Monday, 20 November 2017

Prof. James Finch - a real star of Flotation '17

Jim Finch is a man who does not undertake tasks in half measures. I discovered this when he was asked to act as coeditor of Minerals Processing Technology. He put together a small but dedicated group who threw themselves wholeheartedly into the project, and the 8th edition of the book is a fine testament to their endeavours.
It was an exciting and informative time at Flotation 17 last week in Cape Town, thanks to the fine blend of 260 researchers, operators and suppliers who attended, of which our flotation consultant Jim Finch played no small part.
As well as presenting one of the 75 papers in the technical sessions, co-chairing a session, and preparing and presenting a very succinct summary of the event, he and his wife, Dr. Lois Finch also judged the 46 posters, 25 in the fundamentals symposium and 21 in the applications symposium.
Jim hard at work judging the posters
The posters in the fundamentals symposium on the first two days varied in their relationship to flotation from the broad topics of surface coverage, kinetic models and columns to more specifics of flotation of scheelite from calcite and use of water glass in moly flotation. The applications symposium on the next two days was equally stimulating. The wide-ranging topics from effects of clay on froth flotation to the use of Savaasi’s method to minimize errors in flotation recovery.
Evaluation of the posters to provide a prize for the best student poster from each symposium was extremely challenging. The quality of each was based not only on the content of the work -the purpose, the relevance to flotation, if the methods were repeatable, if the results were interpretable, if the figures and tables were adequate, and if the conclusions followed from the purpose, but also whether the authors could discuss their work effectively.  Jim spent hours talking to the poster authors, obviously enjoying every minute. He said that all the authors discussed their work very impressively, and that he also learned a few new things! Deliberating on the best was complex to say the least.
Many thanks Jim and Lois, it's hard to imagine a flotation conference without you!
Twitter @barrywills

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Flotation '17: Day 4

The final day of the conference, and at last the glorious view of Table Mountain from the conference centre.
More good news on Flotation '19 this morning, with the decision by Maelgwyn Mineral Services to sponsor the event. We have had very positive feedback from the exhibitors, who have been doing good business due to the increased number of operators who have attended, hopefully a sign of an upturn in the industry.
Jon with Maelgwyn Mineral Services staff
Megan Becker, MEl's Process Mineralogy '18 consultant, from the University of Cape Town, called in today, with some interesting suggestions for keynote lecturers for next year's conference. She is pictured with Jeremy Mann of AMIRA International. Megan and Jeremy are involved in the organisation of Geometallurgy '18, which will be held at the Lagoon Beach Hotel next August.
Nineteen papers were presented today, and at the end of the final session, McGill University's Jim Finch, MEI's flotation consultant, summarised the conference. He and his wife Lois have spent a great deal of time judging the student poster awards, and Jim had the pleasant task of awarding copies of the 8th edition of Mineral Processing Technology for the best presentations. Dr. Martin Rudolph, of Helmholtz Institute Freiberg for Resource Technology, Germany, accepted the Fundamentals Symposium award on behalf of his students Edgar Schach and Tom Leistner. The Applications Symposium winner was Nilce Santos, a flotation specialist at Outotec, currently studying for a PhD at University Federal Minas Gerais, Brazil. She presented two posters and one oral presentation during the week.
Nilce, Jim, Lois and Martin
Amanda Wills then formally closed the conference, inviting everyone to join us at the Vineyard Hotel again in two years time for Flotation '19, after which we adjourned to the hotel gardens for more wine and farewells!

This has been a great conference thanks to the interesting and friendly people who attended from all parts of the world. I shall be publishing a full report on the event in just over a week's time.
Twitter @barrywills

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Flotation '17: Day 3

MEI's Jon Wills opened the Applications Symposium this morning, after which we were pleased to welcome Bill Johnson, of Mineralis Consulting, Australia, making his debut at an MEI Conference, and presenting a keynote lecture on existing opportunities for increasing metallurgical and energy efficiencies in concentrators.

Of the 24 new delegates registered today I was particularly pleased to see Chris Magombedze, an ex-student of mine, who is the first representative from the newly formed Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) to attend an MEI Conference. The vision of the NUST is to become the premier centre in Southern Africa for Resource Engineering. This will enable the nation to lever its natural advantages by embracing the science, engineering and digital revolution, adapting, exploiting and developing unique technologies and capabilities that will enable sustainable development of Namibia’s natural resources.

Chris Magombedze with the MEI team
The weather in the morning was much more as expected in November, and the poster presentations in the outdoor marquee proved very popular during the morning's long coffee break.

We already have dates for Flotation '19, which will be held at the Vineyard again from November 11-14, 2019, and we thank our regular sponsor Magotteaux for coming in as the first early sponsor of the event.

The Magotteaux exhibit booth
As ever, the lunches at the Vineyard are outstanding, and today's lunch fortified everyone in readiness for a very long afternoon session of 10 fascinating presentations.

The overflow room proved very popular today. This room is remote from the main conference room, allowing delegates to move freely in and out of sessions to see and hear the presentations.

The weather changed nasty again in the afternoon, so the "Happy Hour" was held in the exhibition area, and was well attended. I assume that after the very long day, and, speaking personally, a few glasses of South African wine were much appreciated.

Twitter @barrywills

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Flotation '17: Day 2

Capetonians have been praying for desperately needed rain and this morning they got it, which meant that staying indoors for today's 17 papers was an attractive option.

Not our usual view from the Vineyard conference centre
The exhibition area was also buzzing during the coffee and lunch breaks, and it was nice to welcome Prof. J-P Franzidis as a visitor. J-P was a former MEI consultant, and spent most of his career at the University of Cape Town. He is now with Australia's University of Queensland.

Former MEI flotation consultant J-P Franzidis (right) with current consultant Jim Finch

The inclement weather did not detract from a great evening at the conference dinner at Lagoon Beach, with its wonderful view of Table Mountain and the City Bowl across Table Bay. Good food, music, wine, and most importantly, great company.

Twitter @barrywills

Monday, 13 November 2017

Flotation '17: Day 1

After I opened the conference this morning, Prof. Roe-Hoan Yoon got the conference off to a good start with his keynote lecture.  Prof. Yoon is an IMPC Lifetime Achievement Award Winner and a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech, USA. He is a world-renowned expert on modelling, and his keynote lecture Developing a Flotation Model from First Principles set the scene for the complex and highly specialised papers that followed.

It is great to see, among the sea of familiar faces, three truly inspirational people who are real MEI Conference regulars. Prof. Dee Bradshaw has been attending our conferences since her student days. She is not actively involved this week, as she is currently completing an intense course of chemotherapy after her recent breast cancer. Her positive attitude is truly inspirational and it was good to compare hair styles this morning- at least Dee's will grow back!

We have two octogenerians at the conference, the two Australian Graemes, both very well known in the flotation field and at the MEI flotation conferences. Graeme Heyes is semi-retired after a long and illustrious career with Australia's CSIRO. Now 83 years old, he has funded himself to attend this conference. Graeme Jameson, of the University of Newcastle, Australia, is 81 years of age, and, like our keynote speaker Prof. Yoon, a recipient of the IMPC Lifetime Achievement Award. He is, of course, world renowned for his eponymous flotation cell, of which over 300 are now in operation in 25 countries and in his presentation this week he will be introducing a new froth flotation machine, known as the NovaCell.  Two amazing gentlemen who are true inspirations to youngsters such as me.

Graeme Heyes and Graeme Jameson
Welcome guests at tonight's "Happy Hour" in the Vineyard Hotel gardens were Prof. John Ralston (posting of 27 May 2014) and his wife Ann. John was former Director of the University of South Australia's Ian Wark Research Institute, and he and Ann are now very serious globe trotters. John was recently a guest of the Central South University in Changsha, China, where he presented a series of lectures (posting of 26 October) and he has been very much involved in the development of the Namibia University of Science and Technology in Windhoek (posting of 23 May 2016). Prior to his visit to China, he and Ann were in Alberta, Canada. John commenced visiting the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering at the University of Alberta in 2004 and has maintained a close relationship since then, having returned each year to deliver research seminars, plan  research strategies and counsel young faculty  and graduate students with regard to their research projects.
Ann and John Ralston (4th and 5th left) at the Happy Hour
Despite the relatively cool (18C) conditions, a well attended hour with some very happy people:

Twitter @barrywills

Much to look forward to in the next 4 days at Flotation '17

I opened the Fundamentals Symposium this morning, thanking our sponsors and welcoming the first of our 255 delegates from 30 countries, who will be participating in Flotation '17 this week.

I highlighted the crucial importance of flotation, not only to the mining industry, but to modern society (more info in posting of 16 October). In 2016, 166 flotation papers were published in Elsevier peer-reviewed journals, compared with 24 on gravity concentration and 7 on magnetic and electrical separation, the rival physical concentration techniques. I have heard it argued at very large mineral processing congresses that there is nothing really new in flotation and that research is in many cases treading on old ground. While this might be true of many of the papers presented at these congresses, this week's focused timetable demonstrates that flotation continues to thrive and evolve and that there is much to report that is innovative.
The world's largest cell,
the FLSmidth SuperCell
This morning we will hear of remarkable developments in mathematical modelling, which have enabled reliable simulation of flotation, for optimisation, and design of circuits and of the very large cells which are now being utilised. When I began my career in mineral processing almost 50 years ago, I could not have envisaged the massive machines which are being used today, which have reduced overall capital and operating costs and facilitated control and instrumentation of flotation circuits. We will hear much more of this in the Applications Symposium.
Since the development of xanthates in the early 20th century, flotation reagents have been developed to treat virtually every known ore type, and there is a bewildering array. Over the next two days we will see how reagent chemistry has to adapt to treat increasingly lower grade and refractory deposits and how the range of flotation is being extended via these new and enhanced reagents into the treatment of wastes, high-tech metals and rare earths, all contributing to the goal of the circular economy.
Flotation has an exciting future, as does the mining industry, which is set to boom with the move around the world to end the era of the internal combustion engine and herald the new era of the electric car (posting of 30 August). There will be a huge increase in demand for copper, nickel, cobalt, lithium, graphite and other elements, all of which are produced from finite resources. Although these elements are in abundance, as they are exploited available deposits will inevitably decline in grade and become more refractory, and flotation must evolve to allow their economic extraction.