Monday, 16 April 2018

2017 MEI Young Person's Award to Grant Ballantyne

This morning I had the pleasure of presenting the 2017 MEI Young Person’s Award to an exceptional young mineral processor, Dr. Grant Ballantyne, an early career researcher with six years’ experience on the staff of the Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre (JKMRC) at the University of Queensland (UQ), Australia.

Grant was nominated for the award by Prof. Tim Napier-Munn, Emeritus Professor of UQ, with very strong support from Prof. Dee Bradshaw (Emeritus Professor of University of Cape Town), Prof. Bern Klein (University of British Columbia, Canada), Prof. Luis Marcelo Tavares (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), Joe Pease (Chair, CEEC International, Australia), Dr Nick Clarke (Manager Metallurgy, International Region, Anglo Gold Ashanti, Australia), Dr Peter Radziszewski (VP Research, Metso Grinding Media Solutions, Canada), Evert Lessing (Director, Engineering & Product Development, Weir Minerals Australia)  and Aidan Giblett (Senior Technical Advisor Mineral Processing, Newmont Mining Corporation, Australia).
Grant obtained a Bachelor of Engineering (Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering) with First Class Honours from UQ in 2007. His PhD in the field of Mineral Engineering (dielectrophoresis for mineral separation) was conferred by the University of Queensland in 2012. He obtained two competitive scholarships during his undergraduate degree and one as a postgraduate student. He was also awarded two presentation prizes during his PhD, as well as the prestigious Zinifex (now Oz Minerals) and Ian Morley prizes, acknowledging the outstanding quality of his thesis and his contribution to the JKMRC and its student life. He has authored 27 international conference papers (15 refereed), 8 refereed journal articles (6 of which were first author and in top publications), 1 book chapter, 4 industry publications, and 24 confidential technical reports to industry. His published papers have been cited well over 200 times.
Grant is passionate about equipping the next generation of mineral engineers with the intellectual tools they will need to confront the challenges of the future. He has produced innovative and engaging teaching strategies that have resulted in high quality learning outcomes for both undergraduates and industry professionals. He developed 2 week and 4 day professional development courses for Sandvik staff and has presented them on five occasions. He leads the comminution component of the Metallurgical Engineering undergraduate program at UQ for which he has always received excellent student ratings. He has also been part of three industry Metskill training courses (run by JKTech) and two postgraduate courses at the Sustainable Minerals Institute of UQ. During his short career, Grant has supervised ten vacation student projects, three undergraduate theses and is currently supervising two PhD students, with one MPhil student having graduated in 2017.  He has been recognised for his lecturing twice by the UQ Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and IT as ‘Most Effective Teacher’, nominated by the elite cohort of students who receive the Dean’s Commendation. Grant’s teaching philosophy is to avoid teaching knowledge for its own sake, and instead focus on imparting a physical understanding of the fundamental sub-processes that can be logically applied to a variety of situations.
Energy efficient comminution has become Grant’s major research theme, focussed on industry applications supported by fundamental theoretical understanding. He has been part of research teams devising process improvements at several mining operations, most notably Saucito (lead/zinc/silver, Mexico), Tropicana (gold, Australia), Sunrise Dam (gold, Australia), Cadia (copper/gold, Australia), Mogalakwena (platinum, South Africa), Sino Iron (magnetite, Australia), Mineral San Cristobal (lead/zinc/silver, Bolivia), Tanami (gold, Australia), Northparkes (copper/gold, Australia) and Telfer (copper/gold, Australia). In 2014 he led two research and training groups (eight researchers including postgraduate students) to conduct comminution circuit assessment at Sunrise Dam Gold Mine and Citic Pacific’s Iron Project, both in Western Australia. The work at Sunrise Dam “identified improvements of direct economic benefit as well as being the basis for 2 publications presented at International conferences, one of which was runner up for the CEEC medal. Continued co-operation with AngloGold Ashanti led to further publications on energy efficiency with particular reference to High Pressure Grinding Rolls.” – says his supporter, Nick Clarke.
Grant recently published two significant advances in top-tier journals. In one paper (IJMP Vol. 168, 2017) he made a seminal contribution to the well-known JKMRC breakage models by combining two models into one through an elegant insight. The resulting model provides a more accurate output over the full size and energy range than existing models, whilst using fewer parameters. The second paper (Minerals Engineering Vol. 116, 2018) demonstrated the ineffectiveness of the Bond grindability test to measure the ball milling requirements of HPGR products, and outlined a novel approach that he is currently developing to overcome this shortfall.
Grant collaborates with several international research groups. He is an active member of the Global Comminution Collaborative (GCC) which includes members from Brazil, South Africa, Germany, Turkey, Sweden and Australia. His involvement with the GCC has included developing research plans at workshops in South Africa and Germany, collaborating in research, and twice participating in site reviews in South Africa and Australia. Grant has also spent periods as a visiting scholar, using facilities and connecting with the research groups at Erlangen University (Germany), CSIRO (Melbourne, Australia) and the University of Cape Town (South Africa). “I have sought Grant out in many instances to solicit his opinions on comminution circuit performance analysis and will continue to do so as we seek to adopt the methods Grant has developed for the mining industry, both in Australia and abroad.” says supporter Aidan Giblett.
In his short research career Grant already has an enviable record of obtaining substantial research income as a chief investigator, in a very competitive environment. He has won research grants totalling over A$3m from Australian government sources (CRC ORE, Mets Ignited), collaborative industry sources (AMIRA P9, CEEC) and through direct engagement with individual companies in Australia and overseas (eg Sandvik, AngloGold Ashanti, Newcrest, Weir). In 2016 he was awarded a highly commended (runner up) award for Discovery and Innovation at the UQ Sustainable Minerals Institute. In 2017 he won the award for ‘best conference paper’ at the AusIMM’s Metplant Conference in Perth. He is also the primary supervisor of the PhD student who won the ‘best conference presentation’ at the same conference.
Grant has played the principal role in the development of the internationally-supported comminution energy curve tool which is hosted on the CEEC International website, and is widely used by industry for energy benchmarking and the optimisation of comminution circuits. This novel tool incorporates data from nearly 60% of world copper operations, over 30% of world gold operations, and significant proportions of other commodities. CEEC has recently won additional funding of A$300,000 from the Australian Federal and Queensland State governments for further development of this tool, largely on the basis of Grant’s work and research proposal. There is no doubt that his ability to get on with people, and his integrity as a researcher, is what has persuaded a large number of the world’s mineral producers to supply the confidential production data that underpins the tool and its efficacy.
Grant has also been an active promotor of CEEC’s vision for energy-efficient comminution, running successful industry workshops in Santiago, Vancouver, Toronto, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Melbourne and Perth, and taking a leadership role in facilitating the application of the energy curves by industry. His work is highly rated by the great and the good in the field. In his keynote address at the 2014 XXVII IMPC in Chile, Prof. Robin Batterham (formerly Rio Tinto Chief Technologist and Chief Scientist of Australia) displayed Grant’s energy curves and expressed the view that they will soon be a well-recognised measure of performance. A paper on the topic by Ballantyne and Powell published in Minerals Engineering (Volume 65, 2014) has been cited 32 times and an Australian Research Council reviewer commented that it is “set to become a definitive publication in the field”.
In 2017 Grant was invited to take on the role of one of the new Assistant Editors for Minerals Engineering. He has refereed 14 papers for learned journals, including 10 for Minerals Engineering. As part of the 2016 IMPC in Quebec, Grant was invited to be part of both the IMPC Emerging Leaders Working Group, and the Education Commission sub-committee responsible for collecting and reporting data on international mineral processing students. He organised the refereeing of 27 papers for the Congress, of which he refereed 14 himself. He co-organised the comminution stream at the Congress, and also chaired a session at Comminution ’16 in Cape Town.
Grant has been an active member of the AusIMM for 10 years (Student, now Member), and recently performed a webinar for the AusIMM Metallurgical Society which was well attended by AusIMM members. He has written two articles for the AusIMM Bulletin, including one on the venerable ‘Friday Morning Seminars’ at the JKMRC, which have been going for over 50 years and which he now organises and introduces. Recently he chaired one of two half-hour panel sessions with 6 well-known industry practitioners at the AusIMM’s Metplant conference in Perth. In 2017 he filmed a children’s science show on national TV called Brain Buzz explaining details of Mining and Mineral Processing and showcasing UQ’s innovations.
Grant’s nomination is supported at least in part because of the energy, passion, commitment and integrity which he brings to his practice as a mineral engineer. He believes absolutely in sustainable mineral operations, and much of his research is directed to that outcome. He is also committed to passing on his knowledge to others in various forms. Although Grant’s university appointment is a full time research position, he essentially does his undergraduate teaching in his own time. He also practices his principles in his personal life. He has for 10 years led local youth groups in his area, and for 4 years he took annual leave to be part of the Red Frogs organisation which provides support and advice to school leavers. He is also an active member of the UQ Hockey Club.
In conclusion, Dr Grant Ballantyne is an accomplished, enthusiastic member of the mineral engineering community, with exceptional research achievements and an international reach. In his short career Grant has made a significant mark on his profession, produced research results of acknowledged benefit to the industry, and built an international network of collaborators. His teaching at all levels from undergraduate to professional has been recognised for its commitment and positive outcomes.
The future of our industry will be more challenging than the past. Ores are becoming more difficult to treat, essential consumables such as power and water are becoming more expensive and controversial, and the social licence to operate is an increasing constraint on mining company operations. Future innovations will require a multi-disciplinary approach, a high degree of lateral thinking, a real commitment to sustainability, and a demonstrated capacity to cooperate empathetically with others. Undoubtedly Grant has these attributes to the degree needed to play a significant role in our industry’s future, as researcher, teacher, practitioner, and international collaborator. He is a very worthy recipient of the MEI Young Person’s Award.


  1. Barry, you really got an excellent young mineral engn.
    Grant, you can not imagine how much I am happy and proud of you getting this well deserved award.
    The short time I saw and interacted with you personally at J.K and the contact we maintain has been giving a feeling that "Grant is going to be a great Mineral Engn "Accept my compliments and I wish you many more laurels.
    Apart from your academic achivements, you have many other qualities I have been observing and I am sure you would inspire many youngsters.

    Thank you,Tim, for suggesting Grant's name.
    Another feather in the cap of J.K.I am sure Dr.Lynch would also be happy and proud.

  2. Grant Ballantyne23 May 2018 at 01:00

    Thank you Prof Rao, The support that you and Prof Lynch have provided me has been a great encouragement! Thank you.


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