Friday, 24 February 2017

SME 2017: a report on mineral processing news and people

It was good to be back in Denver this week, the home of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (SME), which in my humble opinion is perhaps the greatest networking event in our industry.
Denver always attracts the highest number of delegates, maybe because it has a great downtown, and when I reported 6 years ago from Denver, the turnout of 5200 was a record for an SME Annual Meeting, which was matched in 2012 in Seattle. In 2013 there were 6800 delegates in Denver, around 6000 in Salt Lake City in 2014, and at the last Denver meeting in 2015 there were 7800! Last year, in Phoenix, with a very depressed industry, there were 6500 delegates.
So if you have never attended an SME Annual Meeting, you don't know what you are missing. Apart from a huge exhibition, and a bewildering array of parallel technical sessions, there are workshops, field trips, awards lunches and many other networking opportunities. Everyone therefore sets his or her own agenda, and mine, as always, is to wander around the huge Convention Centre, mainly in the exhibit area, and basically see what happens! As there is no published delegate list there are always many surprises and I am sure this year will be no different.
Below is my diary of meanderings, which I hope, as in previous years, will illicit your valuable comments.
Sunday 19th February
A late afternoon opening reception in the exhibition area gave us the opportunity to have a wander around and gain first impressions. The wide aisles between booths suggests lower exhibit numbers than usual, but I may be wrong, and I will get definitive numbers later from the SME team.
Barbara, and Donna Starkey and Jenna Hedderson of Starkey & Associates, Canada,
by the largest exhibit, the giant filter press of Tons per Hour Inc.
As the most regular media partner to MEI Conferences, my first port of call was, as always, to the International Mining booth, to catch up with the team of probably the world's number 1 mining trade journal.

Kevin Lapham, John Chadwick, Robert Warren, Paul Moore and Phil Playle
Next I caught up with John and Cindy Herbst. John was one of Prof. Doug Fuerstenau's early PhD students, and was the author of one of the papers in the first issue of Minerals Engineering way back in 1988. He was with Metso for many years, but left two years ago to take up the Chair of Mining Engineering at the University of West Virginia. John and Cindy are pictured below with Sandy Lewis-Gray of Gekko Systems, Australia, who will be presenting a keynote lecture in Falmouth in June at Physical Separation '17.
Sandy, Linda and John
Brent Hiskey I first met in 1996 when he and his wife Margaret and I got caught up in a riot on the streets of Mexico City! He was then, and still is, a Professor at the University of Arizona, and like me, has no plans to retire.
With Brent Hiskey
Although Bill Johnson, Principal Consulting Engineer, Mineralis Consultants Pty Ltd and Adjunct Professor, JKMRC, University of Queensland, Australia, is one of my most respected Minerals Engineering reviewers, and a keynote speaker at Flotation '17 in November, I had never met him until tonight. He is in Denver, as tomorrow he is one of the inductees into the International Mining Hall of Fame. He is pictured with Osvaldo Bascur, of OSISoft, USA, the recipient of the Antoine Gaudin Award at the SME in 2014. Bill and Osvaldo first met in 1994 when Osvaldo was visiting Mount Isa Mines, where Bill was Minerals Processing Research Manager.
With Bill and Osvaldo
Finally, towards the end of the 2 hour reception, I caught up with a few fellow UK delegates, Steve Wilson and Daminan Granlund, back-filling experts with Paterson & Cooke, based in Cornwall, and Mike O'Driscoll of Industrial Mineral Forums and Research (INFORMED).

Steve, Mike, Daminan, Barbara and me
All in all a quiet start to the Congress, but an interesting one.

Monday 20th February
The SME Bookstore is a good loitering spot while waiting for the exhibition to open, and sure enough I soon spotted three familiar faces, Sadegh Safarzadeh, associate editor of Hydrometallurgy, Graeme Jameson, of University of Newcastle, Australia, and Hanna Horsch of Hazen Research, USA.
Moving on it was great to see Guven Onal, of Istanbul University, Turkey. Guven is involved with the organisation of two major conferences in Turkey this year. The International Energy Raw Materials and Energy Summit (INERMA) will be held in Istanbul in September, and the XVII Balkan Mineral Processing Congress in Antalya, Turkey at the end of October. Guven is pictured below with Hande Karaseki, of INERMA organisers Domino Expo.
I first met Sumantra Bhattacharya in 1989 when I spent some time as a visiting lecturer at the Indian School of Mines. He is still at the ISOM, which is now part of the Indian Institute of Technology. He is pictured below with me and Swadhin Saurabh of Millcreek Engineering, USA.
Sumantra, me and Swadhin
Moving slowly towards the exhibits, I bumped into Osvaldo Bascur again, who is involved with process control with Tara Rana of Barrick Gold, Canada and Pamela Moyo of Barrick Nevada, USA. Also in the picture is Quingqing Huang, a postdoctoral research associate in the department of mining at West Virginia University.
Chris Martin is a regular exhibitor at SMEs and MEI Comminution conferences. His Alabama based RSG Inc manufactures air classifiers and fine grinding mills for the dry processing minerals industry. The company is currently expanding its 35 000 ft2 test and toll processing facilities, to include a new vertical roller mill system. The roller mill is suitable for feed sizes up to 20 mm and can reduce to fine powders in the range of 30 to 150 microns. The 25 HP mill is configured with hot gas generator for simultaneous drying in circuit. The new system will be available for customer testing and toll processing from March 2017. Chris is seen below talking to Bhaskar Kodukula of ArcelorMittal, USA.
Following lunch were lectures from the recipients of the Mineral Processing Division's most prestigious awards.
Prof Gerald Luttrell, of Virginia Tech, was awarded the Robert H. Richards award at the SME Meeting in Seattle in 2012. This afternoon he was the recipient of another prestigious SME award, the Antoine M. Gaudin Gold Medal, for his contributions in developing separation technologies for mineral and coal processing in equipment design, modelling and optimisation and plant circuit engineering.
The Richards award was presented to Ravi Ravishankar of Virginia Polytechnic and the recipient of the Milton E. Wadsworth Award was Fiona Doyle, Professor of Mineral Engineering at the University of California Berkeley, for her fundamental examination of hydrometallurgical and electrometallurgical processes to develop a foundation for sustainability and economic competitiveness in the nonferrous metallurgical sector.
Gerald, Fiona and Ravi
It was also good to catch up with Jan Miller and Chen-Luh Lin, of the University of Utah, recipients of the Arthur F. Taggart Award for their paper "Opportunities for plant-site 3D coarse particle characterisation with automated high-speed x-ray tomography", published in Minerals and Metallurgical Processing last May. Prof. Miller will be a keynote speaker at next month's Process Mineralogy '17 in Cape Town.
Chatting In the exhibition area were Phil Thompson of FLSmidth, a Gaudin Award winner in 2012, and Wolfgang Baum, formerly with FLSmidth, when he presented a keynote lecture at Process Mineralogy '12. Wolfgang is now Managing Director of Ore & Plant Mineralogy in San Diego.
Wolfgang and Phil
Thermo Fisher Scientific recently acquired Process Mineralogy '17 sponsor FEI. Thomas Strombotne will be in Cape Town next month to present a paper at Process Mineralogy '17 and he is photographed centre, below, with other members of the Thermo Fisher team.

Tuesday 21st February
The huge FLSmidth exhibit always provides a useful landmark, but one very familiar face was missing this year. Andrew Cuthbert was for many years the link between the company and MEI, but Andrew has now moved on to other things, and our new contact is Strategic Marketing Manager Mimi Sofie Stabell, seen below (centre) with Trade Show Manager Starla Jackson, and John Chadwick of MEI media partner International Mining. FLSmidth is a sponsor of Flotation '17, and this morning agreed to sponsor Comminution '18 also.
Starla, Mimi and John
This morning FLSmidth launched its new FerroCer wear liner, with a presentation by Brent Stokes, Consumable Products Director. FerroCer Impact panels are lighter and less bulky than traditional metallic liners. Each panel comprises a number of ceramic inserts enclosed within a matrix of cast metal. The matrix protects the more vulnerable side faces of the inserts and ensures that only the wear face of the ceramic is exposed to material impact. The panels’ low weight (approximately 5kg) and compact shape make them quick and easy to install using nothing more than standard hand tools. FerroCer Impact can be installed in chutes, hoppers, bins, guides, deflector plates or any place where bulk material is conveyed in a mine or minerals processing plant.

Brent shows me the new liner
The German company Steinert Elektromagnetbau is one of the leading players in electronic sorting, and will be much involved with Physical Separation '17 in Falmouth in June, both as a sponsor and presenter. I called in at the Steinert US booth to meet some of their team. Steinert sensor sorters use NIR, HSI and x-ray technologies to help mines recover more materials from what is normally considered waste rock, eliminating the need for expensive heavy/wet media separation.
The mining industry is facing considerable new challenges today as the demand for minerals and metals increases. In order to successfully operate and remain competitive the industry needs to continuously evolve and work with supply partners who can help them to meet and overcome these challenges. For more than 40 years Quadra has cemented itself as a reliable and trusted supplier of chemicals to the mineral processing industry. In collaboration with world class manufacturing partners, such as Huntsman, Quadra has been offering reagents and services to mining companies worldwide.
The Quadra team of Linda Duncan, Kelvin Lee, Rubens Verni and Catherine Gagnon
Huntsman's Jeff Aston, Eduardo Cruz Ruiz, and Steve Hearn
Eriez Flotation Division has released a new, electronic sparger for column flotation applications. The iJet sparger is equipped with on-board diagnostics which continuously monitors sparger position (open/closed) as well as air and water flow rates and provides feedback using a series of LEDs. The battery-powered device is also equipped with a digital, wireless interface which communicates with a local control display. The control provides operator feedback via a control signal to the plant control system as well as local visual status display. Operators can see the current operating state for all spargers and schedule necessary maintenance to minimize circuit losses. No doubt we will hear more of this at Flotation '17.
Michael Mankosa, explains the principle of the sparger to me
Work load is steady at Comminution '18 sponsor Starkey & Associates with new projects from Russia and Canada. New initiatives include a new SAGDesign Test mill for Kanikavan Sharq Engineering Co. in Iran; a joint venture to design process plants, including grinding and metal recovery processes; mine to mill optimization to reduce grinding energy by controlled fine blasting; working with UBC to look at and develop grinding energy reduction concepts for ore sorting projects; and adding an HPGR testing option to their standard SAGDesign test.
Spencer Reeves and John Starkey (busy) in the Starkey booth 
Leaving the exhibition I bumped into Keith and Hayley Armstrong of Australian company SysCad. The company is making its debut at an SME, looking to establish its US office and grow its North American user base. SysCAD is widely used in all mineral processing industries, its Steady State and Dynamic process simulation software being used throughout the life cycle of a project by consultants, engineering companies and owner operators. More than $300 billion worth of operating plants worldwide have been designed, managed, optimised and operated using SysCAD. It is also used in universities and institutions for teaching and research.
Rod Stephenson, Hayley and Keith Armstrong
Finally it was back to the hotel to freshen up before going on to the Hyatt Regency Hotel for the reception for International Delegates, a relatively disappointing evening with a much lower turn out than in previous years.
International evening with Donna Starkey, Jenna Hedderson, Hans von Michaelis and John Starkey
Wednesday 22nd February
The last morning of an SME is always quiet, so I called at the Bookstore again to see Jane Oliver and her team who are now familiar faces at all these events.
Jane Oliver, Theo Warrior and Spencer Chase
I then took a last stroll around the exhibits before the noon closure.
It is great to hear that a company has the confidence to claim that they have revolutionised a sector of the mining industry, but USA company Fluid Systems Inc, boldly claim to have done just that for fine screening, with the MultiG screening technology that creates multi frequency motion, virtually eliminating blinding, and, depending on the application, up to 50 G of linear motion. They claim that the MultiG screens can handle flowrates similar to some conventional 5 and 10 deck screens.
Ron Hutchcraft demonstrates the MultiG screen to Brad Patterson of Linkan Engineering, USA
This was the lowest turnout in Denver since 2011, with around 6300 delegates registered, but this of course reflects the still depressed state of the industry. There are signs of an upturn however, and we look forward with optimism to next year's event, February 2018 in Minneapolis.
Thanks to all who work quietly behind the scenes at SME, for another very productive event.
Twitter @barrywills


  1. It was a wonderful conference. The only things that could have made it better was a few more "operator" papers and less "no show" papers. Very successful otherwise and a pleasure to attend! My question is "How did I not see you this time and your great family?"

    Courtney Young

    1. Obviously different agendas Courtney. I was in the exhibit hall most of the time- sounds like you were in the technical sessions. Hope to catch up with you soon

  2. Barry
    Thanks for sharing the summary.Nice to see a gathering mix of all.
    Congrats to Ravi and Fiona Doyle for the awards.
    And Dr. Kodukula from Areclor


  3. Barry, Thank you very much for your visit to Huntsman booth at SME in Denver last week. Best regards from Mexico
    R. Eduardo Cruz Ruiz, QuĂ­mica Delta, Mexico

  4. Great blog Barry. Almost felt like I was there.
    Michael Ingwersen, FLSmidth, Australia

  5. Thanks Barry for summarizing for us..
    Electronic sparger for coloumn flotation was quiet new and intresting idea.
    thanks a ton.


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