Sunday, 27 June 2021

June Cornish Mining Sundowner: news of developments in lithium, tin and kaolin in Cornwall

MEI's Sustainable Minerals '21 ended on Thursday afternoon, after four days of excellent presentations to 105 participants from 17 countries. It would have been great to have been able to get together each evening, but sadly this is not a feature of today's online conferences, so it was really nice to stroll down to Falmouth's Gyllyngvase beach at the end of the 4th day to catch up with around 30 participants for this month's Cornish Mining Sundowner. Originally scheduled for the Chain Locker pub in Falmouth, due to rising Coronavirus infections the lifting of restrictions on June 21st was postponed for a further 4 weeks, but fortunately we were blessed with a beautiful warm evening on the beach.

Joining the regulars were three representatives from the Welsh company Maelgwyn Mineral Services (MMS), sponsors of MEI's next conference, Flotation '21. It was great to catch up with Steve Flatman and Tim Sandbrook and new recruit James Marsden.

With Steve, James and Tim

MMS were here to pursue their interests in mining developments down in Cornwall, and there has been much going on this month.

Cornish Lithium Ltd is a highly innovative mineral exploration and development company focused on the environmentally-sustainable extraction of lithium from geothermal waters and hard rock in the historic mining district of Cornwall. The company has had much exposure recently in the mainstream media, including the National Geographic Magazine, and has been featured in an excellent video explaining simply why Cornwall has these rich geothermal waters and the approach being adopted to extract the lithium.

Last Monday the company announced that it had successfully completed its latest crowdfunding campaign, raising £6 million in only 20 minutes! The Company has secured agreements with owners of mineral rights over a large area of the county and is using modern technology to re-evaluate the region’s potential for low carbon extraction of lithium and other vital technology metals such as tin, copper and cobalt. A secure domestic supply of such metals is considered vital to the industrial strategy of the UK as it moves towards the production of electric vehicles and a net zero carbon future. Current work is focusing on how best to extract the lithium from the brines. A decision on processing is imminent, and it’s expected that a pilot plant will be ready by the end of March next year.

Simultaneously the company is working to optimise the extraction of lithium from mica minerals, in collaboration with Comminution '22 sponsor Grinding Solutions, and this month announced the formation of a consortium involving Cornish Lithium, Imerys Minerals Ltd and sustainable manufacturing innovation consultancy HSSMI, to assess the potential for co-production of lithium and kaolin (china clay) in Cornwall. The project will assess the potential to produce lithium from waste material produced from both current and historic kaolin operations. 

The project consortium aims to evaluate the economic viability of extracting lithium from zinnwaldite, a lithium containing mica, found in the decomposed granite which also contains kaolin. This could increase the resource efficiency of the mined rock, with the double benefit of making the Cornish kaolin industry even more competitive in international markets, as well as contributing to securing a domestic supply of lithium that is vital to the UK’s transition to renewable energy and a zero-carbon economy.

Kaolin was first discovered in Cornwall in 1746. Since then, Imerys developed to become one of the world’s largest producers of kaolin. Today it employs more than 750 people in east Cornwall, 1100 people in the UK and contributes over £220 million sales per year to the British economy. Imerys supplies, from its Cornish mining and industrial footprint, a large number of growing applications worldwide such as paints, coatings, plastics, ceramics, rubber, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.

It was great to have Cornish Lithium CEO Jeremy Wrathall with us last evening, together with Chairman Derek Linfield and Corporate Development Manager Neil Elliott, and they were joined in the photo below by Richard Williams, CEO of Cornish Metals Inc.

Derek, Neil, Jeremy and Richard

Early this month Cornish Metals announced an updated resource estimate for its South Crofty tin-copper project in Cornwall, showing that is is richer than anticipated, as it moves closer to reopening the past producing mine. The Canadian miner, formerly known as Strongbow Exploration, said additional sampling showed a 10% increase in indicated resources to 2.08 million tonnes in both the lower mine and upper mine areas.

The Vancouver-based company is working on re-opening the South Crofty mine, which was closed in 1998 following more than 400 years of almost continuous production.

“As the UK moves towards net zero, Cornwall will be at the heart of the extraction of high-technology metals, growing our economy and establishing a secure and responsible UK supply chain,” said Darryn Quayle, mining specialist at the international trade department.

“At our South Crofty site we’re primarily focused on tin – the forgotten foot soldier of the high-tech world – which is used in absolutely everything that we need for our modern lives, from mobile phones, robotics and computing to power generation and storage,” said Owen Mihalop, Cornish Metals' chief operating officer. High demand for consumer electronics and issues shipping metal out of Asia have created a shortage of tin, pushing prices for the metal near records for the first time in a decade.


Saturday, 26 June 2021

Prof. Alban Lynch at the AusIMM MillOps '21 Conference

MEI was a media partner for last week's MillOps '21 in Brisbane. Unfortunately we could not be represented as Australia has closed its borders until at least the middle of the year, and, of course, we were occupied with Sustainable Minerals '21 which ran at the same time. 

As there is always a high Australian contingent to the Mill Operators conference it was held as a hybrid, with Australian participation at the venue, and online interaction for international delegates.

It was great to see the photo below, of the JKMRC alumni, staff and students with Professor Alban Lynch, the first Director of the JKMRC, who I had the pleasure of interviewing for MEI in 2014. 

Alban will be 91 years old in two months' time, and I would have loved to have caught up with him, as I last saw him at the IMPC in Brisbane in 2010, where he was signing copies of the newly launched History of Flotation, with his co-authors Mike Nelson and Greg Harbort. He also received the IMPC Lifetime Achievement Award at that meeting.

Alban, Mike and Greg at the 2010 IMPC

Thursday, 24 June 2021

Sustainable Minerals '21 Day 4: Waste Processing and Panel Discussion on the Circular Economy

Thursday June 24th

Dr. Anita Parbhakar-Fox is well known at MEI Conferences, having presented work at previous Sustainable Minerals, Biomining and Process Mineralogy events. In 2017 she was featured as a Rising Star, and she has certainly lived up to our expectations, not only as a leading academic but also a hands-on scientist in the field.

Anita with husband Nathan at Sustainable Minerals ’16 in Falmouth,
with (left) Elaine Govender-Opitz of University of Cape Town
Anita with Julie Hunt and Elly van Veen
investigating acid mine drainage at Rio Tinto, Spain

In her keynote lecture this morning, Anita, now a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Queensland’s Sustainable Minerals Institute, showed that there is an international ‘war on waste’ waging whereby industries and consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the environmental impacts our linear ‘take-make-dispose’ economy facilitates. The promotion, and in some cases adoption, of circular economy principles has grown in recent years but how has this impacted on the mining industry and, more specifically, mine waste management? 

Fundamentally, we mine waste, not ore. The large tonnages of waste rock handled at mine sites, particularly open cuts, illustrates this. Continued mining in this manner is expected to meet the metal demands of our growing global community. It is therefore imperative that the produced waste is characterised to determine if it can be further utilised following circular economy principles or if it is truly waste how can it be disposed to minimise environmental risk? 

Anita’s keynote was the first presentation of 11 papers on waste processing, ranging from the recovery of critical minerals and gold from mine wastes to the production of geopolymers from mine wastes as an alternative to classic concrete. It was good to have our first paper from China in our online conferences, on the recovery of lanthanum and cerium from rare earth polishing powder wastes, given by Dr Yan Wang of the Chinese Academy of Science.

These presentations set the scene for the mid-day panel discussion “What are the limits to achieving a circular economy?”, chaired by conference consultant Prof. Markus Reuter, of the SMS-Group, Germany. Joining the keynote speakers, Anita Parbhakar-Fox, Anna Littleboy and Luis Marcelo Tavares as panelists, was Dr. Peter Radziszewski, of Rampart Detection Systems, Canada.

Markus began with a brief history of the Sustainable Minerals series and the continued quest for a circular economy.

There was very wide ranging discussion in this 100 minute session, with very lively interaction from conference delegates. As with all the presentations, the panel discussion is available on demand for all registered delegates until the end of the year.

Due to two very late withdrawals the final session of the conference, on Energy, contained only 2 presentations, from Australia and Canada. However, we are proud to have as one of our Industry Advocates, the Coalition for Eco-Efficient Comminution (CEEC), a highly respected organisation founded 10 years ago thanks to the vision of Gekko’s Elizabeth Lewis-Gray.  CEEC brings industry leaders together to tackle the challenges of comminution, which accounts for around 3% of the world’s electrical energy consumption, and to mark their 10th anniversary we were pleased to share a short video from CEEC.

Some of CEEC’s Driving Force
L-R: Janine Herzig, Greg Lane, Michael Myllynen, Alison Keogh,
Aidan Giblett, Clare Edwards, Tim Napier-Munn and Joe Pease

Closing the conference Jon thanked our sponsors and industry advocates once more, as well as the six exhibitors, and of course our 105 delegates and those who delivered presentations, of a consistently high standard. Despite the time zone problem, presentations were well attended, and the facility for viewing recordings on demand at a more convenient time led to extremely useful online discussions.

It is evident from the presentations over the past four days that to sustain the supply of the many minerals that are involved in clean and renewable technologies, ranging from base metals such as copper and zinc to strategic minerals such as rare earths and cobalt, will require more mining, innovative processing technologies and more emphasis on recycling. The Sustainable Minerals series is thus of vital importance in bringing people together to discuss these important issues, so a decision has been made to make the conferences annual events, the next one, Sustainable Minerals ’22, scheduled for July 11-14 next year. We invite all companies with green credentials to consider early sponsorship of this event.

We now invite all who attended to submit their views and comments, which will be of great help to us in organising future online, and then hopefully hybrid events. The comments received via Twitter can be found at #SustainableMinerals21.

MEI's next online conference is Flotation '21, and if you would like to present at this major event, abstracts should be submitted by the end of August.

Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Sustainable Minerals '21 Day 3: Innovations for the future

Wednesday June 23rd

Innovation is the key in the quest for a circular economy and sustainability, and this morning’s 12 presentations in the fascinating session Innovation for the Future were wide ranging, including talks on green flotation reagents, heap leaching, novel breakage methods, the use of solar energy, education, quantum energy and mining on the moon.

The session began with a keynote lecture from Prof. Anna Littleboy, the Research Director of Australia’s CRC TiME a new Cooperative Research Centre for Transformations in Mining Economies.

“Why mine closure should not be considered just an environmental issue” draws on two years of consultation with industry, Government and community representatives to establish an industry led cooperative research centre in Australia that considers mine closure as an agent of regional development, rather than as the end of the mining value chain. The paper presented the challenge of mine closure through the lens of systems thinking and offered a new way of thinking about the challenges to be addressed to better link mine closure to successful post mining outcomes for all stakeholders. 

Addressing these challenges requires new ways of thinking about how the operation of a mine impacts on ecosystems, livelihoods and regions long after the mine has gone – and then incorporating this new way of thinking into the decision systems that drive project valuations, operational planning, regulatory determinations, regional planning, community engagement and institutional hierarchies. The issue of mine closure affects social performance, regional impact, residual risk, mine planning, and future investment. 

Nowadays we live in a society with a steadily increasing awareness for the environment on the one hand and a high enthusiasm for new technologies, such as those described this morning, on the other hand. However, as stressed by Dr. Alexander Hutwalker, of Clausthal University of Technology, Germany, the awareness for raw materials and their role in a circular economy is rather low within the general public. This leads to two future challenges: the demand for raw materials increases while gaining the Social License to Operate for any new raw material related operation becomes harder due to environmental concerns. Despite the technical challenges within the concept of a circular economy and the question how the extraction of mineral raw materials can be sustainable at all, the low awareness for raw materials becomes a major risk for any future raw materials operation. Alexander focused on how a Mining Engineering study program can address these topics and thereby support the way to a sustainable raw material use.

Developing this further Dr. German Figueroa, a Plant Metallurgist at CSA Glencore, Australia, discussed how student placements are of vital importance for mineral processing research scholars. The activities on site and direct interaction with experienced personnel not only provide industry-ready skills but also the foundation of sustainable practices. While students benefit from the host company through skills acquisition of all kinds, the host company can benefit through research knowledge-transfer, cost efficiency, and international relationships.

In 2016, post-grad research students from the Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre, participated on the comminution and flotation surveys in the concentrator plant in Francisco I. Madero, Peñoles, Mexico. In addition, they also had the opportunity to test their research projects at industrial scale. German described from the education point of view the main activities and challenges experienced during the process, preliminary metallurgical results, research at industry application, and concluded by describing the overall student experience, a critical part on their personal and professional formation.

A great morning of talks on innovation was continued after the lunch break by 5 papers on the use of biotechnology in sustainability, including two from South Africa on the potential of phytomining, where metals found in the rhizosphere are taken up by roots of adapted hyperaccumulator plants and concentrated into specific regions of the plant, from which they can be recovered.

There is much potential for this environmentally friendly process, and Prof. Sue Harrison, of the University of Cape Town showed that native herbaceous plant species on tailings storage facilities on the Zambian Copperbelt show phytomining potential, and Farai Masinire of the University of Pretoria discussed the phytoremediation of chromium(VI) in wastewater using Chrysopogon zizanioides (vetiver grass).

A very interesting day, and a reminder that all the abstracts are available for free viewing, and the presentations are on demand until the end of the year, so it is not too late to register.

Check out the feedback on the conference at #SustainableMinerals21.

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Sustainable Minerals '21 Day 2: Acid mine drainage and tailings

Tuesday June 22nd

An interesting long day with presentations on areas crucial to the environment and the circular economy, acid mine drainage (AMD) and tailings.

AMD is the acidic leachate obtained from weathered mine or mineral waste, caused by the oxidation of sulfide minerals by oxygen and water. It has been described as the second biggest problem worldwide after global warming. Management of acid generating process tailings has become an important social and economic challenge and the 10 presentations in the morning session were completely devoted to AMD and waste waters.

Improved waste management practices are needed to ensure the long-term prevention of potential acid mine waters, limiting the access of oxidants to the sulfide-containing mineral being paramount to prevent the oxidation reactions that promote AMD, and Carolina Mafra, of University of Liege, Belgium, presented an integrated management strategy for AMD control of sulfidic tailings. 

Dr. Thanos Kotsiopoulos, presented one of 4 papers from the University of Cape Town (UCT), and he highlighted that technologies to remove the long-term risks of large volume mine wastes remain limited. With the unrestricted access of oxidants, sulphide mineral degradation extends over prolonged time-frames which often leads to the formation of AMD. He showed that co-disposal of separated wastes presents a sustainable means to minimising risk by exploiting the complementary attributes of low sulphur fine waste tailings with acid generating waste discards.

Karolina Rybka, of the AGH University of Science and Technology, Poland, described Layered Double Hydroxides, mineral-like materials which, due to their layered structure containing weakly-bounded interlayer anions, are promising candidates for the removal of anionic forms from industrial wastewaters. In a further UCT paper, Dr. Tynas Marais showed how sulphate reducing and/or sulphide oxidising bacteria have been applied in the bioremediation of mine-impacted wastewater by exploiting their metabolic potential to transform sulphur species. Also from South Africa, Kerri Preez, showed how Mintek has developed cloSURE, a process for treatment of AMD which employs biological sulphate reduction

Standard assessment of acid and metalliferous drainage risks for mine waste is common practice in industry however general practice/guidance has to date focused on base metal/gold sulfide ores with less focus on unconventional “green technology” deposits which, contrary to the “green” classification, can generate wastes posing significant environmental risks from long term storage. 

Key strategic resources like lithium, graphite and REE are critical for the advancement of so-called “green” technologies including Li-Ion batteries and high performance electromagnets. Whilst some recycling is possible, this market is relatively small as demand is far greater than supply. As such mining of these materials, and thus waste generation, will be required in the immediate future, and Julia Dent, of Mine Environmental Management, UK, outlined key geochemical risk factors for storage of “green” mine waste that require careful assessment and which, if not given due consideration, may pose a potential future threat to the ‘green’ credentials of minerals critical for technology advancement.

In a further UK presentation, Gareth Rogers, a QEMSCAN Specialist at CGG-Robertson, showed that bulk geochemical tests are commonly used for AMD prediction but the information gained is limited and recent studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of automated mineralogy for AMD prediction.

In the final presentation in this session, and as a prelude to the afternoon session, Robert Barthen, of Tampere University, Finland, gave a positive slant on AMD, showing that it can also serve as a viable source of metals, if its remediation can be combined with metal recovery. The challenge is effective separation of desired metals for further downstream processing. He described the development of a simple sorption/desorption process using waste digested activated sludge as sorbent to recover metals such as U from AMD containing more than 10 metals, including Fe, Mn, Ni, Cu, Th, V and U.

How tailings are disposed of, managed and utilised will be critical for Environmental and Social Governance, as well as the circular economy, and was the subject of the eight presentations in the afternoon session.

The legacy of  mining in Cornwall pre-Environmental and Social Governance
The area around Godrevy on the north Cornwall coast in 1982,
contaminated with South Crofty tailings discharged
into the appropriately named Red River

The presentations showed how mine tailings can be viewed as secondary resources, although potential exists to valorise mine tailings to the circular economy as construction raw materials and mine backfill.  

Serbia, for instance, has copper deposits which have been exploited since ancient times, and these operations have generated large amounts of mineral processing tailings. In the Bor Valley, approximately 27 Mt of tailings were disposed between 1933 and 1987 and Erdem Özdemir, of Metso Outotec, Finland described a project with the aim of zero waste extraction of valuable metals from the old Bor tailings containing copper and gold.

All the abstracts for the presentations are freely available on the conference website and the presentations are available on demand to registered delegates until the end of the year.


Monday, 21 June 2021

Sustainable Minerals '21 Day 1: Circular economy and recycling

Monday June 21st

Sustainable Minerals '21, MEI's 6th International Symposium on Sustainable Minerals, has been organised in consultation with Prof. Markus Reuter, of SMS Group GmbH, Germany and is sponsored by FLSmidth. The media sponsor is International Mining, and the Coalition for Eco-Efficient Comminution (CEEC), the Cornwall Mining Alliance and the Critical Minerals Association are Industry Associates.

MEI’s Jon Wills welcomed the 104 participants from 17 countries this morning, saying that the conference comes at a critical time for the minerals industry and the outlook for sustainability, as the world won’t be able to tackle the climate crisis unless there is a sharp increase in the supply of metals required to produce clean energy technologies, the demand soaring for copper, lithium, nickel, cobalt and rare earth elements.

With a world population of over 7.8 billion, sustaining our way of life is becoming a major issue, but it is not widely acknowledged that a sustainable society is very much dependent on a sustainable mining industry. Mining never gets easier, the tonnages mined steadily increase while the available ores become ever leaner and complex, so in order for the industry to be sustainable it must continually adapt to these changes and innovate.

Ores are finite resources, so there will be an increasing strain on primary sources, and a concomitant increase in energy and water requirements. Critical to a sustainable future, however, is the need to move from a linear to a circular economy, by retreating old tailings dumps and crucially by recycling materials at the end of their effective lives.

So there is much to look forward to this week and the conference got off to a good start this morning with the first technical session on the Circular Economy, Prof. Luis Marcelo Tavares, of the University of Rio de Janeiro, showing that sustainability in mining must be envisaged from a more comprehensive perspective that involves the management of primary and secondary resources and that prioritises the adoption of innovation beyond a techno-economic mindset. 

Taking us up to the morning break, two very pertinent presentations from Finland and Germany emphasised mining’s crucial role in society. Prof. Simon Michaux, of the Geological Survey of Finland said that global reserves are not large enough to supply enough metals to build the renewable non-fossil fuels industrial system or satisfy long term demand in the current system. Mineral deposit discovery has been declining for many metals. The grade of processed ore for many of the industrial metals has been decreasing over time, resulting in declining mineral processing yield. This has the implication of the increase in mining energy consumption per unit of metal. 

Dr. Mathilde Robben, of Tomra Sorting, Germany, stressed that the transformation from a linear economy to a circular economy is of direct relevance to the mining industry, as it is a major producer of minerals and metals, as well as a big consumer of energy, water and chemicals. While consumer goods companies dominate the circular economy conversations, it is essential that the minerals resource industry contributes to an economy that is efficient in how it extracts, produces, consumes, recovers, and recycles resources. She showed that sensor-based sorting solutions have proven their worth not only as a ground-breaking technological innovation. Considering that grinding is the most energy-intensive part of the production cycle, implementing sorting in the early stages of processing reduces waste material and shrinks the carbon footprint while increasing profitability. 

Two presentations, from UK and Finland took us to the lunch break. Rowan Halkes, of Camborne School of Mines, introduced the MIREU project, which aims to establish a European mining and metallurgy network, involving 30 partners from 17 regions, and identify methods to ensure the continued sustainable supply of mineral raw materials throughout Europe. The project has also developed new Social Licence to Operate guidelines which will be utilised across Europe.

Riina Aromaa, of Aalto University, Finland then discussed the environmental impacts of hydrometallurgical cobalt sulfate production from Finnish ores. The demand for cobalt is projected to increase and recycling remaining insufficient to satisfy the demand, so environmentally acceptable primary production remains necessary as cobalt production is dominated by a few regions producing cobalt from nickel or copper ores. Riina described work aiming to quantify selected environmental impact categories for hydrometallurgical production of cobalt sulfate from a potential deposit of Co-Cu-Au ore where CoAsS is the main cobalt mineral.

Prior to the lunch break there was the first of our 20-minute networking functions, where delegates are placed at random into a group of maximum 3 participants for 5 minutes, and then after this being moved to another group, our way of recreating those random meets over a cup of coffee at a conference!  Feedback on this would be appreciated.

The afternoon was dominated by presentations on that most important aspect of seeking a circular economy, recycling, with eight presentations on various aspects of recycling, from Finland, Germany, Japan, Portugal, South Africa and Spain.

And so ended a very full and productive day. All the conference abstracts can be viewed on the website, and all presentations will be available on demand to registered delegates until the end of the year.


Saturday, 19 June 2021

Memories of MEGS '01, Falmouth, June 2001

Twenty years ago today, MEI's 1st International Symposium on Magnetic, Electrical & Gravity Separation (MEGS '01) began at the Falmouth Beach Hotel, and was organised in collaboration with De Beers- DebTech and sponsored by Eriez Magnetics Europe Ltd and Axsia Mozley.

This was the first in what was to become in 2009 the Physical Separation series, all held in Falmouth, although our original venue, the Falmouth Beach Hotel, was destroyed by fire in 2012.

Over 70 delegates representing 26 countries from as far as Australia, North and South America, Africa, Asia and Europe attended the Conference, which included a tour of the historic Basset tin mines, located in the Camborne-Redruth area of Cornwall. There are some familiar names in the delegate list, and I'm sure familiar faces in the photos below:


Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Sustainable Minerals '21 is only 5 days away

A reminder that Sustainable Minerals '21, a conference of vital importance to the minerals industry, and to society in general, begins on Monday. This is MEI's 6th International Symposium on Sustainable Minerals and is organised in consultation with Prof. Markus Reuter and sponsored by FLSmidth. Our Media Partner is International Mining, and our Industry Advocates are the Coalition for Eco-Efficient Comminution (CEEC), the Cornwall Mining Alliance and the Critical Minerals Association.

Full details can be found on the posting of 23rd May, and registration details are on the conference website.

Sit back in the comfort of your own homes and offices next week, for 4 days of international presentations, including 3 keynote lectures and a panel discussion on "What are the limits to achieving a circular economy?".


Monday, 14 June 2021

New Book: Agromining: Farming for Metals

will be the subject of a number of papers at next week's Sustainable Minerals '21. In phytomining, metals found in the rhizosphere are taken up by roots of adapted hyperaccumulator plants and concentrated into specific regions of the plant, from which they can be recovered.

Agromining, or phytomining, is an emerging technology whereby these 'metal crops' can be farmed on sub-economic soils or minerals wastes to obtain valuable target elements, and aims to transform the extraction of sources of target elements not accessible by traditional mining and processing techniques.

Agromining: Farming for Metals- Extracting Unconventional Resources Using Plants, is the second and expanded edition of the first book on agromining and presents a comprehensive overview of the metal farming and recovery of the agromining production chain. 

This volume is edited and authored by pioneers in the rapidly expanding field of agromining and presents the latest insights and developments in the field. The book provides in-depth information on the global distribution and ecology of hyperaccumulator plants, their biogeochemical pathways, the influence of rhizosphere microbes, the physiology and molecular biology of hyperaccumulation, as well as aspects of propagation and conservation of these unusual plants. It describes the agronomy of metal crops and opportunities for incorporating agromining into rehabilitation and mine closure, including test cases for agromining of  nickel, cobalt, manganese, arsenic, selenium, cadmium, zinc, thallium, rare earth elements and platinum group elements. 

Since the first edition was published, there have been successful nickel agromining field trials in the tropics (in Malaysia and Guatemala), and these are presented in a dedicated case study chapter. Other new chapters focus on the processing of bio-ore for elements other than nickel, such as rare earth elements and cadmium, and on agromining from industrial wastes such as tailings, and industrial by-products and sites. Furthermore, the book features two new chapters that provide a comprehensive assessment of accumulation of a very wide range of elements from the Periodic Table in various plant species around the globe, and a chapter on practical methods for discovery of hyperaccumulator plant species in the field and in the herbarium. 

This book will be of interest to environmental professionals in the minerals industry, government regulators, and academics.

Saturday, 12 June 2021

A unique Saturday in Falmouth

There can be few people around the world unaware that the G7 Summit meeting is being held in Cornwall this weekend.

The venue, Carbis Bay, is 24 miles from Falmouth, but even here there is a massive police presence, as the international media representatives are hosted at Falmouth's National Maritime Museum, and today saw a number of peaceful protests in the town.

I have spent the day wandering around on foot and by bike, and captured a few photos of the atmosphere on this glorious summer day.  There will be much more on the G7 in Cornwall in the monthly update on July 1st.

G7 leaders take a stroll into Falmouth

Extinction Rebellion in Kimberley Park

Ethiopians from Tigray province march to highlight the genocide taking place

Away from town, the peace and beauty of the Fal estuary at Pendennis Point

Life goes on at Swanpool Beach

and new life at Swanpool Lake

Thursday, 10 June 2021

Biomining '21 Day 4

Environmental applications of biotechnology in mining was the theme of today’s single session, commencing with a keynote lecture from Dr. Anna Kaksonen of CSIRO, Australia.  A former senior researcher at Tampere University of Technology, Finland, Anna joined CSIRO in 2009 as a team leader of Environmental and Industrial Biotechnology, and now leads CSIRO’s Industrial Biotechnology Group. Earlier this year she was appointed as an editor of Minerals Engineering.

Anna showed how the capability of microbes to catalyse oxidative and reductive bioprocesses as well as degrade organic compounds has been utilised for the removal of various contaminants from hydrometallurgical process waters and the treatment of effluents prior to release into the environment.  She reviewed recent developments in the environmental applications of biotechnology in mining, which was followed by examples from eight presentations from Chile, Germany, Poland, Spain and South Africa describing the bioremediation and metal recovery from acid mine waters.

It is evident that biotechnology will be an important weapon in such areas, but overall what will be the future of biomining?  This was the subject of a mid-day panel discussion, chaired by Prof Sue Harrison, one of MEI’s consultants to the conference, and Professor of Bioprocess Engineering at the University of Cape Town. Sue was a co-chairperson of the last panel discussion in the series, at Biomining ’14.

Sue started by summarising the conference and then introduced the panel members,  Prof. Sabrina Hedrich, of TU Bergakademie Freiberg, Germany, and the three keynote lecturers, Chris Bryan, Barrie Johnson and Anna Kaksonen.

This was an excellent, wide ranging 2-hour discussion of many topics, which I will not attempt to summarise, suffice it to say that the recording is available on demand for another 6 months.  What was very encouraging was the interaction with the conference delegates who submitted very pertinent questions via the discussion forum.

After another very productive day, Jon closed the conference, thanking our sponsors once more, the presenters, the exhibitors and all delegates for taking part in the active online discussions. The presenters were invited to submit papers to Minerals Engineering for peer-review, with the aim of publication in a virtual special issue of the conference.

These discussions can continue for a further 6 months, as the conference presentations and panel discussion will remain online, and we invite further registrations at any time. 

We would greatly appreciate your feedback on the conference, and invite you to submit your comments and criticisms to this blog post, as your opinions will be of great value to us as we progress to future events. Let us know what you thought about the networking sessions, and how you found browsing the virtual exhibit booths. If you were an exhibitor did you find the virtual experience a worthwhile substitute to a physical presence?

Thank you all of you for your support. It will be interesting to see how biomining will develop over the next few years, and what will transpire at the next event in the series, details of which will be announced shortly.


Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Biomining '21 Day 3

Biohydrometallurgy is most often used to deal with recalcitrant minerals, where other techniques fail. These minerals often end up in plant tailings, and in the quest for a circular economy, which will be one of the main themes of Sustainable Minerals ’21 in a couple of weeks’ time, the treatment of secondary deposits, such as old tailings dams, and current plant tailings, increases in importance.

The day began with eight presentations, from Austria, France, Germany, Portugal and Spain on bioleaching to extract valuable and hazardous metals and base metals from waste streams, and from steel production by-products.

Recycling of metals is probably the greatest challenge for the circular economy, particularly the small amounts present in waste electrical and electronic equipment, such as mobile phones and printed circuit boards. 

There are intensive research efforts around the globe and in the second session of the day, on Recycling, seven presentations from France, Germany, Spain, South Africa, Republic of Korea and UK showed how biotechnology might play an important role in this area. 

Daniel Ray, of Coventry University, UK, highlighted that mobile phones have become an integral part of modern society. An average mobile phone is estimated to be in use for less than two years with an estimated 18 million handsets replaced every year in the UK alone. Waste mobile phones contain a variety of valuable metals including copper, nickel and gold, and tiny amounts of critical metals such as rare earths and indium. 

There is no doubt that biohydrometallurgy will play a crucial role in the circular economy, and we will hear more of secondary processing and recycling at Sustainable Minerals ’21.

The circular economy will also be the subject of debate at the G7 summit, which begins on Friday in Cornwall, and as a prelude to this a huge sculpture made of electronic waste is being built on the Hayle Towans dunes facing Carbis Bay where the G7 leaders will be meeting.  It has been named "Mount Recyclemore" and bids to highlight the damage caused by the disposal of electronic devices.

Photo: Greg Martin @photogregmartin

The huge faces depict UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, France's President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Joe Biden.

The project aims to highlight the growing threat of e-waste on the planet as the G7 leaders prepare to discuss how to tackle climate change and build a greener future.


Tuesday, 8 June 2021

Biomining '21 Day 2

Dr. Chris Bryan has been a consultant to MEI’s biomining conferences for several years. Formerly a senior lecturer at Camborne School of Mines, he is now head of the Geomicrobiology and Environmental Monitoring Unit at BRGM in France.

Chris got the day off to a fine start with a keynote lecture “Bridging the gaps in biomining research and application”.  He highlighted that, despite the excitement of 40 years ago, biohydrometallurgy remains a niche technology, applied where it offers unique advantages or no alternative exists. Advances in competing hydrometallurgical processes, such as chloride leaching and HPAL, mean bioleaching is at risk of losing ground. To halt this potential decline, and to make biomining more competitive in an increasingly busy space, serious scientific and technological advances are required. 

Chris feels that biohydrometallurgy is incredibly exciting. Few other technologies combine so many different disciplines. However, research is rather disparate, with relatively few resources. More than ever, as a community we need to consider how best to advance the state of the art: how to avoid the no-man’s land between academic knowledge and industrial needs and what are the key research questions.

Chris’s provocative keynote was followed by three presentations  from South Africa on biooxidation.

Metso Outotec's BIOX® process was developed for the pre-treatment of refractory concentrates ahead of conventional cyanide leaching for gold recovery. As the gold is encapsulated in sulfide minerals such as pyrite and arsenopyrite, the gold is prevented from being leached by cyanide. The BIOX® process destroys sulfide minerals and exposes the gold for subsequent cyanidation, thereby increasing the achievable gold recovery.

BIOX® has gained wide range acceptance due to its relatively lower operating cost and environmental friendliness. However, with uncertainties in gold prices, depletion of near-surface ores and dwindling gold grades coupled with high reagent cost, some BIOX® processes are becoming uneconomically viable, and Jakolien Strauss, of Metso Outotec, South Africa, described how the BIOX® technology solution offerings have been expanded in recent years to cater for the treatment of complex base metal sulphides. 

The search for more useful microorganisms continues, as there are areas in which those currently available are inadequate for industrial use, solids tolerance in stirred tanks being a notable area, particularly at high temperature, and microorganisms was the subject of 11 diverse presentations in the 2nd session of the day, showing the diversity and capabilities of microbes from a broad range of environments from the Northern Hemisphere to the Antarctic.

Back in 2014 (posting of 28 July 2014) Dr. Paul Norris said that academics should look at relevant natural and mining sites in their countries. He said that it is not difficult to find new microorganisms and then to screen them to assess their effectiveness. Academics at the TU Bergakademie Freiberg, Germany have done just that, and Dr. Götz Haferburg showed how the Reiche Zeche mine, one of the most famous historic polymetallic mines in the Freiberg area, proved to be a treasure trove of acidophilic microorganisms.

All presentations and discussions are available on demand to registered delegates until December 31st, but abstracts are freely available on the conference website