Wednesday, 27 December 2017

2017 with MEI

2017 has been an interesting year, and talking to people around the world there does seem to be a general feeling of optimism that the mining industry is on the move again. The price of copper, always a good indicator, is encouraging and copper mining has the potential to boom. There have been no major copper discoveries in the past 20 years, and supply might struggle to match the increased demand  of the new electric vehicle revolution (posting of 30 August), as electric vehicles require up to four times a much copper as internal combustion engine cars.  Flotation '17 last month was one of our most successful events in recent years, and attracted more operators than usual, another indicator that the health of the industry is improving.
Copper Price 2017
We began the year with a short break for a little winter sun in Tenerife and some very interesting volcanic geology (posting of 14 January).
A fine example of ignimbrite, a pumice-dominated pyroclastic flow deposit
Barbara and I spent a week in the Colorado Rockies in February (posting of 15 February), for some skiing and acclimatisation before our descent to Denver for the SME Annual Meeting.
In the old mining town of Breckenridge, Colorado
The still depressed mining industry was highlighted by the relatively low turnout this year, of 6300, the lowest in Denver since 2011, and there were relatively few attendees at the usual reception for international delegates. Nevertheless the SME Meeting is always a great networking event, and it was good to catch up with many old friends in my favourite American city (posting of 24 February).
With fellow UK delegates Steve Wilson, Mike O'Driscoll and Daminan Granlund in Denver
March got off to a great start with the birth of our 4th grandchild, Seth, to Jon and Kathryn, two weeks before we were off to Cape Town again for Process Mineralogy '17, which was attended by 97 delegates from 21 countries. One of the highlights was the conference dinner, on a beautiful evening at Lagoon Beach Hotel, with the iconic view of Table Mountain across the bay.

Relaxing at Lagoon Beach, with Elsevier's Dean Eastbury
Another highlight was the presentation of copies of Process Mineralogy to Kate Tungpalan and Pierre-Henri Koch for the best student presentations at the conference.
Kate and Pierre-Henri with book authors Megan Becker, Elaine Wightman and Cathy Evans
Following the conference, Barbara and I spent a few days in the little Victorian town of Montagu, about 180 km from Cape Town in western Little Karoo, before the long journey back to Cornwall.
Hiking the Fish Eagle trail in the Breede River valley near Montagu
May is a beautiful time in Cornwall, with the spring flowers in full bloom, but unfortunately when we met up with Roger and Janet Thomas, and Rod and Kathy Whyte, fellow Copperbelters, at Falmouth's lovely Trebah Gardens, the weather was far from ideal (posting of 13 May).
With Roger, Janet, Kathy and Rod
Otherwise the sun shone a lot in May and we made the most of it for our continuing quest to walk the whole of the Cornish coastal path.
Mousehole harbour, South West Cornwall
Although a regular walker, I have always enjoyed cycling, but as the years advance the Cornish hills become ever steeper, so in June I replaced my road bike with an e-bike, which turned out to be one of the best buys ever!  Still a great way to exercise, it has enabled me to venture to places which were off my radar in the past due to the formidable hills, and has put the fun back into cycling.
Cycling the Bissoe trail, the old mining tramway between Devoran and Portreath
I even used the e-bike in June to commute to the St. Michael's Hotel in Falmouth, for Computational Modelling '17 and Physical Separation '17, two of MEI's smaller conferences, although the 71 delegates at Physical Separation '17 made it the biggest in the series, helped by our two well-known keynote speakers, Tim Napier-Munn and Sandy Gray. One of the highlights was the presentation of the 2016 MEI Young Person's Award to Swadhin Saurabh (posting of 15 June).
The sun shone for the whole week, making our trips to the local hostelries and the Camborne-Redruth mining area very special.
Computational Modelling delegates working up a thirst en route to the pub in old Falmouth
Members of CEEC enjoying the evening sunshine during Physical Separation '17
Physical Separation delegates at the Basset Mines Marriot's Shaft
Elsevier executive publishing manager Dean Eastbury has been a regular attendee at MEI Conferences in Falmouth and Cape Town. During my 29 years with Minerals Engineering I have worked with countless publishing managers, but Dean's seven years with the journal have been something special, and he has become a great friend of the family. However, he has now retired and Physical Separation '17 was his last conference outing, but we will be seeing much of Dean and his partner Sharlene when they move down to Cornwall early next year.

Dean (right) at Falmouth's The Wheelhouse restaurant with keynote speakers
Tim Napier-Munn and Sandy Gray, and MEI's Jon
July was a rather special month, as Barbara and I spent a couple of days in London to attend a black-tie event at the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3), where I was presented with the Medal for Excellence by the IOM3 President, Martin Cox (posting of 13 July).
Then back to Falmouth for my more familiar casual attire, and a good turnout for the July Cornish Mining Sundowner by the bank of the Penryn River (posting of 21 July).
With Grinding Solutions marketing manager James Strong, and metallurgists Jon Rumbles and Klaas (KP) van der Wielen
The following week I enjoyed a pleasant evening by the inner harbour, with two old friends and respected metallurgists, Dave Dew and Frank Crundwell (posting of 26 July).
With Dave and Frank
In early August Barbara and I spent a week in neighbouring South Devon (posting of 5 August), returning to Falmouth in time to see the always spectacular display by the Red Arrows over Falmouth Bay (posting of 13 August).
Walking near the Kingsbridge Estuary, Devon
The Red Arrows over Falmouth Bay
August 26th was a very special day for Barbara and me, when we celebrated 50 years of marriage with our ever-growing family (posting of 26 August).

With the family on our Golden Wedding day
I spent an interesting 5 days in Changsha, China in September, as a guest of Central South University (CSU) (posting of 27 September).
With CSU mineral processing staff, and other overseas guests Pablo Brito-Parada (6th left),
Kristian Waters (7th left) and Jan Cilliers (8th left)
CSU, which has the world's largest mineral processing department, was one of the hosts of the 2017 Mineral Process of China Conference, and Jan Cilliers and I had the daunting task of presenting plenary lectures to 1400 Chinese mineral processors.

Amanda had an interesting and enjoyable visit to Freiberg, Germany in late September for the International Biohydrometallurgy Symposium (IBS 2017) (posting of 23 October). MEI was a media partner, and it was good for her to catch up with MEI's Biohydromet '18 consultants Sue Harrison, Chris Bryan and Patrick D'Hugues, as well as taking time to enjoy the local German beers. She is now looking forward to IBS 2019, which will be held in Japan.

October was a quiet month, during which Barbara and I met up with Ian and Pat Townsend for lunch in Falmouth (posting of 27 October). Ian is well known within the industry for his many years with Larox, and, until his retirement, with Outotec.
Lunch at the Greenbank Hotel overlooking the Penryn River
We were back in Cape Town in November for Flotation '17, but before the conference Barbara and I had dinner with Jack Holmes (posting of 11 November), an Anglo American legend, who was responsible for the development of the Nchanga Tailings Leach Plant by introducing large scale solvent extraction to the minerals industry (see also posting of 13 August 2012).
At the Vineyard Hotel with Jack Holmes (left) and Felicity and Nick Wilshaw of Grinding Solutions Ltd
Flotation '17 turned out to be one of MEI's most successful and enjoyable conferences, attended by 262 delegates from 30 countries. As always it was a great opportunity to meet old friends and welcome new ones. A star of the week was MEI consultant Jim Finch (posting of 20 November). He and his wife Lois judged and presented the best student poster awards, and Jim summarised the conference perfectly at the end of the event.
Relaxing at one of the sundowners with old friends Bertil Palsson and Mike Battersby
Jim and Lois Finch presenting poster awards to Nilce Santos and Martin Rudolph
Following the conference Barbara and I spent 5 nights at beautiful Camps Bay (posting of 23 November) before returning to Cornwall in time for two Camborne School of Mines Association events which highlighted the strong bond between CSM and its past students and staff.

In Newquay with Nick and Felicity Wilshaw
The CSMA dinner dance (posting of 26 November) was held at the imposing Edwardian Headland Hotel, overlooking the UK's major surfing beach, Fistral Beach. The Headland Hotel has a Gothic atmosphere and proved an ideal location for the 1990 movie of Roald Dahl's book The Witches. The following week we were in Redruth for the annual CSMA Christmas lunch (posting of 2nd December).

It has been an interesting and enjoyable year, topped off with a family gathering on Christmas Day at Jon and Kathryn's home in St. Agnes, 15 miles from Falmouth on the north Cornwall coast.
Christmas Day at St. Agnes

On behalf of us all, thanks to everyone who was a part of our year. We wish you all a happy New Year, and we hope to catch up with many of you in various parts of the world in 2018.

Twitter @barrywills


  1. Very good recall and indeed you kept the spirit of mineral engn at high level during the last year and I am sure our profession will make new strides during the coming year also and we will have the pleasure of getting to know all those through your classic reporting.
    All the Best,Barry ,to you and Your Team and all others contributing to knowledge.

    1. Thanks TC. Best wishes to you too for 2018


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