Provide the delegates with justification and they will come!

  5. Dean,

    I think one of the best things you changed at Mill Ops this year was the scrapping of the parallel sessions. At MEI we have always believed that these are not good for a conference, as why get people together and then split them up?!

    It was great to see so many people at the conference attracted by a quality programme over just sheer quantity. Can I ask - did you consider having posters as well?


If you have difficulty posting a comment, please email the comment to and I will submit on your behalf