Thursday, 29 July 2021

Solvay, the latest sponsor of Flotation '21, has an illustrious history of scientific conferences

We welcome the world's largest supplier of specialty mining chemicals, Solvay, as a sponsor of Flotation '21. Solvay supported Flotation '17 and Flotation '19 and prior to that US-based Cytec was a regular sponsor of the flotation series before being acquired by Solvay in 2015. I last met up with some of the group members at last year's SME Meeting in Phoenix, shortly before the world went mad!

Solvay representatives in Phoenix

Solvay is one of the oldest companies sponsoring MEI, the company being founded in 1863 by Ernest Solvay and a small circle of relatives, after a technological breakthrough, the ammonia-soda process. In 1900 95% of the soda ash consumed in the world was produced using the Solvay Process.

Ernest Solvay called science his “fifth child” and he devoted time and money to endow scientific learning. His main passion was physics and he funded a number of conferences in Brussels bringing together the era's most brilliant physicists. The first Solvay Conference was held in 1911, a chemistry conference was held in 1922, and institutes have since organised such meetings on a regular basis even until today.

We at MEI pride ourselves on the quality and eminence of our delegates, but my head reels when I look at the photo below, delegates at the 5th Solvay International Conference, on Photos and Electrons, held in Brussels in 1927. The delegate list contained only 29 participants but 17 of them were, or would become, Nobel Prize Winners.

The Nobel Laureates at the conference are in bold below:
Back row: Auguste Piccard, Émile Henriot, Paul Ehrenfest, Édouard Herzen, Théophile de Donder, Erwin Schrödinger, Jules-Émile Verschaffelt, Wolfgang Pauli, Werner Heisenberg, Ralph Howard Fowler, Léon Brillouin

Middle Row: Peter Debye, Martin Knudsen, William Lawrence Bragg, Hendrik Anthony Kramers, Paul Dirac, Arthur Compton, Louis de Broglie, Max Born, Niels Bohr

Seated front: Irving Langmuir, Max Planck, Marie Skłodowska Curie, Hendrik Lorentz, Albert Einstein, Paul Langevin, Charles Eugène Guye, Charles Thomson Rees Wilson, Owen Willans Richardson

Many of the names are familiar to me from the lectures on quantum theory, the strange world of the unimaginably small, that were part of my degree course in metallurgy at Leeds University in the mid 1960s. I remember struggling (as I think the lecturer was) to grasp the concepts of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, Pauli's Exclusion Principle, the wave equations of Schrödinger and de Broglie and Bohr's structure of the atom. They are all there in the photo, including the only woman, Marie Curie, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize twice, and the only person to win the Nobel Prize in two scientific fields. She discovered the elements polonium and radium, using techniques she invented for isolating radioactive isotopes. Radium was first isolated by her from pitchblende from the Trenwith Mine above St. Ives in Cornwall.

The only quantum theory sceptic at the conference was Albert Einstein who famously debated the newly formulated theory with Niels Bohr. Einstein, disenchanted with Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, remarked “God does not play dice” to which Bohr replied: “Einstein, stop telling God what to do".

Back to the present after that sojourn into the past, and thanks again Solvay and all our other Flotation '21 sponsors for your support, which we greatly appreciate.

And just a reminder that if you would like to make a presentation at the conference, abstracts should be submitted by the end of August.

Updates are at #Flotation21

Monday, 26 July 2021

What is the future for journal Impact Factor?

The 2020 Journal Impact Factors (IF) have recently been published, and it is good to see that the IFs for the leading mineral processing journals have all increased. 

Mineral Processing & Extractive Metallurgy Review 5.284
Minerals Engineering  4.765
Hydrometallurgy 4.156
Minerals 2.644
International Journal of Minerals Metallurgy & Materials 2.232
Canadian Metallurgical Quarterly 1.456
Physicochemical  Problems of Mineral Processing 1.213
Minerals and Metallurgical Processing 1.02

The IF for Minerals Engineering has increased from 3.795 in 2019 to 4.765, but Mineral Processing & Extractive Metallurgy Review has shown a marked increase from 2.785 to 5.284, and I must congratulate the editor, Prof. Komar Kawatra of Michigan Technological University, for this remarkable achievement.

With Prof. Kawatra in Phoenix in 2020

Impact Factor is a measure of the frequency with which the 'average article' in a journal has been cited in a particular year and it has become a standard measurement of scientific success, particularly for decisions on hiring and promoting academics. An individual's impact factor is a score that takes into account the number of publications and the citation rate of the journals where those papers are published. This often leads scientists to publish their work in journals with a higher impact factor than those in which their paper might be viewed more widely by others. The table above contains only those journals publishing work in the same field, and it would be unfair to compare their impact factors with those of say Science or Nature, which cover a wide range of disciplines and so are very highly cited.

Among academic researchers, dissatisfaction with use and misuse of the impact factor in evaluations and tenure, promotion and hiring decisions has grown in recent years. A 2018 report called the impact factor “an inadequate measure for assessing the impact of scientists” and concluded that failure to modify the current assessment system is likely to lead to “continued bandwagon behaviour that has not always resulted in positive societal behaviour”. Despite this, a 2019 study found that 40% of research-intensive universities in the United States and Canada specifically mention impact factors or closely related terms in documents related to tenure, review and promotion. Only a few of those references strike a note of caution, and most suggest that a high impact score would be necessary for career advancement.

A recent article in Nature describes how IF is to be abandoned in 2022 by the Dutch University of Utrecht and faculty members will be evaluated by their commitment to teamwork and open science.

The decision to revamp hiring and promotion was partly inspired by the Declaration on Research Assessment, a document created in 2012 at the annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology. The declaration aims to “improve the ways in which researchers and the outputs of scholarly research are evaluated” and specifically calls for abandoning impact factors as a way to judge the merit of academics. So far, it has been signed by nearly 20,000 individuals and institutions. Utrecht University signed the document in 2019.

A statement from the University of Utrecht said “Impact factors don’t really reflect the quality of an individual researcher or academic. We have a strong belief that something has to change, and abandoning the impact factor is one of those changes.”

Interesting!  What do all you academics and researchers feel about this?


Sunday, 25 July 2021

Prof. Akbar Farzanegan

Sad news today from Iran of the death of Prof. Akbar Farzanegan, of the School of Mining Engineering, College of Engineering at the University of Tehran.

Prof. Farzanegan received his PhD degree from McGill University, Canada under the supervision of the late Professor André R. Laplante.

His main research was related to mineral processing and applying knowledge-based approach solutions such as population balance modelling and simulation, CFD and DEM numerical simulations to optimize performance of industrial plants. He attended two MEI Conferences, Comminution '06 and Comminution '08. At Comminution '08, when he was at the University of Kashan, he presented a paper "Integration of evolutionary optimization algorithms with a grinding circuit simulator".

Prof. Farzanegan (centre) at Comminution '08 in Falmouth

Our thought are with Akbar's family.

Friday, 23 July 2021

First announcement: Sustainable Minerals '22

The 4th Industrial revolution and the fight against climate change is straining the sustainable use of the Earth’s natural resources due to modern society’s extensive use of metals, materials and products. 

An astute and conscious application and use of metals, materials and products supported by the reuse and recycling of these materials and end-of-life products is imperative to the preservation of the Earth’s resources. The realisation of the ambitions of sustainable use of resources demands that the different disciplines of the material and consumer product system are connected and harmonised, and this was evident in the very encouraging response to Sustainable Minerals '21, the 6th MEI Conference in the series, and the first to be online. 

As much research effort is being put into sustainable mining and processing, it was decided that this series should become an annual event, so Sustainable Minerals '22 is now open for abstract submission.

If your company is committed to sustainability and responsible mining we invite you to sponsor the event and join our early sponsor Zeiss.  We also thank our media partner International Mining, and industry advocates CEEC, the Critical Minerals Association and Cornwall Mining Alliance.

Conference updates will be at #SustainableMinerals22.

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Cornwall sizzles

We are enjoying hot weather this week in Cornwall with temperatures over 25C. Although the Government controversially removed most Coronavirus restrictions on Monday, overseas travel is nowhere near back to normal, so the crowds have been pouring into the south west, and Falmouth's main beaches have been busy, although the locals have found relative solitude in the nearby coves.

Falmouth's Swanpool Beach

Gyllyngvase Beach
Solitude on Castle Beach, only a few hundred yards from Gyllyngvase

While most people were relaxing in the sun, MEI's Jon undertook a gruelling 7 and a half hour Coast to Coast Extreme Route Challenge three days ago, cycling 104 miles to raise money for Cornwall Hospice Care. He has been working as a volunteer in one of the Hospice charity shops throughout the pandemic. Well done Jon, an elevation gain of 9,753 feet is pretty daunting!

Monday, 19 July 2021

We welcome Kemtec Africa to Flotation '21

In 2017 we were pleased to announce that Kemtec, a new Australian company, supplying specialty flotation reagents to tackle plant challenges, was to sponsor Flotation '17 in Cape Town. Two years later we welcomed the young company back as a sponsor of Flotation '19.

The company has grown since then and is now a global group of specialised mineral processing reagent companies, located in USA, Australia, Mexico & China, with Kemtec Africa servicing the African continent.  This year we welcome Kemtec Africa as a sponsor of Flotation '21, via its technical sales director, Louis Hoffman, who represented Cytec from Flotation '09 to Flotation '15. Kemtec at Flotation '17 and Kemtec Africa at Flotation '19.

A huge thanks to Kemtec Africa and the other sponsors of MEI's first online flotation conference, and a reminder that, should you wish to present your work at the conference, abstracts should be submitted by the end of August.


Friday, 16 July 2021

July Cornish Mining sundowner: with more news on lithium

Falmouth's Gyllyngvase beach once more provided the venue for the Cornish Mining Sundowner, and on a warm sunny evening is there anywhere better?

It was good to see a number of new faces among the regulars, including Mark Alcock and his wife Linda, who are down here on holiday from Guildford, about 250 miles away. Mark graduated from Camborne School of Mines in 1978 and is now a consultant to HS2, the high speed rail link currently under construction between London and the Midlands and North. It is a highly controversial project, which led to an interesting discussion!

With Mark and Linda Alcock

It is really good to see so many young women graduating in mining these days, and attending her first sundowner was Hannah Matheson, who has just graduated from CSM, and, travel permitting, will soon be taking up her first job as a mining engineer in Perth, Western Australia. Hannah is pictured below with two King Edward Mine Museum stalwarts, Nigel MacDonald and Carol Richards.

In the photo below, the tall man 4th from the left is Hannah's dad, Bruce, who is working on a PhD in mine ethics at CSM.

Geologist Evan Marquis was also attending her first sundowner, having just taken up a post-doctoral research position at CSM's Environment & Sustainability Institute with sundowner regulars Frances Wall and Karen Hudson-Edwards.  In the photo below Eva (left) is with Jane Coll, a geologist at CSA Global.

There was much to talk about last night. The worrying rise in Coronavirus infections in Cornwall after the G7 summit was a topic of conversation, as was the surge in mining developments taking place down in this remote corner of Great Britain.

The rapid growth of renewable energy and electric vehicles means the demand for the minerals they rely on is set to soar. By 2030, the world could need half as much tin again, and for lithium the increase is a massive 500% by 2050 according to the World Bank

The Importance of Mining to Society was the subject of a one hour event hosted by the Critical Minerals Association held in Falmouth in June on the first day of G7

The message was that we need to change our relationship with society to show the value that we can add to a greener society, and the importance of the meeting was that it was attended or relayed to the international journalists present in Falmouth for G7, so it was hoped that they were listening and that the message would get out that mining is essential. 

Lucy Crane speaking to the BBC
One of the speakers was sundowner regular Dr. Lucy Crane, Senior Geologist with Cornish Lithium, and it does appear that the message was heeded as two weeks ago Lucy and Cornish Metals CEO Richard Williams, were featured on the BBC TV National News, explaining the developments in lithium and tin mining in Cornwall (see also the report on last month's sundowner). "If we're going to be producing these metals to go into low-carbon technologies, then it's so important that we extract them as responsibly as possible,” Lucy Crane told the BBC.

The UK is set to ban the sale of new diesel and petrol cars in 2030, and Nissan has set out plans for a £1bn electric vehicle hub in Sunderland which the Japanese firm says will create 6,000 new jobs at the firm and among its suppliers. With lithium essential for battery production, the BBC asked whether the answer to their supply lies in the rocks of Cornwall? 

KP and son Hendrik
In east Cornwall British Lithium continues to work to sustainably extract lithium from mica in the granite of the St. Austell china clay region, and Chief Metallurgist Klass (KP) van der Wielen told me that the company is seeking to find acid-free solutions to extracting and processing lithium. With the help of £3m of Innovate UK funding the company is building a pilot plant where the lithium will be recovered and processed using recyclable salt as a reagent, rather than toxic chemicals. The pilot plant is in the early stages of construction and is scheduled to become operational in the last quarter of this year.

In west Cornwall Cornish Lithium is currently testing different technologies to extract the metal from the hot geothermal brines a kilometre below the earth, and after removing the lithium injecting the water back underground so the process can be repeated. The energy used to power this process will be from a renewable source, the natural heat from the deep rocks being converted into electricity, making the process carbon-neutral.

Cornish Lithium thinks it could eventually supply about a third of the UK's future lithium needs, the UK’s demand going to be about 75,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate from 2035, which is about a fifth of current total global supply.

Also more good news from Cornish Metals, who have discovered silver at its United Downs copper-tin project. Highlights from one hole drilled to a depth of 260.24m intersected two zones of high-grade mineralisation including a 2.61m wide mineralised intersection averaging 5.2% copper, 1.3% tin and 77g/t silver.

And on 1st July, Geothermal Engineering made history by being the first developer to successfully bring the naturally hot geothermal fluid to the surface and re inject it underground, proving that the novel concept at United Downs works and a power plant can now be installed.

Hopefully there will be more news of developments at the next sundowner, scheduled for Gylly beach again on Thursday 19th August.


Monday, 12 July 2021

Comminution '22 postponed until 2023

As the pandemic continues to rage in many countries, we are sorry to have to announce that Comminution '22, scheduled for Cape Town next April, has been postponed to the following year.

Details of Comminution '23 will be announced in due course, but we would like to take this opportunity of thanking our sponsors, who are continuing to support the conference in these difficult times. 

Thursday, 8 July 2021

Recent comments

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

Controversial "invisible gold" paper published
April update: Coronavirus; tin, the 'forgotten' critical metal; the increasing importance of the mining industry
Gwennap to Carn Marth
Return to Chingola
Tintagel to Port Isaac- a real challenge!
Prof DV Subba Rao, 1954-2021
Memories of the Nchanga Tailings Leach Plant
The Rare Metals War
Agricola's De Re Metallica
We need mining!  At last the popular media is waking up to this
Biomining '21 Day 1
2019 MEI Young Person's Award to Nikhil Dhawan
High capacity microwave treatment of ores may be closer than previously thought
Sustainable Minerals '21 Day 1
Memories of MEGS '01, Falmouth, June 2001
Sustainable Minerals Day 4: Waste processing and panel discussion on the circular economy
Sustainable Minerals '21 is only 5 days away
Prof. Alban Lynch at the AusIMM MillOps '21 conference
June update: the G7 comes to town and so does Covid

We welcome and encourage your comments on blog postings (see also the posting of 2nd April 2019). If you do not have a Google account, the simplest way to add a comment is by selecting 'anonymous' as your profile, but please leave your name and affiliation in the comment. Alternatively, email your comment directly to

Last month there were around 15,000 page views, so interacting with the blog enhances your international presence by providing you, and your company or Institute, with valuable exposure.

If you are in Web View (mobile users can access this by scrolling down to the bottom of the screen) you can also check various things in the right hand column:
  • The latest MEI tweets from @barrywills
  • The most viewed posts in the last 7 days, month and year
  • Dates of blog posts (click on the black arrows to open up individual months and postings)
  • Labels, or categories
You can also access MEI's Facebook page and MEI Online via links in this column.
If you would like a weekly email alert to comments on the blog, please let me know via

Monday, 5 July 2021

Flotation '21: A final call for abstracts and a welcome to FLSmidth and Zeiss

As most of you will know, Flotation '21, originally scheduled to be held in Cape Town, is now, due to the ongoing pandemic, an online event from November 8-11.

We are pleased to welcome two regular MEI Conference sponsors, FLSmidth and Zeiss, to our list of companies supporting this event, and we thank you all for your continued confidence in this important series. 

Current Flotation '21 sponsors

There is now a final call for abstracts, which must be submitted online by the end of next month, and decisions on presentations will be made no later than early September. If your abstract is accepted you will be asked to submit a recorded presentation for viewing online, and all presentations will be available on demand for 6 months after the event.

After the conference, presenters will be invited to submit 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.

Updates on the conference can be found at #Flotation21 and reports on the previous event, Flotation '19 can be found here.

Thursday, 1 July 2021

June update- the G7 summit comes to town, and so does Covid

It's a crazy world!  If asked to choose a least likely venue for a G7 summit of world leaders then high on the list might be Carbis Bay, a small seaside village in the far south-west of Cornwall, serviced by one of Cornwall's notoriously narrow lanes. 

Carbis Bay in quieter times

But this was where the summit was held for 3 days, from 11th to 13th last month, causing massive disruption, which somewhat overshadowed the serious topics, such as the pandemic, and the environment, which were discussed by the seven leaders of the UK, USA, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. The head of the Police Federation in England and Wales suggested little thought had been given to security plans, saying that holding G7 in a Cornish resort was 'bonkers' and a security nightmare.

The meeting was held at the Carbis Bay Hotel, alongside a massive security operation, police erecting a "ring of steel" around large sections of the resort, which borders the popular tourist town of St Ives, the G7 leaders being housed at the Tregenna Castle Hotel in St. Ives, which some of you will remember as being the venue for Minerals Engineering '95.

The eyes of the world were on this most beautiful of places last month, but most would be unaware that there is another side to this idyl, poverty and lack of affordable homes, but I will not go into this, instead I refer you to an excellent article by Tanya Gold, who writes with great eloquence on the prostitution of Cornwall.

Over 5000 police staff from across the UK were drafted into Cornwall, around 1000 being accommodated in a large cruise ship moored in Falmouth harbour near the National Maritime Museum (NMM), host to the hundreds of international media representatives. The NMM was, of course, MEI's scheduled venue for last months Biomining '21 and Sustainable Minerals '21, which  were held online due to the pandemic. The cost of policing the summit has been put at £70 million.

The MS Silja Europa and Maritime Museum viewed from Falmouth's inner harbour

Joining the thousands of police officers were hundreds of British troops, including bomb disposal teams and a navy warship, a 400 strong US Secret Service team, and a number of patrol vessels and rigid inflatable boats to help with surveillance. 

HMS Tyne trying hard to blend in to the scene behind picturesque St Ives
Photo: Greg Martin @photogregmartin

Cartoon: Matt-The Telegraph

Falmouth is 24 miles from Carbis Bay, but walking through town was a surreal and unforgettable experience, with a huge police presence, some heavily armed. However, they were without exception friendly and chatty and impressed by the beauty of Falmouth and its coastline.

Officers from Yorkshire take a break by the Fal Estuary at Pendennis Headland

Falmouth was also one of the centres for the various demonstrations that always take place during G7 meetings, and there were large gatherings highlighting the injustices in Myanmar and the Tigray province of Ethiopia.
Demonstrators from Myanmar
Demonstrators from Tigray

The biggest demonstration by far was by Extinction Rebellion, who certainly highlight some of the many problems facing the world, although their methods do not always endear them to the public. Their demands for achieving global zero carbon are also unrealistic, and like many of the public they seem unaware of the importance of mining to produce the raw materials needed for the green revolution (Is zero carbon by 2050 attainable?). Those that I spoke to had never heard of rare earth metals such as neodymium and were sceptical when I told them that in the last 5,000 years, humans produced about 550m tons of copper, but will need to produce that much again in the next 25 years to satisfy the Paris Agreement.

Extinction Rebellion in Falmouth's Kimberley Park
Spreading the word and the virus
Photo: Greg Martin

The Importance of Mining to Society was the subject of a one hour event hosted by the Critical Minerals Association held in Falmouth on the first day of G7. Hosted by Jeff Townsend, the co-founder of CMA, and son of Ian Townsend, well known by many in the mining industry, the speakers were Dr. Lucy Crane, Chair of CMA Perception of Mining Group and Senior Geologist at Cornish Lithium, and John Murray, Founding Principal of the Swann Group, UK.

The message was that we need to change our relationship with society to show the value that we can add to a greener society. There was little in the event that we in our small minerals industry bubble are not already aware of, but the importance of this meeting was that it was part of the G7 weekend and was attended or relayed to the international journalists present in Falmouth, so hopefully they were listening and will make use of it to get the message out that mining is essential. The recording of the live streamed event is available

Meanwhile Covid cases in England were rising at the fastest rate since the winter wave, over 90% of cases being due to the Delta variant first discovered in India. By the middle of the month it was evident that the G7 summit was a super spreading event for Cornwall, cases rocketing 2,450% in areas of Cornwall where G7 events were focused. The area around Carbis Bay, where the summit took place, and Falmouth, where the world’s media were based along with many of the officers policing the event and protesters, are now suffering some of the highest rates of infection in the country, these areas now accounting for more than half of all the infections in Cornwall. The rate of Covid-19 infections in Cornwall during the week to, and including, 13 June rose from 2.8 per 100,000 people on the Sunday before G7 began to 81.7 per 100,000. This compares to a national average of 77.4 per 100,000. 

The rate of infection in St Ives rose 2,450 per cent in the seven day period to 733.2 per 100,000 people in those seven days and in a number of Falmouth districts the rates were more than 500 per 100,000, with Falmouth East hit by a 2,000 per cent rise in infections to 600 per 100,000. The largely unvaccinated young staff in the Cornish hospitality businesses are catching the Delta variant and they and their colleagues are having to isolate as a result. This is closing down pubs, bars and hotels at an alarming rate. 

The Cornish people have not been too impressed with our buffoon of a Prime Minister's hypocritical socially distanced greetings to other G7 leaders and the lack of social distancing at other events:

Photos: BBC

It was no great surprise that, the day after the G7 summit, Boris Johnson announced that the planned complete removal of Coronavirus restrictions on June 21st would be put on hold for a further 4 weeks to allow more of the population to be fully vaccinated. Over 60% of adults in UK are now fully vaccinated, which is an amazing achievement by the NHS. The challenge now is for the G7 leaders to make good their promises of donating vaccines to the poorer nations of the world, as we won't be out of this pandemic until all the world is vaccinated.