Sunday, 1 March 2020

SME Annual Meeting 2020: mineral processing snapshots

Last week I was in Phoenix for the Annual Meeting of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration (SME), a huge event which was last held in Phoenix four years ago, and last year in Denver, where there were over 6,600 delegates. It is a great networking event and one at which I have no set agenda but to wander the giant exhibition hall and see what transpires. As always I forsook the technical sessions with their multitude of parallel sessions.
Mineral processing is but a small part of the SME meeting, 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 February 23rd
After a late lunch in my favourite Phoenix eating place, Seamus McCaffrey's Irish pub, I sauntered over to the opening of the exhibition, a 2-hour reception at which the exhibitors are always at their most alert.

It was a fairly quiet start, as the majority of delegates will probably arrive tomorrow, but as I strolled around I managed to talk to a few people.
The first familiar faces were John and Donna Starkey of Starkey & Associates Inc, Canada. The company is a sponsor for April's Comminution '20 in Cape Town, and has been a long term sponsor of this series. Starkey & Associates offers the industry accurate and effective technology for designing grinding circuits, and John will be presenting a paper on the key to best practice comminution in Cape Town.
With John and Donna Starkey
I had a long talk with Mark Oles and Ryan Dodd of Eirich Machines, USA, who were discussing their mixing and fine grinding capabilities with Mike Mohle of Louisville Dryer Company. As richer ores become exhausted finer-grained resources need to be economically processed and Eirich offers the TowerMill, a vertically agitated media mill, as an economical solution.
Mark, Mike and Ryan
Eirich will be represented at Comminution '20 by Sam Palaniandy of Nippon Eirich, Australia, who will present work on the modelling of the gravity stirred mill.
The Derrick Corporation, also a Comminution '20 sponsor, is a leader in the field of high-capacity fine screening, now a serious option to hydrocyclone classification in grinding circuits. On display was a section of their SuperStack 8-deck, the highest capacity fine wet screening machine in the world, which will be highlighted at Comminution '20 in a presentation by Baojie Zhang, seen right in the photo below with some of his colleagues.
It was nice to spot David Miller, who I first met at the SAIMM Base Metals conference in Zambia in 2012. David is Worldwide Sales Manager with Mining Chemicals, who with Performance Pipe are divisions of Chevron Phillips Chemical Company, which provides a complete range of Orfom reagents for the minerals industry. At last year's Flotation '19 conference Courtney Young of Montana Tech presented work on the use of Orfom D8 as a chalcopyrite depressant in the flotation of Cu-Mo bulk concentrates.
David (right) is photographed with his metallurgical manager Debbie Laney and Performance Pipe's sales manager, Mike Mohar.
It is always good to catch up with MEI's major media partner, the UK's International Mining, represented this year by Editor Paul Moore, and his colleagues Daniel Gleeson and Kevin Lapham.
Kevin, Paul and Daniel
Finally on leaving the hall, it was a pleasure to spot Roe-Hoan Yoon and his Virginia Tech Research Associate Kaiwu Huang who were pleased to have a paper on  Control  of Bubble ΞΆ-Potentials to Improve the Kinetics of Bubble-Particle Interactions accepted for publication in Minerals Engineering only a couple of days ago.
With Kaiwu and Roe-Hoan
Monday February 24th
The exhibition opened at 11am today, but the conference got underway with a long keynote session to discuss the increasing number of tailings dam failures which is causing significant global reactions that will have a lasting impact on how the mining industry manages its mineral processing wastes. 
The Keynote session titled The Executives Role in Tailings Management Preserving our Social License to Operate introduced the topic from the perspective of mining industry leadership. Executives from Consol Energy, Freeport-McMoRan, Mosaic, and Newmont Gold provided a perspective spanning several commodity interests. The session explored the changes in leadership tack that are needed to prevent future failures and what executive leadership can do to reduce reputational risk and preserve social license to operate for the entire industry.

While waiting for the exhibition to open up I called in at the SME Bookshop to see some of my favourite SME persons, Jane Oliver, and her colleagues Theo Warrior and Kendra Elrod, pictured below with this year's featured book SME Mining Reference Handbook, and of course Mineral Processing Technology, which is apparently still generating much interest!
Theo, Jane and Kendra
Also in the bookshop it was great to see my old friend Guven Onal, from Istanbul Technical University, a regular at SME events.

Then outside the bookstore was one of my past Camborne students, Dave Meadows (1985), Manager of Technology with Bechtel Mining & Metals, Chile, with his colleagues Paul Tucker from Canada, Daniela Munoz and Joshua Concha from Chile.  
Paul, Daniela, Dave and Joshua
Also nice to see Yongjun Peng, a regular at MEI's flotation conferences, with his University of Queensland colleague Xumeng Chen and Weiping Liu of Freeport-McMoRan Mining , USA.
Xumeng, Yongjun and Weiping

And finally before entering the exhibit hall, I met Pengbo Chu, an assistant professor at the University of Nevada, Reno. He was interested to learn that I was involved with his department 26 years ago when I collaborated with Prof. Ross Smith on Minerals Engineering '94 at nearby Lake Tahoe.

I had a busy morning in the exhibition and met many people as I snaked my way around the booths.

Three of the major mineral processing equipment manufacturers, Outotec, Metso and FLSmidth are serial sponsors of MEI Conferences and are always well represented at SMEs, Metso and FLSmidth with giant displays, this year Outotec relatively small.
Metso and Outotec have jointly announced the combination of Metso Minerals and Outotec to create a company, Metso Outotec, providing process technology, equipment and services. Metso Flow Control will become a separately listed independent flow control equipment and services company under the name of Neles.
There were many familiar faces in the FLSmidth booth, including flotation conference regular Dariusz Lelinski. I was surprised to see that Swadhin Saurabh, MEI's Young Person's Award winner in 2016 is back with FLSmidth after a brief spell with Millcreek  Engineering Company.

Our marketing contact Starla Jackson has also moved on and it was good to meet the new marketing manager Sylvia Rodrigues. In the picture below are Swadhin, Sylvia, Phil Thompson and Dariusz.
The world's largest supplier of specialty mining chemicals, Solvay, was a sponsor of Flotation '19 and we look forward to their next involvement at Flotation '21 in Cape Town. As always they had a big group representing the company at SME, and some of them are photographed below.
I have not seen Sarah Schwarz since the IMPC in Santiago in 2014, when she was with Australia's JKMRC. She is now with Rio Tinto Kennecott, and was with her colleague Ryan Walton, and Ausenco's Grant Ballantyne, who is one of Minerals Engineering's assistant editors, and recipient of the 2017 MEI Young Person's Award
Sarah, Ryan and Grant

Grant, until fairly recently with the University of Queensland (UQ), told me a lovely story of a young post-doc researcher at UQ who was asked to present a lecture on gravity concentration on a short course. 
During his intensive search of the literature he found that the centrifugal force in a spiral can be enhanced by that produced by the spin of the earth, and that the orientation of the spiral pitch has an effect on performance, an anti-clockwise flow performing better in the UK than a spiral with a clockwise flow. Spirals can therefore be classified as northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere devices respectively. Having included this observation in his lecture, a member of the audience later pointed out that this information, found on the MEI Blog, had been posted on April 1st, and judging by some of the comments on the posting, the hapless researcher was not the only one who had been fooled by it.
On a more serious note, Grant and I talked about the problems in finding suitable reviewers for Minerals Engineering papers (Is the peer-review system creaking?). We have a core of dedicated reviewers but many researchers are reluctant to review manuscripts, although they are the first to complain if their work is not assessed on time.
These thoughts were echoed by Komar Kawatra of Michigan Technological University, who I last met in Changsha, China in 2017 (MEI Blog 27 September 2017). Komar is Editor of the journal Mineral Processing and Extractive Metallurgy Review, and experiences the same problems with reviewers - everyone is so busy these days!
And then a delightful surprise. Passing the CIM booth I caught sight of legendary Graeme Jameson, who was passing through Phoenix on his way to London. A keynote on Graeme's life and work is already scheduled for Flotation '21. In the picture below Graeme and I are with Marilou Reboulis, of CIM, and Ryan Bergen, Editor-in-Chief of CIM Magazine.

The Jameson Cell is now over 30 years old, and there are over 350 installations around the world. During the past few years Graeme has been developing a new cell, the NovaCell, for coarse particle flotation (MEI Blog August 5th 2019).

The Eriez Flotation Division, a sponsor of Flotation '19, is also involved with coarse particle flotation, the Eriez HydroFloat™ achieving improved coarse particle recovery through a fluidised bed region that acts as a barrier to sparger-induced turbulence in the upper part of the cell.
Eriez also manufactures StackCell flotation technology, the industrial application of which was described by Jaisen Kohmuench at Flotation '19This staged method is said to ensure that the energy is focused only on contacting and suspending particles and not wasted on pumping or creating turbulence.
Jaisen (left below) and other Eriez representatives were talking to Jayson Ripke and John Uhrie (seated) of Doe Run Exploration and Development Company.

I called by to see my old friend Chris Martin, of RSG Inc, USA, who will be exhibiting at Comminution '20. He was talking to Rob Roberts of Houston International Insurance Group. Chris established RSG in 1992, and the company manufactures  dry ultrafine grinding mills and air classification equipment.
Chris and Rob
After saying farewell to Chris I rushed to the next floor for a photo call with the Mineral Processing Division's major award winners, this year all being from USA.
The Milton E. Wadsworth Award was to William P. Imrie for his extensive experience in the three pillars of the mining business: technology, operations, and engineering/construction.
The Robert H. Richards Award was to James L. Vanderbeek for leading the application of HPGR and other innovative comminution technologies in large-scale hard-rock processing.
The Antoine M. Gaudin Award was to John C. Gathje for his wide-ranging contributions to science and engineering in the field of mineral processing and extractive metallurgy.
William, James and John
After an intense and exhausting 6 hours, I then adjourned to the Irish pub for a very late lunch and a couple of pints of very welcome ale.
Tuesday February 25th
The SME informs me that over 6000 people have registered, but today was fairly quiet and the general impression is that there are far fewer here this year than last year in Denver.
While waiting for the exhibition to open I took a look at some of the excellent photos in the SME photographic competition.
The winning photo, by Richard Bishop was an impressive underground picture:
As a bit of a photographer myself, I know how difficult underground photography is, so I wonder how the photo below would have fared, taken deep underground in a Cornish tin mine?
OK, it is black and white, but what is remarkable is that it was taken in the 1890s by one of the great Cornish mining photographers JC Burrow. Photographers might like to see some of his amazing work and how he captured his photos in this article.
And talking of Cornwall, I caught up with another of my old students from Camborne School of Mines, Tim Casten, who graduated in mining engineering in 1989 and is now with Freeport-McMoRan in Phoenix.
In the exhibition I congratulated 2019 CEEC Medal - Operations winners Rob McIvor and Omar Arafat of Metcom Technologies, USA, for their AusIMM Mill Ops publication A guide to maximising ball mill circuit classification system efficiency for operators and equipment designers. Rob presented a paper in one of this week's technical sessions explaining population balance modelling origins in the pre-computer age, technical development, worthy attributes as well as exposing falsehoods and misconceptions. 
With Omar and Rob
After another late lunch in the Irish pub, this time with Erik Spiller of Colorado School of Mines, I attended the late afternoon International Reception at the Sheraton Hotel. 
Attended only by non-USA delegates it was noticeable that many of the regular European mineral processors were missing this year, probably due to there being no dedicated mineral processing symposium, as there was last year in Denver. 
However it was good to relax with UK delegates Peter Darling, and International Mining's Paul Moore and Daniel Gleeson, and to meet two of Camborne's fairly recent mining engineering graduates, Samantha Hinks (2015) and Chris Mumford (2014), who are evidently enjoying their life in the mining industry, with Glencore in Chile.
Samantha, Chris, BW, Daniel, Paul and Peter
Peter Darling left Camborne in 1979 with a CSM Diploma and spent 9 years in the oil and gas industry before returning to UK and graduating from Royal School of Mines in 1988 with a mining degree. He has worked with mining companies around the world, in South Africa, Brazil, DRC and Guinea, and as an RAF reservist undertook several tours in the Gulf and Afghanistan. For many years he has been in mining and technical journalism. He was the managing editor of the SME Mining Engineering Handbook (3rd Edition, published 2011) and has just been commissioned by the SME to produce two more books “Underground Mining” and “Surface Mining”. Peter is currently looking for authors and can be contacted on
Wednesday February 26th
The last morning of the exhibition is always a good time for a last leisurely walk, hoping for a few chance encounters.
ME Elecmetal, which produces mill liners, grinding media and crusher wear parts, is a sponsor of Comminution '20 and it was good to meet the American team in their booth.
At the Metso booth I listened to Alan Boylston giving a presentation on the design, construction and operating experience of the SAG-Vertimill circuit at the Boungou mine in Burkina Faso.
Finally, stopping by the Mining Media International (MMI) booth, I had a long chat with Dan Fitts and Carly Leonida.
Dan is the Production Manager for MMI which publishes E&MJ, Coal Age and Equipo Minero. Carly is a mining journalist from UK and has an interesting mining blog The Intelligent Miner, and spends roughly half her time writing for E&MJ.
And that brought an end to my SME experience this year. All that remained was a final lunch at Seamus McCaffrey's and a long wait for my evening flight back to London.
Although I have put in the hours this week, I realise that this report merely scratches the surface of this mammoth event, but I hope it captures the flavour.
I will hopefully be back again next year at my favourite SME venue, Denver.


  1. Good to read your narrative, Barry--good to see faces of many whom I had the privilege and pleasure of meeting earlier; it is also nice to note the interest of manufacturers and the work going on grinding, dry screening and of course flotation.
    I hope your discussions with Grant gnd Kawatra gave you some"ways" to enthuse experts to review papers.
    The feelings you expressed--"-"Mineral processing is but a small part of the SME meeting, 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 are of special significance."is of far reaching implications for me.
    Let me express my views.

    The ores are getting leaner(fine particles), and special focus on recovering every value and element (zero metal in tailings) and also to have tailings which can be used for some other purpose like building materials are the order of future.If I am right , the characteristics(both physical and chemical, in terms of assays) are going to change.SO THE METALLURGISTS HAVE TO COME UP WITH INNOVATIVE WAYS OF METAL EXTRACTION;THE INORGANIC CHEMICALS WE USE MUST GIVE WAY TO BIO-DEGRADABLE REAGENTS--SO FUTURE OF METAL EXTRACTION (metallurgists) must start more interaction with mineral engineers to prepare themselves to meet the needs of future changes which would give more importance to environmental aspects also.
    I may be off the mark but that is my view.

  2. Always great to see you and catch up. Next time, I hope I can join you for a pint at an Irish or English pub! Next year in Denver, perhaps we can find a good one!

    1. Thanks Mark. Just one question- not sure who you are, as I met a number of Marks in Phoenix

  3. Barry: Great Summary!!
    Now, I am collaborating with Seeq analytics to empower engineers to maximize metal recoveries in Mineral
    Processing and Extractive Metallurgical Plants as Consultant Fellow.

    1. Thanks Osvaldo. Sorry I missed you this time

  4. I am informed by SME that the attendance was 5704


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