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XXII International Mineral Processing Congress (IMPC)
International Mineral Processing Congress (IMPC) meetings have been held on average every 2-3 years, usually in Europe or North America. After Sao Paulo in 1977 and Sydney in 1993, the XXII meeting is only the third time that an IMPC has been held in the southern hemisphere. Although the IMPC is the most prestigious conference series in minerals engineering, attendance has declined over the last few events, mainly as a result of a decline in minerals research and corporate technical activity worldwide. Against this background, the attendance by more than 600 delegates from 44 countries at the XXII IMPC is a tribute to the effectiveness of the organizing committee under the chairmanship of Professor Cyril O’Connor of the University of Cape Town. The minerals industry in South Africa has traditionally been a loyal supporter of both university research and conferences. Without the sponsorship and strong support by the South African mining industry, the attendance by 230 South African delegates would not have been possible. The fact that almost two thirds of the delegates were visitors to South Africa confirms the popularity of post-apartheid Cape Town as a relatively safe tourist destination in a world of terrorism.
The technical programme was conducted in four parallel sessions, consisting of 144 oral presentations and 76 short oral presentations based on posters, in addition to the 144 posters displayed adjacent to the trade exhibition. The five plenary speakers presented an overview of globalization, the future impact of fundamental research, education, sustainability and the mine of the future. Experts presented an overview of comminution, flotation, interfacial chemistry, hydrometallurgy, pyrometallurgy, recycling and processing trends in eight keynote papers. Despite the many tourist attractions offered by Cape Town, the plenary, keynote and parallel sessions were well attended, even on the last day. The XXII IMPC was held in the brand new Cape Town Convention Centre, which offered world class facilities adjacent to the tourist attraction of the Cape Town Waterfront.
The CD of Proceedings consists of all the plenary and keynote papers as well as 195 double refereed papers from 520 abstracts initially submitted. The quality of the CD and the book of abstracts shows that the editors and reviewers under the chairmanship of Prof Leon Lorenzen of the University of Stellenbosch have maintained a high editorial standard. Papers published in conference proceedings are usually more applied in nature than journal papers, but often the standard of reviewing and editing is lower than for journals. The technical committee members succeeded in reconciling the time constraints inherent in conference editing with the aim of producing a quality publication. The Proceedings of XXII IMPC are published under the auspices of the South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (Western Cape Branch), as a printed version or CD with ISBN 0-958-46092-2, or as a book of abstracts, including the full plenary and keynote papers, with ISBN 0-9584663-4-3.
Traditional South African hospitality was evident during the two main social events, and demonstrated the ability of the organizing committee to use entertainment as a catalyst for delegates to network. Dressed in traditional African shirts and on the dynamic and inspirational rhythm of an African jazz band, most delegates crossed national and cultural boundaries to join each other on the dance floor with little sign of their usually formal behaviour in technical congress sessions. The Libertas choir, which was the first multi-racial choir in South Africa with members from all socio-economic groups selected only on their singing talent, entertained delegates with a variety of genres at the gala banquet.
At the same gala banquet Professor Peter King received the IMPC Lifetime Achievement Award. As a most worthy recipient for his seminal work on the modeling of mineral liberation, Peter King thanked all those who worked with him and referred to the large number of his students and earlier colleagues present in the audience. Peter’s passion for his work, his strive for excellence, and his fundamental insight at a time when modelling of particulate systems was in its infancy, should be an inspiration to us all.
A hallmark of this IMPC, and perhaps a sign of the times, is the fact that two plenary lectures, two keynote lectures, four parallel sessions and many posters dealt with sustainability, waste treatment and environmental considerations. Jannie van Deventer stated that mining companies have now learned the expensive lesson that a social licence is required for operating a mine. In another plenary lecture, Robin Batterham explained how sustainability drives innovation and international collaboration. Markus Reuter explained how metallurgical process and product design should be determined by closure of the materials cycle in order to underpin sustainability. In collaboration with Markus Reuter, Wijnand Dalmijn reviewed automated recycling and sorting technology and described how feedforward control can be used to optimise closure of the resource cycle. By using examples of tomography, Richard Williams demonstrated how real-time sensors connected with dynamic simulation models can be used to visualise process behaviour in order to improve process efficiency and hence sustainability of processes.
The XXII IMPC has shown that there is increased use of sophisticated mathematical and computational modelling techniques, not just in research but also for design purposes. This level of sophistication is a result of the availability of user-friendly simulation packages and a new generation of engineers and scientists with adequate computational skills. Coupled with improved measurement techniques and the acceptance of information technology on operating plants, this provides a solid base for further process optimization and cost reduction. More research focus seems to be placed on biometallurgy, either for primary extraction or environmental clean-up.
Traditionally, the discipline called “Mineral Processing” referred to processes of physical treatment and separation, instead of chemical transformations such as in hydrometallurgy and pyrometallurgy. Most appropriately, the organizers of the XXII IMPC have ignored the rigidity of any boundaries between these disciplines, because research and process design are today entirely multi-disciplinary. As alluded to by Jim Finch in his plenary presentation, young people do not wish to be constrained to one discipline or even one industry. If the minerals industry does not attract the top talent in competition with other sectors, innovation in the industry will suffer in due course. Although there were some younger delegates at the Cape Town IMPC, the rising age profile in the mineral processing community should be of concern to the entire IMPC community. In the interest of sustainability, I suggest that such human resource issues are given a high priority at future IMPCs.
Jannie S.J. van Deventer, Faculty of Engineering, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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