Monday, 10 May 2021

Flotation '21: Call for Abstracts

We still live in a time of great uncertainty, but whatever happens over the next few months, we have absolute certainty that Flotation '21 will take place in November, either as a hybrid event, or totally online.  If hybrid, authors will have the option of presenting live in Cape Town, between November 8-11, or submitting recorded presentations for viewing online. In any case, all presentations will be available on demand for 6 months after the event, via the conference website.

There is now a call for abstracts, which must be submitted online by the end of August. Authors will be notified of decisions on papers during September.

After the conference authors will be invited to submit their papers for peer-review for possible publication in Minerals Engineering. Papers will be handled exclusively by me, as the journal's Editor-in-Chief, and I will take into account discussion at the conference and effectively fast-track the reviewing process.

If your paper is accepted for publication after refereeing, it will be published immediately in the first available regular issue of Minerals Engineering, and included in the Virtual Special Issue of the conference on ScienceDirect. This is an ideal opportunity to present your work to an international audience and have your paper published in a refereed journal of high repute.

We would like to thank our sponsors, who have supported us throughout these difficult times, and welcome two new sponsors, who will be involved with an MEI flotation series conference for the first time.

Newmont is a sponsor of next month's Biomining '21 and is the world's largest gold mining company, with gold mines in Nevada, Colorado, Ontario, Quebec, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Australia, Ghana, Argentina, Peru, and Suriname. In addition to gold, Newmont mines copper, silver, zinc and lead.

Cancha was one of the sponsors of last month's Comminution '21. Cancha is an integrated solution for geometallurgical sample selection, result interpretation, prediction modelling and reporting and is used by geologists, miners, metallurgists and geometallurgists to accurately, efficiently and transparently project metallurgical performance for mineral resources. Its unique geostatistical functions are used to ensure that samples are representative. Advanced data science is used to propose domain and regression models for parameters such as recovery, concentrate grade, and tonnage.

Current sponsors

Prof. Jim Finch, Emeritus Professor of McGill University, Canada, has been a long-standing consultant to MEI's flotation series, and we were proud to announce last year that he was the recipient of the IMPC's 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award. Jim will present a keynote lecture at Flotation '21 on the appreciation of the life and work of Prof. Graeme Jameson, of the University of Newcastle, Australia, also a holder of the Lifetime Achievement Award and a regular contributor to the flotation series.

Graeme and Jim at Flotation '15

Few can claim a process or equipment that carries their name. The Jameson Cell is a rare example: an industrial endorsement of Professor Jameson’s already secured academic reputation that sets him apart. Taking the Cell as the unifying theme, Jim's talk will assess Graeme’s contributions to the technology of flotation, from fundamental models and innovative experiments to his continuing quest for the universal flotation machine.


Sunday, 9 May 2021

Prof. D.V. Subba Rao, 1954-2021

Sad news from India of the death of Prof. D.V. Subba Rao, just one of over 215,000 people in India who have succumbed to Covid in the pandemic.
Prof. Subba Rao was a former Head of Department and Associate Professor at SDS Autonomous College (affiliated to Andhra University, Visakhapatnam), Garividi, India. An eminent academic he taught at the institute for more than three decades, his students admiring him for his unique teaching skill and simple explanations for different mineral and coal processing topics. 
Prof. Subba Rao published five textbooks on mineral and coal processing (Mineral Beneficiation, Minerals and Coal Process Calculations, The Belt Conveyor, Coal Processing and Utilization, Textbook of Mineral Processing) under different leading international publishers. 
He also trained many practicing engineers from different industries, including Vedanta Ltd, Essar Steel Ltd (Now ArcelorMittal/Nippon Steel), Tega Industries Ltd.  He also served as the Executive Council Member at the Indian Institute of Mineral Engineering and as President of the Indian Institute of Mineral Engineering Student Chapter, Garividi. 
Prof. Subba Rao is survived by his wife and two daughters.

Thursday, 6 May 2021

Gwennap to Carn Marth

Gwennap, a small village just 7 miles from Falmouth, gives its name to the surrounding area known as the Gwennap Parish, which in the 18th and early 19th centuries was the world's richest copper mining district, having the soubriquet 'the richest square mile on earth'.

It is estimated that there were around 3000 mine shafts in this area, relatively few being associated with the iconic Cornish Engine Houses which housed the massive pumping engines, and hoists to bring ore to the surface. The majority of these shaft were just small holes in the ground, wide enough to accommodate ladders down which the miners would descend a couple of thousand feet or more to their place of work.

It is hard to imagine what it must have been like to spend hours each day descending and ascending these ladders, but the 19th century author W. Wilkie vividly described what it was like and in 1787 the novelist William Beckford visited the Gwennap Parish and wrote "at every step one stumbles upon ladders that lead into utter darkness.... the miners who crawl out of the dark fissures are woeful creatures in tattered garments with pickaxes on their shoulders, while the mine officials regale upon beef, pudding and brandy'.

There is little evidence of this intensive mining now. Most of the mine shafts are either capped or fenced off and on a 6.75 mile walk towards Redruth, once the UK's richest town, former Elsevier journal manager Dean Eastbury and I passed only one lonely engine house, that of Pennance Consols, and the remains of granite quarrying at Carn Marth.

What was once a polluted area of smoking chimneys is now a quiet country landscape, a pleasant afternoon walk to the granite hilltop of Carn Marth, looking down on the village of Lanner, with a sweeping panorama from St. Agnes on the north coast, to Falmouth on the south. 

Our circular walk, directed by the excellent iWalk Cornwall app, began at the Gwennap Parish church, which dates back mainly to the 15th century, and took us north to Carn Marth.

Gwennap Parish church

Of historical significance on the walk is Gwennap Pit, an ampitheatre which probably originated from a mine collapse or an open-cast working. It is famous for being used by John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, to preach on 17 occasions between 1776 and 1789. 

Gwennap Pit

Cornwall took to Methodism like no other county in England. For a community of miners, facing danger at work every day, and for farmers and fishermen, Wesley's simple doctrine of justification through faith and instant salvation offered comfort, security and hope. There are few towns and villages in Cornwall which do not have a Methodist Chapel.

The lone engine house which we passed was the pumping house of the Pennance mine, built in 1866. Pennance Consols, previously known as Wheal Amelia, was a small mine which produced copper, and later tin, and closed in 1874.

In 1877 there were four granite quarries on the top of the 235m high granite hill known as Carn Marth, and two of these merged to form a small lake at the top of the hill.

From the top of the hill, which looks down on Lanner and Redruth, the hills of Bodmin Moor can be seen and the hill was used as a beacon for centuries, and in Tudor times was an early warning system, where a chain of hilltop fire beacons, including the plainly visible beacon at St. Agnes, were used to warn of invasion.

Returning to Gwennap we walked through open countryside with the south coast and Falmouth visible in the distance.

More Cornish Walks
More on Cornwall
More on Cornish Mining


Monday, 3 May 2021

Biomining '21: Provisional programme now available

Biomining '21, MEI's 10th International Symposium on biomining, will be held online in June. Due to the interest shown in the conference, the number of abstracts received has allowed us to extend the event to 4 days, from June 7th-10th, and the call for abstracts remains open. 

Biomining '21 has been organised with the advice of Prof. Sue Harrison, of the University of Cape Town and Dr Chris Bryan of BRGM, France, and is sponsored by AFX Mixing & Pumping Technologies and Newmont. Media sponsors are International Mining and Industry Associates are the Cornwall Mining Alliance, the Critical Minerals Association and Ocean Mining Intel.

The provisional programme is now published, and the schedule contains sessions on:

  • Bioleaching of ores and concentrates
  • Biooxidation
  • Microorganisms
  • Secondary processing
  • Recycling
  • Environmental

with 3 keynote lectures:

How green was my biomining?; a personal critique of the limitations and untapped potential of applying bioprocessing techniques for metal extraction and recovery, by Prof. Barrie Johnson, of Bangor University, UK

Bridging gaps in biomining research and application, by Dr. Chris Bryan, of BRGM, France

Environmental applications of biotechnology in mining, by Dr. Anna Kaksonen, of CSIRO, Australia

Supplementing these presentations will be a panel discussion on the future of biomining.

There is also a virtual exhibition, which will be open throughout the conference and is a great way to showcase your company. 

Registration is now open and registered delegates will be able to view recordings of all presentations and the panel discussion on demand until December 31st.

We look forward to meeting you virtually in June.


Saturday, 1 May 2021

April update: Coronavirus; tin, the 'forgotten' critical metal; the increasing importance of the mining industry

Covid took a back seat in the news early in the month with the news of the death of the Queen's consort, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, at the age of 99. I met him very briefly in 1980 during the Royal Visit to Camborne School of Mines, where we discussed froth flotation, which must have made him feel that his visit had not been in vain. The lasting impression at CSM was of a man with a keen sense of humour, who was very ready to put you at ease.

Globally there is little good news on the pandemic, India in particular suffering dreadfully, but here in UK there was a slow return to normality on the 12th of the month, with the reopening of shops and gyms, and pubs and restaurants allowing outdoor eating and drinking, perhaps not an appealing prospect in Falmouth, where the mid-day temperature was 8C.

First pint of the year

Very many businesses have had to adapt or die during the pandemic, and MEI has made an enormous evolutionary leap which we could not have envisaged just over a year ago.  After a void of 17 months, our first online conference, Comminution '21, was successfully held two weeks ago, and the necessary move to virtual events was made possible by the efforts of Amanda and Jon, the next generation. For the first time Jon opened a comminution conference, his recorded address being filmed and edited by Amanda's eldest son, William. I took a back seat and attended the conference as a delegate.

Jon and his nephew William record the opening address

Cornwall is gearing up for the G7 summit at Carbis Bay next month, and in March world leaders made pledges to tackle climate change, the US committing to halving its emissions within a decade and the UK enshrining in law a target of 78% cuts from 1990 levels by 2035.

Many environmental groups want these targets to be achieved earlier but the sad irony is that it is many of these who also demonstrate against mining, the very industry on which these targets are reliant on (Is Zero Carbon by 2050 Attainable?).

Copper in the past has not been regarded as a critical metal, but it should be now. It is the metal needed in increasingly large amounts to produce renewables and electric vehicles. But even now supply is barely keeping up with demand. Many large mines have a head grade of only around 0.5% copper, lower than the tailings of most mines not so long ago. Although ample copper supplies next year and in 2023 will keep the market balanced, mines need to start investing in new capacity soon to meet future demand.

Lithium supply is also critical and new sources must be found to satisfy the demand for battery production. Cornwall will help when the hard rock and brine developments at Cornish Lithium and British Lithium come on stream, but what of tin, which is ready to undergo a resurgence down here in the south west? Very little focus has been given to tin, which is one of the metals critical to achieving the projected green economy, but which has had little exposure compared with lithium, cobalt, nickel, copper and rare-earth elements.

Commonly thought of as having a major use as tin-plating in 'tin cans', plating now accounts for only 12-13% of total consumption, behind 15-18% for chemical use. The major use for tin today is in solder to create electrical connections, currently accounting for close to 50% of demand. It is this use in typically small-scale electronic components that makes the metal critical to the energy transition. Every component of the low-carbon economy requires tin, as without it electrons will not flow. While other metals can theoretically be used for this purpose, given the abundance and effectiveness of tin there really is no economic substitute.

What makes the developments in Cornwall so important is that while there is no shortage of existing and potential tin supply, that supply currently comes with environmental, social and governance (ESG) risk, as most tin production comes from countries that have high ESG risk. China, and Indonesia together account for over 50% of mine supply, while Myanmar is currently the third-largest supplier, and production in the DRC is rising quickly.

Tin might become important for another reason. Stanley Wittingham, jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2019 as one of the founding fathers of lithium-ion batteries, has recently reviewed potential for tin in lithium-ion batteries. In his paper published in October 2020 with colleague Fengxia Xin, Wittingham explains how “tin-based materials are strong candidates as the anode for the next generation of lithium-ion batteries”.

It is apparent that the mining industry is going to be vital in the coming decades and that there will be enormous challenges in supplying the critical raw materials, something which much of the world's media and environmental activists seem blissfully unaware of.