Monday, 27 September 2021

Join us online in November for Flotation '21

Such has been the response to the call for abstracts that Flotation '21 has been extended to five days, from November 8-12.

Although we look forward to the day when we can return to face to face meetings, there is no doubt that online events provide an opportunity for many who would not be able to travel to international venues, for various reasons. Flotation '21, being online, has allowed many more workers to get involved, and this year we have around 105 presentations in the programme, with authors from 25 countries.

The packed programme contains two important keynotes. Dr. Kym Runge, of the JKMRC, Australia will discuss developments in flotation circuit diagnostic practice and Jim Finch, Emeritus Professor of McGill University, Canada, will present an appreciation of the life and work of Prof. Graeme Jameson, of the University of Newcastle, Australia, who has attended all but one of the MEI flotation series. Prof. Jameson is well known as the inventor of the flotation cell which bears his name, and is the only mineral processor to be elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (posting of 15 May 2018).

As well as presenting work at the conference Prof. Jameson will also be part of a panel of experienced practitioners who will be discussing the future of flotation machines and circuits (posting of 9th August 2021). In another panel discussion (posting of 29 August 2021), well-known researchers from around the world will share their views, and take questions from conference delegates on future research needs in flotation.

We are indebted to the support we have had from our conference sponsors, media partners and industry associates and look forward to catching up with representatives in the virtual exhibition

Delegates will also have the opportunity of entering the Glencore Technology Competition, with the prize of a US$2,000 voucher, good for more than 270,000 hotels around the world! Glencore will be featuring the Jameson Concentrator at the conference and in entering the competition, delegates will be invited to guess the throughput of the Jameson Concentrator featured.

It is going to be a very intensive week, but recordings of all presentations, and the panel discussions, will be available on demand for 6 months after the conference. Although this is an online event, there will be opportunities for networking with other delegates each day during one of the breaks. 

Flotation '21 is a conference not to be missed if you have any involvement with this most important of technologies and we invite you to register and interact with like-minded people from around the world.


Thursday, 23 September 2021

A journey through deep time on the Jurassic Coast

We are lucky in Falmouth in having two stretches of coastline nearby which have UNESCO World Heritage status. Thirty miles to the west is the region of Cornwall's submarine mines, while travelling 100 miles east by car or train is the magnificent Jurassic Coast, a 96 mile stretch from Exmouth in Devon, to Studland in Dorset.

Although famous as the Jurassic Coast, it would perhaps have been more appropriately named the Mesozoic Coast, as the exposed cliffs are the sediments of the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods. There are no igneous or metamorphic rocks and what makes this coastline so fascinating is that a slight tilting east during the Mesozoic, and erosion during the Mesozoic and Quaternary eras, has left continuous outcrops representing 185 million years of the earth's history from the Triassic to the Cretaceous. These sediments are regarded as one of the world’s best stratigraphic sequences from the Mesozoic Era, which lasted from 252 million to 66 million years ago and was distinguished by a rapid diversification of life as well as several major extinctions, notably that of the dinosaurs.

In the Triassic, this area was an arid iron-rich Pangean desert, and in our first short venture out of Cornwall during the pandemic Barbara and I last year walked the first 5 miles of this stretch, from Exmouth to Budleigh Salterton, where the cliffs are composed of New Red Sandstones, the sediments from the tropical desert of around 250 million years ago.

"Britain" (red) during the Triassic, 225 million years ago
Source: Open University

Triassic New Red Sandstone cliffs at Budleigh Salterton, Devon

The Triassic sediments were later covered by shallow Jurassic and Cretaceous seas and the basal rocks were overlain by a middle sequence of Jurassic to Lower Cretaceous marine mudstones, sandstones and limestones, that accumulated as the basin deepened in response to the rifting of Pangea, and an uppermost group primarily composed of Upper Cretaceous to Paleogene chalks. In the mid-Cretaceous, tectonic activity gently tilted the Mesozoic sedimentary layers down to the east. Then the sea level rose and Upper Cretaceous chalks, sands and clays accumulated over the inclined layers,the contact between the top of the tilted section and these Upper Cretaceous layers forming a geological unconformity. The time gap is larger to the west, where the underlying rocks are older than those to the east, so that walking from Exmouth is a journey through 185 million years of Earth history.

The modern landscape formed by quaternary erosion

The coast takes its name from the beautiful Jurassic limestones in the Lyme Bay area and a couple of weeks ago we stayed in Lyme Regis, a world famous haven for fossil hunters, including Mary Anning, who was born in Lyme Regis in 1799, and overcame her low social status, lack of formal education and poverty to become one of England’s greatest fossil hunters. 

Lyme Regis

Mary Anning has been credited with the first discovery of ichthyosaur fossils and helped discover the first specimen of Ichthyosaurus to be known by the scientific community of London. This specimen was probably discovered sometime between 1809 and 1811, when Mary was only 10 to 12 years old. Apart from the ichthyosaurus perhaps her most important find, from a scientific point of view, was her discovery of the first plesiosaur in 1823. These early discoveries shook the scientific community, and challenged the religious thinking of the time, as it was obvious that these fossilised remains, buried deep within sediments, were of a bygone world of many thousands of years ago. Many believed the teachings of the Rev. James Usher, whose chronological research of the Bible established that the creation took place around 6pm on the night preceding Sunday 23rd October 4004 BC. Imagine if they had known that the ichthyosaurus died around 195 million years ago!

Mary Annings humble dwelling in the centre of Lyme Regis is now the Lyme Regis Museum, and an essential stop for anyone visiting this bustling seaside town. Mary, one of the great pioneering paleontologists, was only 47 when she died from breast cancer and she is buried with her elder brother Joseph, who helped her unearth the first ichthyosaurus, in the churchyard of St. Michael the Archangel overlooking the Jurassic cliffs where she toiled for much of her life.

Lyme Regis Museum- the site of Mary Anning's home and fossil shop
Kate Winslet as Mary Anning in the 2020 biopic Ammonite
The grave of Mary Anning and her brother Joseph

Lyme Regis hugs the English Channel coast and to the west the harbour is sheltered by the Cobb, a long curling sea wall, and to the east the cliffs tower over the surrounding landscape, dominated by Golden Cap, at 626 feet, the south coast's highest sea cliff (posting of 9th September).

Barbara on the Cobb
The Jurassic cliffs east of Lyme Regis with Golden Cap on the right

East of the Cobb is Monmouth Beach, and between Lyme Regis and Golden Cap is Charmouth Beach, a mecca for fossil hunters, as locked in the layers of Jurassic shale and limestone, known as the blue lias, are the remains of creatures who once inhabited a vast primeval tropical ocean.

The rapidly eroding blue lias cliffs between Lyme Regis and Charmouth

A short bus ride west into east Devon from Lyme Regis took us into the Triassic at Seaton from where after a short walk we encountered striking white cliffs nestling among the red rocks of the coast to either side. These cliffs, in the village of Beer, offer the last glimpse of chalk for anyone travelling west. The Cretaceous chalk is much younger than the Triassic red mudstone and sandstone that dominate the East Devon coast, and would originally have been laid down on top of them. But at Beer the rocks have been folded downwards, bringing the higher layers of chalk into a snug geological hollow called a syncline, where they were preserved from the millions of years of erosion that stripped the rest of the chalk from the surrounding landscape.

The New Red Sandstone Triassic cliffs of Seaton beach
give way to the Cretaceous chalk of the Beer syncline

The furthest east we got on this trip was to the resort of Weymouth, and hopefully in a future visit we will travel further east to the Jurassic-Cretaceous stratigraphic transition near Lulworth. In the meantime I can thoroughly recommend a visit to this fabulous area, and our wonderful base at Lyme Regis. And you will enjoy it even more if you take with you a little knowledge of the incredible geology of this coast.

Looking across the Jurassic beach at Weymouth to the
Cretaceous chalk cliffs of White Nothe in the east


Monday, 20 September 2021

Complexities and Opportunities for Gold Processing in a Changing Environment

The gradual exhaustion of free milling resources of gold ores has made the gold industry increasingly reliant on complex, refractory gold ores and other non-traditional sources such as leach tailings and electronic waste. However, the extraction of gold from these sources has been associated with significant challenges due to the inability of traditional methods to deal with the complex mineralogical characteristic of such feed material. 

While traditional pre-treatment methods such as roasting, pressure oxidation, bioleaching, etc. and the integration and combination of such techniques in alternative flow sheets have remained key, consideration is, however, now also being given to non-conventional techniques such as mechano-activation, cavitation and ultrasound pre-treatment processes prior to cyanidation. 

At the same time, the extraction of metals has also come under severe scrutiny from both regulators and the public leading to the establishment of stringent environmental laws that have also had a significant impact on the approach to gold processing. These, together with an increasing focus on the circular economy and the drive for responsibility in mining, have forced mining companies and researchers to look at alternative and environmental friendly reagents and to consider cleaner production and process re-engineering for sustainability in gold extraction. In her keynote lecture at Sustainable Minerals '22 Sehliselo (Selo) Ndlovu will discuss the challenges in gold extraction and the opportunities in research and development that have come about as a result of some of the changes happening in the gold hydrometallurgical processing sector.

Selo Ndlovu is a Professor in the School of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. She holds a PhD in Minerals Engineering from Imperial College, London. She joined the Engineering Faculty at Wits University in 2004 where she has since established a strong teaching and research base in hydrometallurgy, spanning precious and base metals, solid and liquid waste treatment, optimising existing and developing new processes for metal extraction. Selo currently holds the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and the National Research Foundation (NRF) funded SARChI research chair in Hydrometallurgy and Sustainable Development at the university. She is also a former President of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM).


Saturday, 18 September 2021

Prof. Alban Lynch: 1930-2021, the first Director of the JKMRC

There was very sad news from Australia yesterday of the passing of one of the greats of mineral processing, Prof. Alban Lynch, the first Director of the Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre (JKMRC). He was a man ahead of his time both in terms of technical innovation and in recognising the need to collaborate with industry. He encouraged his students to work on site and trusted them to find solutions to their research challenges. He led by example and in so doing established the JKMRC as an international leader in mining research.

Prof. Lynch at the JKMRC in the early 1970s

I first met Alban in 1986 when he presented a keynote lecture at the NATO Advanced Study Institute in Falmouth. Seven years ago I had the great pleasure of interviewing him for MEI, and I refer to the posting of 11th August 2014 for a full account of his life and work.  Following the interview I was great honoured when he suggested that he might reciprocate and interview me (posting of 2nd November 2015).

Alban Lynch was a legend in the mineral processing profession, particularly in the field of comminution, and he received many awards during his long career. He was an Officer of the Order of Australia, and in 2010 received what is considered to be mineral processing's top award, the Lifetime Achievement Award of the International Mineral Processing Congress (posting of 8th September 2010).

Prof. Lynch receiving the IMPC Lifetime Achievement Award
from Prof. Eric Forssberg, Brisbane 2010

In 1958 Alban joined the Dept. of Mining and Metallurgical Engineering at the University of Queensland (UQ), where he would remain for most of his long career. In 1962 a three year AMIRA project on grinding started at UQ with a group consisting of Alban, two graduate students and two technicians. The theme of the research became the modelling and simulation of grinding circuits. Mount Isa Mines supported the work and this was the start of the tradition of project research being plant based and of graduate students, including T.C. Rao (posting of 16 July 2014) spending months at plants on thesis projects, which had the objectives of improving local circuits and providing data to support the general programme on modelling and simulation. This all culminated in the publication of one of Alban's most well known books, Mineral Crushing and Grinding Circuits.

In 1971 the research group was given strong encouragement by MIM Holdings Ltd when the company established the JKMRC to be its Brisbane base, with Alban Lynch its first Director, a position he held until 1989, when he handed over to Dr. Don McKee, allowing Alban to concentrate on his new role as UQ's Professor and Head of Mining & Metallurgical Engineering, a position he held until 1993. By 1980 models of grinding and flotation circuits were well developed and another book was published Mineral and Coal Flotation Circuits, which Alban co-authored with N.W. Johnson, E.V. Manlapig and C.G. Thorne.

After 6 years as Head of Department at UQ, Alban spent a large portion of the next 15 years lecturing on modelling and setting up research programmes in other countries, notably in Malaysia, Brazil, Mexico and Turkey, also finding time to co-author more books, in 2005 The History of Grinding, with Chester Rowland, in 2010 The History of Flotation with Greg Harbort and Mike Nelson and in 2015 the Comminution Handbook.

Launch of History of Flotation at the 2010 IMPC in Brisbane,
with Mike Nelson and Greg Harbort

Despite his very busy international schedule Alban remained an active member of the JKMRC community throughout his life, and as recently as only 3 months ago he joined the JKMRC staff, students and alumni at the AusIMM MillOps '21 conference in Brisbane.

Our heartfelt condolences are extended to Alban’s family. He will be sadly missed and I invite all those of you who had known this remarkable man to submit your memories and appreciations.


Friday, 17 September 2021

The Cornish Mining Sundowner returns to Falmouth's Chain Locker Inn

It's hard to believe that the last Cornish Mining Sundowner at the Chain Locker was 19 months ago, but last night, with Coronavirus restrictions eased, we returned to our old haunt, with a great attendance and a number of new faces.

Making his sundowner debut was the new head of Camborne School of Mines (CSM), Prof. Stephen Hesselbo, and it was also good to see Dr. Penda Diallo, who is leaving CSM after 4 years as a lecturer in Sustainable Mining, to take up a position at the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative as Qualitative Research Manager.

Prof. Hesselbo presenting Penda with a bouquet in appreciation of her time at CSM

Stephen arrives, and Penda leaves, at a critical time in the history of CSM, as there has been no intake of undergraduate mining engineering students this year, due to Exeter University’s decision to end recruitment to undergraduate mining engineering for the first time in the 134-year history of CSM (posting of 13 September 2020).

However, all is possibly not lost, as I talked to my old CSM colleague John Coggan, Professor of Rock Engineering, last night. John is the Chair of a Working Group set up by CSM to investigate the potential interest from industry in supporting the development of an industry-focused pioneering degree-level blended learning undergraduate provision in ‘mining engineering’ to educate and train the next generation of mining professionals. The programme builds on the future demand for earth resources, green energy and technology metals, expectations around sustainability, and well-managed use of these precious resources. The pioneering programme is based on an apprenticeship style-programme and has been developed with an Industry Advisory Panel to ensure that the curriculum meets the needs of industry, incorporates best practice, and identifies the key knowledge, skills and behaviours that are essential to design, operate and safely manage either an underground or surface mining operation. To help shape and refine the structure and content of the programme, and to assess the level of potential interest, industry representatives have been asked to complete a short survey which closes on the 17th September. The results of the survey will help inform a proposal that will be presented to senior University management for approval towards the end of October, so hopefully there will be some good news for the November sundowner.

Stephen, Penda and John

Last night's sundowner was also the last before one of our regulars, Alexandra Sweeney, who has been working with the Met4Tech Centre goes to Durham to start her Mine water geothermal PhD. We wish Penda and Alexandra every success. 

Alexandra (4th left) with Stephen Hesselbo, flanked by CSM mineral processing lecturer
Dr, Rob Fitzpatrick, and Alexandra's mother Prof. Frances Wall, a former head of CSM

It felt like we were back to 'normality' again last night, but we must be wary, the pandemic is not yet over, and the winter months are approaching. All being well the next sundowner will be at the Chain Locker on Thursday October 21st, commencing at 5.30 pm. Do join us if you are in the Falmouth area.


Sunday, 12 September 2021

We welcome two more sponsors for Flotation '21: Metso Outotec and Woodgrove Technologies

The response to Flotation '21, MEI's 10th flotation conference, and the first to be totally online, has been more than we could have hoped for, such that we have had to extend to five days to accommodate all the abstracts submitted, and we now have 21 major sponsors who have thrown their weight behind the event. The two latest are Metso Outotec and Woodgrove Technologies.

Last month we welcomed Metso Outotec as a sponsor of Sustainable Minerals '22, and although this will be the first time that the company has had the opportunity to sponsor a flotation conference since the merger of Metso and Outotec, they were regular sponsors of many MEI Conferences under the names of their individual companies. The merger was completed just over a year ago, forming a unique new company with leadership in sustainable minerals and metals processing and recycling technologies. Headquartered in Finland, Metso Outotec employs over 15,000 professionals in more than 50 countries.

Established in 2009 by Glenn Kosick and Glenn Dobby to promote their Staged Flotation Reactor, Canadian company Woodgrove Technologies continues the mandate of their previous company, Minnovex, in providing innovative, technologically advanced flotation and advanced process control systems for the mineral processing industry. In 2018, for the first time in its history, a double award was made at the Canadian Mineral Processors Annual Meeting, when Glenn Dobby and Glenn Kosick were made Canadian Mineral Processors of the Year for their development of the Staged Flotation Reactor.

Woodgrove's Staged Flotation Reactors and Direct Flotation Reactors are low-footprint and cost-efficient flotation units and design of circuits incorporating these devices will be described by the Manager of the Flotation Division, David Hatton, at the conference.

Updates can be found at #Flotation21

Thursday, 9 September 2021

A stunning walk over southern England's highest cliff, Golden Cap

The South-West Coast Path is England's longest waymarked long-distance footpath. It stretches for 630 miles, running from Minehead in Somerset, along the coasts of Devon and Cornwall, to Poole Harbour in Dorset, including the latter county's famous Jurassic Coast.

Two days ago ago Barbara and I, out of Cornwall for only the second time since the start of the pandemic, did the challenging short hike between Seatown and Charmouth. Although only about 5 miles it took us up and over the Jurassic Coast's iconic Golden Cap, at 626 feet (191 metres) the highest point on the south coast of England. Its name comes from its yellow capping of weathered Upper Greensand, a sandstone typically deposited in marine environments like the one here in Jurassic times. When we first visited the area 16 years ago its golden cap was a memorable sight in the evening sunshine, but since then the colour has been dimmed by an increase in vegetation cover. Nevertheless the views from the top are as glorious as they ever were.

We took the bus from our base at Lyme Regis to Chideock and walked through the village to the coastal path at Seatown. From there it was a fairly gentle climb to Golden Cap where we were rewarded with fine views in every direction before descending to Charmouth and the bus back to Lyme Regis.

A highly recommended short hike if you are reasonably fit!

A gentle start
The steep climb to Golden Cap
Approaching Golden Cap
The view to the east towards Portland
Looking north to the beautiful medieval fields and countryside of Dorset
West to Lyme Regis and East Devon

The long descent
Approaching Charmouth

Sunday, 5 September 2021

Physical Separation '22 and IntegratedMinPro '22: First call for abstracts

Physical Separation '22 and Integration, Optimisation & Design of Mineral Processing Circuits (IntegratedMinPro '22) were scheduled to run back to back in Falmouth next June, but as it is evident that international travel will not be possible for many countries by then, the conferences are now online.

Physical Separation '22 will now be online from May 9-11 2022.  This will be MEI's 7th Physical Separation conference and will bring together researchers and operators who have common interests in:

  • Gravity concentration methods - single and multi-G separators and dense medium separation
  • Classification techniques - hydrocyclones, air classifiers etc.
  • Solid-Liquid Separation - thickeners, clarifiers etc.
  • Electronic Sorting
  • Magnetic and electrostatic separation
  • Microwave technology. There are many aspects of mineral processing where the use of microwaves has potential and papers dealing with the enhancement of physical processes by microwaves are encouraged.

Our Media Partners are International Mining and Imformed, and our Industry Advocates are the Coalition for Eco-Efficient Comminution (CEEC), the Cornwall Mining Alliance and the Critical Minerals Association.

There is now a first call for abstracts and sponsors. Short abstracts should be submitted via the online portal by the end of February.

IntegratedMinPro '22, a brand new MEI Conference will run from June 13-15 2022 and we thank our first sponsor, Promet101, Media Partner International Mining, and Industry Advocates Cornwall Mining Alliance and the Critical Minerals Association for their early support.

As the demand for resources continues to increase, and amidst growing challenges of processing complex ores while minimising energy and environmental impact, we are entering an exciting time for innovation in mineral processing. Innovation in individual unit operations is complemented by innovative approaches to the entire mineral processing flowsheet, from rearrangement of an existing circuit to a new approach for a greenfield development.

IntegratedMinPro '22 invites papers on new approaches to mineral processing circuits, whether through design, modelling, optimisation or operation. This includes integration of unit operations (e.g. comminution and flotation), novel flowsheets that incorporate new equipment and new approaches to optimising circuit design. We invite abstracts in these areas by the end of March. Sponsorship details can also be found on the website.

As with all MEI Conferences presenters will be invited to submit papers to Minerals Engineering for peer-review after the conference. These will be handled exclusively by me, 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.

We look forward to your active participation in these two important events next year.  Updates are at:

#Physical Separation22

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

August update- the pandemic continues; Cornwall becomes the UK's hot-bed for Covid

At the beginning of the month over 72% of the adult UK population had been fully vaccinated, and there was cautious optimism, as infection rates began to fall, that the worst of the pandemic might be over in UK. 

However, the situation in many countries was still a cause for great concern and by the middle of the month cases in UK began drifting up again, worrying as viruses spread less readily in summer. In fact the number of infections was around 30 times that of the same time last year, and although many cases were not serious, due to the intensive vaccination roll-out, there were notes of caution from some scientists that infections in the UK could rise in the autumn and winter as people socialised more indoors.

Covid infections have been rising rapidly in Cornwall, which now has the highest rate of infections in the country, thanks to the G7 event and due to the huge influx of tourists holidaying in the UK, as travel to popular overseas holiday spots has been fraught with uncertainties.  Prior to the G7 in June the infection rate was 2.8 per 100,000 and last week it had reached over 800 in 100,000, higher than the infection rate in some red-list countries to which we are not allowed to travel. The infection rate for England as a whole was around 330 per 100,000.

Falmouth's Gyllyngvase beach 3 days ago

A crowded Swanpool beach, Falmouth

Falmouth is now a Covid hotspot in the county, with Newquay on the north coast having the highest infection rate, and residents and visitors have been asked to stay Covid-aware and take precautions as virus cases increase. Scenes around town during the Falmouth Festival week, held only 3 weeks after outdoor gatherings of more than 30 people were made legal, suggested that these requests were to no avail.

Falmouth Festival Week

Despite it taking place in England's worst-hit Covid area, Newquay, the organisers of Cornwall Pride went ahead with the three-day event last weekend with social distancing and masks advised. Sensibly Falmouth's famous Oyster Festival, planned for October, which began in 1996 and celebrates the start of the oyster season, which runs from October to March, has been cancelled. 

Super-spreader events seem to have been a feature in UK in recent months, with G7 in June, Euro 2020 in July, and last month a music festival in Newquay was attended by around 50,000 young people, and nearly 5000 Covid cases have potentially been linked to the festival so far. It is evident that the pandemic is far from over, and that we are a long way off our objective of face to face conference meetings. We are keeping our fingers crossed for the IMPC in Melbourne next August, but with over half of Australia currently in lockdown and the borders closed until at least the middle of next year, we are far from optimistic.

A potential 'super-spreader' in November is the UK-hosted 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow. Visiting Scotland in the first week of the month, our Scarecrow-in-Chief, Boris Johnson, said to a group of journalists "Thanks to Margaret Thatcher, who closed so many coal mines across the country, we had a big early start and we're now moving rapidly away from coal altogether." He is reported to have laughed and added: "I thought that would get you going."

It got not only journalists going, but many people whose communities were decimated and their livelihoods devastated by the closures of the mid 1980s did not share the joke. Like no other post-war prime minister, Margaret Thatcher polarised public opinion (posting of 17th April 2013), but there is no doubt that her reasons for closing the pits was nothing to do with climate change, it was about breaking the Unions and allowing the import of cheap Polish coal, which was 'dirtier' than the British coal. 

The Times, August 7th

With COP26 not too far away, media attention has returned once more to climate change and the recent bleak report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), its first since 2013. With fires raging across Europe and California, and other extreme weather events, it is evident that climate change is a reality and the accumulating scientific evidence confirms that humans are playing a major role in causing it, even if, as some scientists believe, the warming is part of a natural cycle (posting of 10th December 2018).

It is Afghanistan, however, which dominated the news in August, and the decision by the US to withdraw its military from the country by the end of the month, leaving the UK resigned to conclude its rescue operations, fearing that a military presence remaining after the end of the month risked provoking the Taliban, who suggested that there would be "consequences" if international forces stay in the country.  The consequences last Thursday, although not at the hands of the Taliban, were too awful to contemplate, the terrorist attacks leaving Afghan men, women and children and US soldiers dead. It is hard to imagine the plight of those left behind.

August was not the greatest of months.