Monday, 27 April 2020

Recent Comments

There have been comments on the following postings since the last update:

SME Annual Meeting 2020: mineral processing snapshots
Limitations to the commercial application of biohydrometallurgy for the treatment of base metal sulfide ores
Making mine tailings safe
Are these WASET conference just a scam
Cornish mining sundowners cancelled until further notice
Return to Chingola
March 2020: the month that changed the world
Adapting technological expertise to fighting COVID-19
Memories of Flotation 2000
Memories of Hydromet 2000
Controversial "invisible gold" paper published
An all-Jameson Cells flotation circuit at New Britannia, Canada
An exciting new polymetallic mineral deposit found in West Cornwall
Roshan B. Bhappu 1926-2019
Memories of Egypt and CMRDI

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Thursday, 23 April 2020

Memories of Egypt and CMRDI

Today Barbara and I should have been on a plane to Cape Town for Comminution '20, with Jon and Amanda following tomorrow.  But unfortunately not to be; not only are conferences being postponed or cancelled worldwide, so is travel.
Travel has played a big part in my career, and I have been fortunate to have visited around 50 countries. I am often asked which I consider to be the most beautiful, or the most interesting. Cornwall is pretty high on either list, but in terms of sheer beauty I would have to say the Jungfrau region of Switzerland (MEI Blog 24 March 2019) is my favourite.
The most interesting, without a doubt is Egypt, which I have visited twice, both times thanks to the amazing generosity and hospitality of Cairo's Central Metallurgical Research and Development Institute (CMRDI).
In 1980 Camborne School of Mines had a visitor from CMRDI (sorry I can't remember who), who was impressed by the pilot plant which we had just put together to give students some early operating experience (MEI Blog 4 December 2010). Twelve months later I was invited to CMRDI to advise on their own fledgling pilot plant, and during my week long visit, I was taken to see the sights of Cairo, and the Pyramids at Giza (MEI Blog 13 December 2010), after which they kindly provided air tickets and accommodation for a fascinating trip to Luxor in Upper Egypt.  Luxor, on the east bank of the Nile, lies on the site of ancient Thebes, the pharaohs’ capital at the height of their power, during the 16th–11th centuries BC.
During my few days in Luxor I took a ferry across to the West Bank of the Nile, where a young Egyptian villager offered to take me down to the Valley of the Kings, which turned out to be a hair-raising journey by donkey on a very narrow path down the precipitous cliff to the tombs of the New Kingdom pharaohs. Only to find when we arrived, that the tombs had been closed for the day!
Fourteen years later, in 1995, Tawfik Refaat Boulos, Prof. of Mineral Technology at CMRDI invited me again to Cairo, this time with Barbara, a purely goodwill gesture, as I did not have to sing for my supper and we were also provided with a guide for our few days in Cairo, Kamel El-Shamy.
Cairo with Kamel El-Shamy, Refaat Boulos and his wife Brenda
By camel to the Pyramids of Giza
Inside the Great Pyramid, the Grand Gallery leading to the King's Chamber
and the granite sarcophagus of Khufu (c2500 BC)

With Kamel overlooking the old city of Cairo
The sarcophagus of Tutankhamun at the Cairo Museum
As in 1981, after Cairo, we were flown to Upper Egypt, first to Luxor, and then on to Aswan to see the awesome Abu Simbel temples of Rameses II, built in the 13th century BC. In an amazing feat of engineering the temples were relocated in 1968 on an artificial hill high above the Aswan High Dam reservoir. This was to prevent the complex being submerged during the creation of Lake Nasser, the massive artificial water reservoir formed after the building of the Aswan High Dam on the River Nile.
The Great Hypostyle Hall at Karnak (c1250BC) near Luxor
and the Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut (1458 BC) at Deir el-Bahari on the West Bank of the Nile
The Valley of the Kings and the tomb of Thutmosis III (1450 BC)
Visiting a Nubian village at Aswan
Abu Simbel
Egypt is truly magical and should be on the bucket list of anyone interested in ancient history. Unfortunately, I have totally lost touch with Prof. Boulos and would be grateful for any information on how I might contact him. And finally, a belated thank you to the staff of CMRDI for their wonderful hospitality all those years ago.

Monday, 20 April 2020

First calls for abstracts for Biomining '21 and Sustainable Minerals '21

We face a very uncertain future, but all being well MEI's conferences, postponed from June of this year, will be up and running in June of next year at Falmouth's National Maritime Museum.
Many of the original authors have opted to have their papers transferred to next year, but others have had to withdraw, so there is now a call for abstracts for Biomining '21, which will be held from June 21-22, and Sustainable Minerals '21 on June 23-24. Short abstracts should be submitted by the end of December.
We would like to express a special thanks to our original sponsors for staying with us and supporting next year's events.
Current Biomining '21 sponsors
Current Sustainable Minerals '21
Updates on the conferences will be at #Biomining21 and #SustainableMinerals21.

Saturday, 18 April 2020

Roshan B. Bhappu 1926-2019

I heard this week of the passing of one of the oldest members of our profession, Roshan Bhappu, who was President and Founder of Mountain States R&D International, Inc, Arizona. I thank Toni Griffin, Website and Social Media Manager of the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Inc. (AIME) for advising me of the sad news, and for pointing out that shortly before his death Roshan was interviewed by AIME, the interview being available on YouTube
I first met Roshan in 1986 in Falmouth, when he presented a keynote lecture on the impact of strategic minerals on mineral processing developments at the 2-week NATO Advanced Study Institute ‘Mineral Processing at a Crossroads’.  I last caught up with him at the 2012 SME Annual Meeting in Seattle.
Seattle, 2012
Roshan Bhappu passed away in Tucson, AZ on December 28, 2019 at the age of 93. He was born in Mumbai (then Bombay), India on September 14, 1926 and received his Doctorate from Colorado School of Mines in 1953. He worked as the Senior Metallurgist at the Bureau of Mines (now the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources) for 14 years and served as the head of the Department of Metallurgical Engineering at New Mexico Tech (NMT) from 1960 until 1972.
When Roshan left NMT in 1972, he joined Mountain States Engineers group. Mountain States R&D International, Inc. spun off as a separate company in 1987 with Roshan as founder and president, a position he held for the remainder of his career.
Over the course of his career, he worked on hundreds of mining projects spanning the extraction of base metals, precious metals, industrials minerals, coal, and uranium. His expertise included the pre-concentration of minerals using heavy media separation, heap and dump leaching, in-situ extraction of copper and uranium, and projects related to environmental considerations in the mining process.
He served as President for the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration (SME) in 1990, and the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers in 1992. He received many honors recognizing his significant contributions to his field, including the Van Diest Gold Medal from the Colorado School of Mines in 1968 and the Mining and Metallurgical Society of America Gold Medal in 2010. He was a “Distinguished Member” and a “Legion of Honor” member of the SME. He held several patents and served as a consultant to the World Bank and the United Nations. He authored many books and technical papers, and was an advocate for science education.
In recognition of Dr. Bhappu’s commitment to science education and supporting geoscience students, the Dr. Roshan Boman Bhappu Bright Star Scholarship will be awarded in January 2021. The Bright Star Scholarship Program provides support for three undergraduate students who work on projects with scientists at the Bureau of Geology.


Thursday, 16 April 2020

An exciting new polymetallic mineral deposit found in West Cornwall

Today would have seen the first of our summer Cornish Mining Sundowners at Falmouth's Chain Locker, which now lies deserted due to the Coronavirus lockdown.
I am sure that the conversation would have centred on the announcement by Canadian company Strongbow, the company behind the planned reopening of South Crofty tin mine, of another significant new discovery of high grade copper and tin at Strongbow’s United Downs exploration project. 
Strongbow completed the acquisition of the South Crofty mine plus additional mineral rights located in Cornwall in July 2016 and some of these mineral rights cover old mines that were historically worked for copper, tin, zinc, and tungsten. United Downs is located approximately five miles east of South Crofty and lies within the densely mined Gwennap district, which was the richest copper producing region in  the world in the 18th and early 19th centuries, and was referred to as “the richest square mile on earth” (MEI Blog 27 October 2018).
The Gwennap mining area today
Strongbow and local company Cornish Lithium have a mutually beneficial agreement to explore each other’s mineral rights. Cornish Lithium has the right to explore Strongbow’s mineral rights in Cornwall for lithium in brine occurrences while Strongbow retains the rights to any hard rock mineralisation.
In 2019 Cornish Lithium started to conduct diamond drill testing for lithium in brine at United Downs and the new discovery was made by Cornish Lithium who intersected semi-massive sulphide mineralisation between 90.6 and 105m depth, assaying 7.46% Cu, 1.19% Sn, and 0.15% Zn.
The mineralisation is of similar nature to that mined at Wheal Jane and Mount Wellington mines, located 1.5km to the east; and copper grades reflect recorded historical mine production from United Mines located approximately 200m to the south. All of the mineralisation exploited historically is related to either quartz veins or quartz-tourmaline veins hosted within “killas”, the local name for metasedimentary rocks that overlie granite intrusions.
The Wheal Jane mine was discovered and developed into a modern mine in the late 1960s, initially by Consolidated Goldfields, and thereafter by Rio Tinto Zinc.  Mining activities at Wheal Jane and Mount Wellington ceased in early 1991, due largely to the Tin Crisis of 1985, but processing of South Crofty ore continued until March 1998 when ongoing low tin prices forced its eventual closure.
As drilling proceeds we will no doubt learn of the extent of this deposit and whether it is large enough to have ore-body potential. Hopefully there will be more news at next month's 'virtual sundowner'.

Monday, 13 April 2020

First recipient of the Dee Bradshaw Travel Scholarship

Shortly before her death (MEI Blog 8th June 2018), Prof. Dee Bradshaw set up the Dee Bradshaw and Friends International Travel Scholarship for students who display academic merit and are registered for a postgraduate qualification in the field of the minerals sector at the University of Cape Town (UCT). The purpose of the proposed travel to an approved international institution is to enhance research and education capacity, skills and experience.
The first recipient of this award was Nicole Uys, a PhD Candidate in the Department of Chemical Engineering at UCT. Nicole spent two months (16th January – 9th March) at the Helmholtz Institute for Research in Freiberg, Germany (MEI Blog 14th October 2019), hosted by the director of the institute, Professor Markus Reuter. The primary aim of her trip was to develop her knowledge and skills at using the HSC program, developed by Outotec, which is widely used within Professor Reuter’s research group. In addition to meetings with Professor Reuter she spent time with two of his students, Neill Bartie and Alejandro Abadias.
Nicole with Markus Reuter
Nicole writes:
"The initial starting point was developing my own Roast-Leach-Electrowinning (RLE) zinc flowsheet, similar, but more in-depth, to one Neil had already developed. By exploring additional features in HSC (equilibrium and reaction calculation modules) and checking these results with those obtained from FactSage, we were able to refine the model and more confidently predict elemental splits within different processing units and phases of products from different technologies.
In addition to the RLE circuit I was developing my own model for the Top Submerged Lance furnaces which forms part of the proposed, but as of yet uncommercialised, Direct Zinc Smelting (DZS) process route. The idea is to continue with flowsheet development in South Africa and focus on additional process routes such as Pressure Leaching and Atmospheric Leaching.
I also spent time with Alejandro who explained and illustrated how the exergy module, within HSC, worked. This module will be used once the flowsheets have been completed to allow the thermodynamic losses within each proposed flowsheet to be determined. A life cycle assessment, using the built-in connection to GaBi and Open LCA software, is also possible once the flowsheet development has been completed.
In my final week I was fortunate enough to attend a field trip to Nickelhütte Aue, which is a recycling plant focused on non-ferrous metals such as nickel, copper, cobalt, molybdenum, vanadium and tungsten. It was an excellent opportunity to see smaller versions of many of the pieces of equipment I had been and would continue to model such as the Top Submerged Lance furnace and a pressure leaching autoclave.
Field Trip to Nickelhütte Aue
I found it extremely valuable to work alongside colleagues who were exploring similar analyses in different areas (copper, critical metals for photovoltaics such as selenium and tellurium). It made me feel part of an international community that were operating with similar philosophies to achieve aligned goals. I have no doubt that these conversations will be ongoing amongst myself and my colleagues at the Helmholtz Research Institute in Freiberg. In addition, with many of them planning on visiting South Africa for the IMPC 2020 conference it provides another opportunity for face to face interactions.
I have submitted a paper to the IMPC 2020 conference based on my learnings from my Canadian plant visits and the learnings from both trips will form part of a review paper.
The two months spent in Freiberg were extremely stimulating and provided a strong platform from which to progress for the rest of the year".
Thanks for sharing, Nicole. Coronavirus permitting I look forward to meeting you at the IMPC in Cape Town in October.

Thursday, 9 April 2020

We welcome BASF, the latest sponsor of Flotation '21

We are very pleased to announce that the giant international chemical company BASF will be sponsoring Flotation '21 next year in Cape Town.
The company first sponsored the MEI flotation series in 2017, and two years later, in confirming their sponsorship for Flotation '19Johanna Donath, of  Global Marketing Flotation, said "Recognizing Flotation´19 as THE key global flotation event, bringing together academia, engineering companies, chemical producers, service providers and mining companies, BASF is excited to be a sponsor for this event again. Flotation ´19 is a great opportunity to meet and talk to industry partners and academia about challenges faced by the industry, both today and in the future and to discuss our contribution to sustainable solutions".
Representatives from BASF at Flotation '19
We look forward to our continuing involvement with BASF and our other current sponsors at Flotation '21 in 19 months time, when hopefully the world will be back to normality after Coronavirus.
Current Flotation '21 sponsors

Updates can be found at #Flotation21

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

An all-Jameson Cells flotation circuit at New Britannia, Canada

It was good to hear from Peter Amelunxen last month. Peter was the first recipient of the MEI Young Person's Award in 2011, when he was then with Aminpro in Chile. He and his family moved to Toronto a couple of weeks ago and should be coming out of their mandatory 14 days quarantine about now.
Peter with 2018 MEI Award winner Zhiyong Gao at Flotation '19
Peter is now Vice-President of Technical Services for Flotation '21 sponsor Hudbay, a diversified mining company primarily producing copper concentrate (containing copper, gold and silver) and zinc metal. Directly and through its subsidiaries, Hudbay owns three polymetallic mines, three operating ore concentrators and a zinc production facility in northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Canada and Cusco, Peru, and copper projects in Arizona and Nevada, USA.
In 2015 Hudbay purchased the Snow Lake Project, which included the New Britannia gold concentrator. They are now in the process of building a copper flotation circuit to treat the copper-gold ores from the Lalor deposit, and they have chosen to create a flotation circuit made entirely of Jameson Cells. The northern Manitoba operation needs to process finer grinds and higher grades of ore, and to manage costs while doing so means pursuing as small a footprint as possible, while still delivering optimised recoveries and concentrate grades.
Jameson Cells
Peter tells me that the idea for all Jameson cells came about before the Flotation '19 conference.  He had been working with Contact cells for a long time at Aminpro and had always recognized their potential for those applications that had a high degree of liberated hydrophobic mineral, combined with a high susceptibility to entrainment, such as copper/moly separation or polymetallic circuits. New Britannia is neither of those, but it still works because the flotation feed particle size is driven by gold liberation for the gold leach circuit, so the copper is fully liberated and very fast floating, but also highly susceptible to entrainment (because of the fine grind). 
Hudbay had recently recruited an Australian engineer, Matthew Taylor, who had experience with Jameson Cells, flotation modelling, and piloting, and he drove the concept forward in collaboration with Virginia Lawson and her team from Glencore Technology, who sent them a pilot unit and provided technical support. The pilot unit was tested last summer at the nearby Stall concentrator, which also processes ore from the Lalor Mine to produce zinc and copper concentrates.
Flotation '19 gave them an opportunity to discuss results, share ideas, and build relationships with Virginia and Graeme Jameson and "even the guys from other flotation companies, who also provide very good technology that I would consider for other applications that may be less appropriate to pneumatic cells.  That’s the value of the flotation conferences and why we sponsor the events!".
Grame Jameson and Virginia Lawson cut the 30th Anniversary Jameson Cell cake at Flotation '19
Peter concluded by saying that through Matt’s work, combined with excellent support and collaboration from the Stall operations team, the New Britannia project team, and the Aecom engineering team, Hudbay identified significant reductions in flotation capital and operating costs by eliminating conventional tank cells and reducing the circuit complexity, while also identifying some exciting performance improvement opportunities at the Stall concentrator through retrofitting Jameson cells in the existing copper and zinc circuits.

Friday, 3 April 2020

Memories of Hydromet 2000

Following Flotation 2000, we had a long weekend break in Adelaide, before Hydromet 2000 began at the Adelaide Hilton 20 years ago today. Sixty five delegates from 13 countries attended the 3-day conference, which MEI organised in association with the University of Melbourne. Sponsorship was provided by AMIRA, Baker Process and Technomag.
A few photos from the event are shown below:

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Adapting technological expertise to fighting COVID-19

One of the main concerns in the fight against COVID-19 is the lack of ventilators for those with the severest of symptoms, and health authorities around the world are trying to find more ventilators to cope with the increasing number of patients.
So it was great to hear that Sandy Gray, Technical Director of Gekko Systems, Australia (MEI Blog 16 March 2015) has brought together the Gekko Systems team’s knowledge of pneumatics, hydraulics, operating systems, mechatronics and control systems with the advice of a number of leading physicians and anaesthetists to design a simple, robust ventilator. Gekko is a world leader in gold processing technology, as well as the design, construction and operation of energy efficient modular plants.
Sandy Gray with the prototype ventilator
Sandy said "when we started, one of our young electrical controllers said, 'you know this is just one of our 'jig' controllers- which is what we've already developed in the past'. So we thought why don't we just adapt that technology to build a ventilator to help people breathe in the case of coronavirus."
Consulting with Ballarat anaesthetist Doug Paxton and a local 3D printing company the portable ventilator came to life. After inspecting the finished model Dr Paxton believes it is extremely promising. "The ventilator has been designed using equipment that is readily available in the commercial/ industrial sector, and given the adaption of its purpose by the design team at Gekko there is a possibility of having a robust machine which would meet the needs of this pandemic in a practical way" he said. "The circuits are easy to use. With little training and information the ventilator can be used effectively for nearly all our patients, taking a load off the clinician and the other ventilators in the system.”
The group have progressed through to a Mark 3 Prototype and the local state government has been approached to assist with funding and approvals. The simple design incorporates high quality control equipment and the UK Government guidelines for Rapidly Manufactured Ventilator System (RMVS) have been used as a base. However the initial units will be kept as simple as possible to ensure rapid deployment is possible.
We will keep you up to date on progress, but I hope that Sandy and Gekko provide inspiration for the many other equipment manufactures around the world. If you can build large sophisticated mineral processing machines, then surely you can turn your hands to relatively simple ventilators.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

March 2020: the month which changed the world

At last March is over. February was a fairly normal month, and I attended major conventions in South Africa and USA.  Then came March!
It began quietly enough. On my return from Phoenix we were looking forward to our next trip to Cape Town, for Comminution '20 the following month, and then back to Cornwall to prepare for Biomining '20 and Sustainable Minerals '20 in Falmouth in June.
Then, within a few days, due to the escalation of the COVID-19 outbreak, we postponed Comminution '20 and the two Falmouth events. Only once in our long history have we had to pull the plug on events at such short notice, the last time in 2001, when Minerals Engineering '01 was scheduled to be held in Vancouver only a week after 9/11.
An eerily quiet Saturday afternoon in Falmouth......
.....and in Cape Town
And now Barbara and I, like millions of others around the world, find ourselves in forced isolation. Thankfully we are not totally confined to barracks, as we are allowed out to exercise, providing that we make no contact with other individuals, and we are lucky to have the splendid Cornish coastal path only a short walk from home.
The SW coastal path overlooking Falmouth
A policeman patrols an almost deserted Falmouth beach
Mining companies around the world have been temporarily closing operations, many schools and colleges are now closed for the foreseeable future, and Universities in UK have suspending face to face teaching. Many researchers are now working from home and there has been a noticeable increase in papers submitted to journals, such as Minerals Engineering, all requiring peer-review of course. At the best of times pressure of modern work has exacerbated the problems in finding suitable journal reviewers (Is the peer-review system creaking?). We have a core of dedicated reviewers but a number of researchers are unfortunately reluctant to review manuscripts, although they are often the first to complain if their work is not assessed on time.  Minerals Engineering's publisher Elsevier has recently announced:
"The COVID-19 pandemic impacts us all, and we are offering all possible support to our customers and employees. While at present there has been no major impact to our business or services, we ask for your understanding that this unprecedented situation might lead to some delays in the peer review process. For further support, please visit our Covid-19 community resilience resources center".
March 1st is a life-time away. Only two weeks ago I reluctantly cancelled the March Mining Sundowner, scheduled for Penzance on the 19th, and now all pubs and restaurants are closed "for the duration". A week later people across the country left their isolation to stand outside their homes in prolonged applause, a heartfelt gratitude to the country's doctors, nurses, care workers, GPs, pharmacists, volunteers and other National Health Service (NHS) staff.  These sentiments have been echoed around the world in praise of the marvellous men and women who have been working tirelessly and selflessly to help those affected by Covid-19.
On behalf of all of us at MEI, look after yourselves and prepare to face the challenges that April will impose on us all. No matter what happens from now on, March 2020 will be remembered as the month which changed our lives, maybe forever, and when everyone learned the meaning of 'exponential'.

"It's important for me to level with you - we know things will get worse before they get better." British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.