Monday, 15 January 2018

Joseph Kitchener's scientific legacy to be honoured by a keynote lecture at Flotation '19

Dr. Joseph Kitchener was one of the 20th Century's foremost flotation and colloid scientists. Throughout his impeccable career at Imperial College, London, he influenced, guided and educated many international scientists and engineers as well as inspiring his colleagues.
Joe Kitchener with his daughter Janet
Dr. Kitchener was born in 1916 in Grimsby, on the east coast of England. At the conclusion of his secondary education, he won an open scholarship to University College London, where he obtained a First Class Honours degree in Chemistry in 1936. He completed a PhD in mid-1938, dealing with the photosensitization of solids, just three years and nine months after leaving secondary school.
At UCL, the Head of the Department of Chemistry was F.G. Donnan. N.K. Adam was a member of staff while Herbert Freundlich was an Honorary Research Associate. The intellectual milieu was rich and stimulating for the young scientist to thrive in. Following his doctoral studies, Joe was appointed to the staff of the Chemistry Department at Imperial College and by 1956 was Reader in Physical Chemistry. He was awarded a D.Sc in 1958 for his eminent contributions to the scientific literature, especially in ion exchange equilibria and kinetics. In 1961 the Department of Mining and Mineral Technology, led by Professor M.G. Fleming, lured Joe away from Chemistry and conferred upon him the unique title of Reader in the Science of Mineral Processing.
Joe possessed a strong desire to understand the fundamentals of complex industrial systems, especially within the area of colloid science and its applications to mineral processing. His work in colloid science covered areas such as the dewatering of fine particle dispersions; wetting films; rheological phenomena; the selective adsorption of additives such as collectors and flocculants onto mineral surfaces; electrochemistry of metal sulphides; and of course froth flotation.
Joe made pioneering studies into the analysis of surface forces which control the colloid stability of mineral dispersions. This led directly to the first correct measurements of long range van der Waals forces between macroscopic bodies. These investigations were performed in parallel with those of Boris Derjaguin and his group in Moscow. He also was very interested in thin liquid film and foam behaviour, integrating surface forces and film thickness measurements, along with structural effects. There was excellent cooperation with Alexei Scheludko and his research team in Sofia.
Joe completed forty years on the staff of Imperial College in 1978 at which point the College bestowed the coveted title of Senior Research Fellow upon him. He enjoyed this role until 1985, when he finally left Imperial College. He died peacefully in his home in Tewin Wood on March 9th 2009 at the age of 93.
John Ralston
If he were alive today Joe Kitchener would undoubtedly have been the subject of an MEI interview in the series In Conversation With. One man who was one of the early interviewees, and who worked under Dr. Kitchener for a research fellowship at Imperial College, is Prof. John Ralston, the first Director of Australia's Ian Wark Research Institute at the University of South Australia (posting of 27 May 2014).
We are honoured that John has agreed to present a keynote at Flotation '19, 10 years after Joe's death, which will trace the scientific legacy of a hugely gifted man and show how it underpins a significant amount of modern research in mineral flotation and colloid science.
John Ralston is a physical and colloid chemist with complementary training in metallurgy, whose research interests embrace various aspects of interfacial science and engineering.  Until his retirement from The Wark in 2012, John’s research dealt with three main themes - how bubbles contact particles; why things stick together and how liquids spread over surfaces. The problems addressed cross the boundaries from pure physical chemistry to materials science to chemical and minerals engineering, with many connections with, and knowledge transfer to, national and international industry.
John has received numerous awards and honours over the years. These include the Chemeca Medal in 2006, Australia's highest honour in Chemical Engineering, the ATSE Clunies Ross Lifetime Contribution Award in 2009 and the Staudinger Durrer Lecture and Medal in 2012 from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETH Zurich, for influential contributions to the fields of colloid and surface science. In 2008 John was made an Officer of the Order of Australia and in 2007 was awarded South Australian of the Year, the first scientist to be so honoured, as well as South Australian Scientist of the Year.
Apart from mentoring research teams at UniSA, a number of his present activities, as a "roving ambassador" for the University of South Australia, include strong interactions with universities, companies and  research institutes internationally. In the 10th Anniversary year of Joe Kitchener's death, John's keynote will be a very appropriate introduction to the Fundamentals Symposium at Flotation '19.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Resolve to make the most of social media

It is now nearly nine years since MEI's Minerals Engineers group was initiated on LinkedIn, and membership has grown steadily, passing the 10,000 mark last Sunday.
Although this is good news, I sense that LinkedIn is probably not the force that it used to be. A few years ago, with fewer members, there was a continuous flow of discussions but these seem to have dried up a little of late.
This is a pity, as one of the things that I stress to the younger people in our profession, when I open MEI Conferences, is the value of interacting with people. Conferences are, of course, ideal for face to face networking, but indirect interaction is also important, and the various social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are ideal for this. And, personally, I greatly appreciate comments on the various MEI blog postings; we can all gain by pertinent and incisive discussion.
So, as it is New Year, I appeal to all of you out there, particularly those of you just embarking on hopefully long and illustrious careers, to resolve to get your name known by networking whenever possible, whether face to face or by using social media.
Twitter @barrywills

Monday, 8 January 2018

Problems in the processing of rare earths- the importance of mineralogy

Less than half a century ago the rare earth elements (REE) were classed as minor metals - who had even heard of neodymium, now essential in the production of powerful rare earth permanent magnets, used in wind turbines and many other applications?  Processing of REE now features in many major conferences, and in November, in Cape Town, MEI will introduce a new conference, Developments in the Processing of the "Hi-Tech" Metals (Hi-Tech Metals '18), where REE processing will be a major topic.
Hi-Tech Metals '18 immediately follows Process Mineralogy '18, the 5th in the series, and appropriately a keynote lecture at this conference will review common problems, and progress towards solutions, in the processing of REE.
The geochemistry and mineralogy of REE deposits is diverse and ranges from carbonatite-related deposits and alkaline rocks to mineral sands, ion adsorption clays, marine crusts, nodules and clays, by-products of phosphate and bauxite, and re-use of waste materials. Despite the large number of recent exploration projects, very little additional REE production has started. An in-depth understanding of the mineralogy is essential for process design and all of the deposit types have mineralogical advantages and challenges, which will be reviewed and explained in the keynote. For example, the deposits with the best established processing routes are monazite-bearing mineral sands but monazite radioactivity renders most unusable. Ion adsorption clays are easily leachable but deposits are low grade and shallow so new environmentally-friendly leaching techniques are needed. The diverse mineralogy of alkaline rocks has required development of processing routes for rare minerals such as steenstrupine and eudialyte. Carbonatites tend to have high proportions of the least valuable, lightest REE in REE fluorcarbonates or monazite. A deposit with two ore minerals, REE fluorcarbonate and apatite, that combine to give a REE profile close to that required by industry has an advantage if the ore minerals can be recovered efficiently.
The keynote lecture will be given by Frances Wall, Professor of Applied Mineralogy at the Camborne School of Mines (CSM), University of Exeter, UK. She has a BSc in Geochemistry and PhD from the University of London and worked on petrology and applied mineralogy at the Natural History Museum, London before joining CSM in 2007. Her research interests include the geology, applied mineralogy, processing, and responsible sourcing of critical raw materials. Frances currently leads two large international projects: SoS RARE and HiTech AlkCarb, was Head of CSM from 2008-2014, and was named one of the 100 Global Inspirational Women in Mining 2016.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Namibia '18: it's not too late to submit abstracts

We will be drafting the provisional programmes for Biohydromet '18 and Sustainable Minerals '18 in a couple of weeks' time, so it is not too late to submit abstracts.
Full details of both conferences can be found on the posting of 30 October 2017, and if you intend to explore this fabulous country after the conference, either on your own, or on one of the post-conference tours on offer, take a look at the posting of 26 April 2014.
If you have never visited Namibia, this is a golden opportunity to visit one of Africa's most exciting countries, with amazing wildlife and scenery.
Namib Desert and Atlantic Ocean
The dunes
Fransfontein Mountains
Etosha National Park

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Looking forward to 2018

Happy New Year everyone. There is much to look forward to this year, with the hoped for resurgence of the mining industry being on top of the list.
There are 5 MEI Conferences this year, and MEI will also be represented at other events as a media partner.
In February I will leave the relatively mild winter of Cornwall for the harsh Minnesota winter, for the SME Annual Meeting, this year for the first time in Minneapolis. I rarely miss the SME Annual Meeting, which is always a great networking event, its huge exhibition providing the main focus.
In April the MEI team will be in Cape Town for Comminution '18, our biggest event of the year, which has a fine programme of over 90 papers, and currently has only one exhibit booth remaining for rental (more details on the posting of 4 December 2017).
Delegates at Comminution '16
We have a brand new venue in June, the Windhoek Country Club in Namibia, where Biohydrometallurgy '18 and Sustainable Minerals '18 will run back to back. We will be drafting the provisional programme in a few weeks' time, so it is still not too late to submit abstracts (posting of 30 October 2017).
Desert and sand in Namibia
In August Jon will represent MEI at The AusIMM Mill Operators' Conference in Brisbane, another great networking event, and then in September the whole team will be in Moscow, for the year's largest gathering of mineral processors at the International Mineral Processing Congress, being held for the first time in Russia.
And then back to Cape Town in November for Process Mineralogy '18, and a new MEI Conference, Developments in the Processing of the "Hi-Tech" Metals (see also posting of 5 June 2017).  There are calls for abstracts for both of these events.
I am sure that as the year progresses there will be much more for me to report on, including the presentation to the 2017 recipient of the MEI Young Persons Award, for which nominations should be submitted by 2nd February (posting of 17 December), and all of us at MEI look forward to catching up with as many of you as possible during our travels around the world.
Twitter @barrywills

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

2017 with MEI

2017 has been an interesting year, and talking to people around the world there does seem to be a general feeling of optimism that the mining industry is on the move again. The price of copper, always a good indicator, is encouraging and copper mining has the potential to boom. There have been no major copper discoveries in the past 20 years, and supply might struggle to match the increased demand  of the new electric vehicle revolution (posting of 30 August), as electric vehicles require up to four times a much copper as internal combustion engine cars.  Flotation '17 last month was one of our most successful events in recent years, and attracted more operators than usual, another indicator that the health of the industry is improving.
Copper Price 2017
We began the year with a short break for a little winter sun in Tenerife and some very interesting volcanic geology (posting of 14 January).
A fine example of ignimbrite, a pumice-dominated pyroclastic flow deposit
Barbara and I spent a week in the Colorado Rockies in February (posting of 15 February), for some skiing and acclimatisation before our descent to Denver for the SME Annual Meeting.
In the old mining town of Breckenridge, Colorado
The still depressed mining industry was highlighted by the relatively low turnout this year, of 6300, the lowest in Denver since 2011, and there were relatively few attendees at the usual reception for international delegates. Nevertheless the SME Meeting is always a great networking event, and it was good to catch up with many old friends in my favourite American city (posting of 24 February).
With fellow UK delegates Steve Wilson, Mike O'Driscoll and Daminan Granlund in Denver
March got off to a great start with the birth of our 4th grandchild, Seth, to Jon and Kathryn, two weeks before we were off to Cape Town again for Process Mineralogy '17, which was attended by 97 delegates from 21 countries. One of the highlights was the conference dinner, on a beautiful evening at Lagoon Beach Hotel, with the iconic view of Table Mountain across the bay.

Relaxing at Lagoon Beach, with Elsevier's Dean Eastbury
Another highlight was the presentation of copies of Process Mineralogy to Kate Tungpalan and Pierre-Henri Koch for the best student presentations at the conference.
Kate and Pierre-Henri with book authors Megan Becker, Elaine Wightman and Cathy Evans
Following the conference, Barbara and I spent a few days in the little Victorian town of Montagu, about 180 km from Cape Town in western Little Karoo, before the long journey back to Cornwall.
Hiking the Fish Eagle trail in the Breede River valley near Montagu
May is a beautiful time in Cornwall, with the spring flowers in full bloom, but unfortunately when we met up with Roger and Janet Thomas, and Rod and Kathy Whyte, fellow Copperbelters, at Falmouth's lovely Trebah Gardens, the weather was far from ideal (posting of 13 May).
With Roger, Janet, Kathy and Rod
Otherwise the sun shone a lot in May and we made the most of it for our continuing quest to walk the whole of the Cornish coastal path.
Mousehole harbour, South West Cornwall
Although a regular walker, I have always enjoyed cycling, but as the years advance the Cornish hills become ever steeper, so in June I replaced my road bike with an e-bike, which turned out to be one of the best buys ever!  Still a great way to exercise, it has enabled me to venture to places which were off my radar in the past due to the formidable hills, and has put the fun back into cycling.
Cycling the Bissoe trail, the old mining tramway between Devoran and Portreath
I even used the e-bike in June to commute to the St. Michael's Hotel in Falmouth, for Computational Modelling '17 and Physical Separation '17, two of MEI's smaller conferences, although the 71 delegates at Physical Separation '17 made it the biggest in the series, helped by our two well-known keynote speakers, Tim Napier-Munn and Sandy Gray. One of the highlights was the presentation of the 2016 MEI Young Person's Award to Swadhin Saurabh (posting of 15 June).
The sun shone for the whole week, making our trips to the local hostelries and the Camborne-Redruth mining area very special.
Computational Modelling delegates working up a thirst en route to the pub in old Falmouth
Members of CEEC enjoying the evening sunshine during Physical Separation '17
Physical Separation delegates at the Basset Mines Marriot's Shaft
Elsevier executive publishing manager Dean Eastbury has been a regular attendee at MEI Conferences in Falmouth and Cape Town. During my 29 years with Minerals Engineering I have worked with countless publishing managers, but Dean's seven years with the journal have been something special, and he has become a great friend of the family. However, he has now retired and Physical Separation '17 was his last conference outing, but we will be seeing much of Dean and his partner Sharlene when they move down to Cornwall early next year.

Dean (right) at Falmouth's The Wheelhouse restaurant with keynote speakers
Tim Napier-Munn and Sandy Gray, and MEI's Jon
July was a rather special month, as Barbara and I spent a couple of days in London to attend a black-tie event at the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3), where I was presented with the Medal for Excellence by the IOM3 President, Martin Cox (posting of 13 July).
Then back to Falmouth for my more familiar casual attire, and a good turnout for the July Cornish Mining Sundowner by the bank of the Penryn River (posting of 21 July).
With Grinding Solutions marketing manager James Strong, and metallurgists Jon Rumbles and Klaas (KP) van der Wielen
The following week I enjoyed a pleasant evening by the inner harbour, with two old friends and respected metallurgists, Dave Dew and Frank Crundwell (posting of 26 July).
With Dave and Frank
In early August Barbara and I spent a week in neighbouring South Devon (posting of 5 August), returning to Falmouth in time to see the always spectacular display by the Red Arrows over Falmouth Bay (posting of 13 August).
Walking near the Kingsbridge Estuary, Devon
The Red Arrows over Falmouth Bay
August 26th was a very special day for Barbara and me, when we celebrated 50 years of marriage with our ever-growing family (posting of 26 August).

With the family on our Golden Wedding day
I spent an interesting 5 days in Changsha, China in September, as a guest of Central South University (CSU) (posting of 27 September).
With CSU mineral processing staff, and other overseas guests Pablo Brito-Parada (6th left),
Kristian Waters (7th left) and Jan Cilliers (8th left)
CSU, which has the world's largest mineral processing department, was one of the hosts of the 2017 Mineral Process of China Conference, and Jan Cilliers and I had the daunting task of presenting plenary lectures to 1400 Chinese mineral processors.


Amanda had an interesting and enjoyable visit to Freiberg, Germany in late September for the International Biohydrometallurgy Symposium (IBS 2017) (posting of 23 October). MEI was a media partner, and it was good for her to catch up with MEI's Biohydromet '18 consultants Sue Harrison, Chris Bryan and Patrick D'Hugues, as well as taking time to enjoy the local German beers. She is now looking forward to IBS 2019, which will be held in Japan.

October was a quiet month, during which Barbara and I met up with Ian and Pat Townsend for lunch in Falmouth (posting of 27 October). Ian is well known within the industry for his many years with Larox, and, until his retirement, with Outotec.
Lunch at the Greenbank Hotel overlooking the Penryn River
We were back in Cape Town in November for Flotation '17, but before the conference Barbara and I had dinner with Jack Holmes (posting of 11 November), an Anglo American legend, who was responsible for the development of the Nchanga Tailings Leach Plant by introducing large scale solvent extraction to the minerals industry (see also posting of 13 August 2012).
At the Vineyard Hotel with Jack Holmes (left) and Felicity and Nick Wilshaw of Grinding Solutions Ltd
Flotation '17 turned out to be one of MEI's most successful and enjoyable conferences, attended by 262 delegates from 30 countries. As always it was a great opportunity to meet old friends and welcome new ones. A star of the week was MEI consultant Jim Finch (posting of 20 November). He and his wife Lois judged and presented the best student poster awards, and Jim summarised the conference perfectly at the end of the event.
Relaxing at one of the sundowners with old friends Bertil Palsson and Mike Battersby
Jim and Lois Finch presenting poster awards to Nilce Santos and Martin Rudolph
Following the conference Barbara and I spent 5 nights at beautiful Camps Bay (posting of 23 November) before returning to Cornwall in time for two Camborne School of Mines Association events which highlighted the strong bond between CSM and its past students and staff.

In Newquay with Nick and Felicity Wilshaw
The CSMA dinner dance (posting of 26 November) was held at the imposing Edwardian Headland Hotel, overlooking the UK's major surfing beach, Fistral Beach. The Headland Hotel has a Gothic atmosphere and proved an ideal location for the 1990 movie of Roald Dahl's book The Witches. The following week we were in Redruth for the annual CSMA Christmas lunch (posting of 2nd December).

It has been an interesting and enjoyable year, topped off with a family gathering on Christmas Day at Jon and Kathryn's home in St. Agnes, 15 miles from Falmouth on the north Cornwall coast.
Christmas Day at St. Agnes

On behalf of us all, thanks to everyone who was a part of our year. We wish you all a happy New Year, and we hope to catch up with many of you in various parts of the world in 2018.

Twitter @barrywills