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Mineral Processing 06 Conference and Workshop
Cape Town, South Africa, August 2006

For the 25th time, the Western Cape branch of the SAIMM held their Annual Mineral Processing Conference in the Western Cape, which, in line with recent years has included a focussed workshop on the preceding day, but for the first time, this event was held at the Vineyard Hotel, Newlands. It was great event with a record number of over 200 delegates, coming from a wider range of countries than usual - in addition to the support from the local South African Mining Industry, some came from far ranging countries such Iran, India, Canada and Australia - but also an increased number came from other countries further North in Africa such as Nigeria and Zambia. This challenged the organisers to wonder what had caused all the support - the speculation included the excellent programme, the boom in the current metal prices, the new location or the now institutionalised wine tasting event before the formal dinner organised by Craig Sheridan; even the weather played along and although delegates were given umbrellas in their registration pack, they were hardly needed!

The one day workshop was entitled ‘Addressing the challenges of the Mineral Processing Industry’ and seemed to provide something for everyone and plenty of discussion for all. For those unfamiliar with the challenges in the field, starting with Professor Don McKee’s keynote (Director, Sustainable Mineral Institute, Brisbane), it was an opportunity to be brought up to date and engage with the issues which were summarised under the categories Economic, Social and Environmental. Delegates were challenged with the need for breakthrough technologies as well as for incremental gains and improvements to handle the range of challenges around reducing costs, extending resources available, water and energy usage, and even talent recruitment and the power of public perception. Professor Vladimir Papangelakis, University of Toronto spoke about reducing energy usage by building on fundamental modelling of processes. Karen Ireton, Head of Sustainable Development, Anglo American Plc, challenged the Industry to move from process stewardship to materials stewardship. For those ‘old hands’ who were well familiar with the challenges of Sustainability in the Mining Industry, the implications of the REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) legislation presented by Hugo Waeterschoot of the European Nickel Industry Association, alerted the audience to the importance of preparing their business before the target date of implementation of 2008.

Water Resource constraints and their challenges for the Mineral Processing Industry, including issues around their scarcity, integrated use, the discharge from sites, and importance of mass balancing water around sites were comprehensively presented by Dr Dave Salmon and Kerry Slatter (Anglo Technical Division) and a holistic approach was advocated to optimising the use of this most valuable and important resource.

Completely changing the pace of the day, after lunch, delegates were put into groups and, after an introduction by the University of Cape Town’s Dr Harro von Blottnitz and Jane Reddick, were, University tutorial style, given three coal mines to assess in terms of cleaner production. This proved very engaging and challenging for some whereas others confessed later to using this opportunity to catch up with some valuable discussion. The session ended with presentations from Jenny Broadhurst on mine closure planning.

To sum up the day and to give Anglo American Corporation’s view, Director of Metallurgy, Paul Dempsey noted that grappling with the sustainability issues was not negotiable but essential and an integrated multidisciplinary approach including both blue sky break through technologies as well as continuous incremental improvements and optimisation of energy, water and safety was needed to ensure the sustainability of the Mineral Processing Industry.

Mineral Processing 06

As usual this conference provided a wide range of technical presentations that were of a particularly high standard. Noticeable this year was the increase in Environmental papers and the focus on hydrometallurgical processes. This was initiated by the first keynote speaker, Professor Vladimir Papangelakis, whose topic was ‘Pressure hydrometallurgy for nickel and copper extraction’. This hydrometallurgical theme continued through the day with some excellent presentations.

On Friday morning, the second keynote was given by Mr Clem Sweet of Eland Platinum, who talked about the ‘new kids’ on the block and went through the excitement and milestones of fast tracking the development of the new ‘Proudly South African’ Junior Platinum Mining Company. His talk coincided with the announcement of increased mining reserves being announced which added to the excitement.

As is also traditional at this conference, prizes are awarded to the best Poster prizes for both technical quality and presentation. These were awarded to Jenni Sweet for her poster entitled ‘Interpreting the individual contribution of reagents on a plant and laboratory scale’ and to Ndeke Musee 'Application of adaptive neuro-fuzzy inference system for prediction of gold recovery during leaching processes'. Ndeke Musee was awarded the Mineral Engineering International Student Poster Prize consisting of a free registration for a MEI conference where his abstract is accepted for presentation and ZAR 800 (from SAIMM) towards getting there (see www.min-eng.com/people/af/29.html for more details).

D. Bradshaw, University of Cape Town, South Africa




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