The SAIMM is a professional institute with local and international links aimed at assisting members source information about technological developments in the mining, metallurgical and related sectors.
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A monthly publication devoted to scientific transactions and specialist technical topics is unlikely to be on the priority reading list of the majority of the mining and metallurgical community. But it is the ambition of the Publication's Committee to make the Journal of much wider interest to our general membership from technician trainees to mine managers to CEO's of our constituent companies. It is to entice general readership that some 1200 words of valuable space are devoted to the Journal Comment each month. This is intended to highlight some of the features and impact of the papers to excite and activate attention.

To entice this preliminary glance before confining the publication to the book shelf or even the wpb, the author has to call on a large measure of journalistic licence in style, titles and quotations. It is essential to be spicy, controversial and even provocative to separate it from the abbreviated authoritative but necessary scientific style of the bulk of the contents.
The Journal Comment aims to be an enticement to dig into some important feature of the papers in the issue. For this reason it has been decided to include it as a separate item on the Institutes Web Site. This might provoke those who enjoy twittering, blogging and googling to submit comment and criticism, all of which will be welcomed and responded to. At least it is proof that somebody has read it.
R.E. Robinson

Hydrometallurgy Conference 2016

Selo Ndlovu 2017ʻSustainable Hydrometallurgical Extraction of Metalsʼ

This edition of the Journal features papers that were presented at the Hydrometallurgy Conference, which was held from 31 July to 3 August 2016. The theme of the conference was ‘Sustainable Hydrometallurgical Extraction of Metals’ and it was attended by 150 delegates from around the world. The conference was organized in collaboration with the Western Cape Branch.

The conference was preceded by a workshop on ‘Test work and its importance in metallurgical design’. Topics presented at the workshop included a review of existing models for process and project development, process test work, flow sheet selection, simulation models, and case studies. The workshop was very well attended by industry delegates, academics, and students.

We have a Problem?

I start my Journal Comment with the iconic phrase: ‘Houston, we have a problem’. Those with good memories might just recall that these were the words spoken by astronaut Jack Swigert during the aborted Apollo 13 moon mission, when he reported to ground control an undervoltage on the capsule bus. At least that’s what I recall he said.

Something in the back of my mind suggested that it might just be prudent to check the correctness of the quotation. The words were actually spoken by Kevin Bacon who starred as Jack Swigert in the movie ‘Apollo 13’. What Swigert actually said was: ‘OK, Houston, we’ve had a problem here’. Close enough – I prefer the movie version!

Focus on the Heavy Minerals Conference held at Sun City from 16–18 August 2016

The papers in this issue of the Journal are selected from the Heavy Minerals Conference held at Sun City from 16–18 August 2016. This conference, which has been held every two years since 1997, is the main technically focused conference covering the heavy minerals industry. The venue moves between various countries where heavy minerals processing is important. The 2016 conference, the 10th in the series, was attended by representatives from 17 countries covering all the major continents.

University of South Africa (UNISA)

This issue contains just one paper from the University of South Africa (UNISA), the only South African university offering mining engineering and mine surveying by open distance learning. Lugoma explores the possibility of supplementing online course content with oncampus practical sessions. The encouraging findings have prompted him to roll out this approach to education so as to enable students to familiarize themselves with mine surveying equipment before they begin their professional careers.

Mining, Environment and Society Conference

  jcfeb17
        Major issue areas for mining and the SDGs (http://unsdsn.org/resources/publications/mapping-mining-to-the-sustainable-development-goals-an-atlas/)
     

The papers in this issue of the Journal are selected from the Mining, Environment and Society Conference, held at Mintek on 12 and 13 May 2015. The two keynote addresses, 14 presentations, and two panel discussions highlighted the increasing relevance of environmental and social issues to the mining sector and its sustainability.

Renewable Energy — Quo Vadis?

The December edition of the Journal contains 14 papers, split almost equally between mining and metallurgical topics – there is something to cover most interests.

Four papers deal with different aspects of coal mining, with all having an underlying theme of enhancing safety in mining. The next two investigate the testing and mechanized installation of rockbolts, also dealing with safety in mining, albeit at a slight distance. The remaining two mining papers also have an indirect link to mining safety, with the first investigating the numerical simulation of surrounding rock creep. The second paper in this mining group reviews previous methodologies for stope boundary selection (alright, I confess, somewhat of a stretch in finding a safety association here!).

Wits Mining

From time to time the SAIMM dedicates an edition of its Journal to a special event. The two volumes of which the November 2016 Edition is Volume I, are dedicated to the Wits School of Mining Engineering (Wits Mining) in celebrating its 120 years of existence, and to providing a platform for the School to showcase its research efforts. The papers could not fit into a single volume, hence the double edition – ample testimony to the amount of research work that Wits Mining undertakes! A perusal of the papers shows the relevance of the research to both the local and international mining industries.

Diamonds still Sparkling Conference 2016

What an apt name for this conference, given the current turmoil in the mining industry as a whole and particularly here in southern Africa. While the rest of the industry battles through its routine commodity cycle, diamonds seem able to maintain a certain sparkle. That is not to say that diamonds do not experience their own cycles, but rather that diamonds have always stood apart from other minerals commodities and seem to have that little bit extra. With the De Beers’s ‘Diamonds are Forever’ catchline and ‘Diamonds are a girl’s best friend’ slogan keeping the allure of diamonds up there apart from the other commodities.

Danie Krige Geostatistical Conference 2015

One might ask what benefit the Danie Krige Geostatistical Conference imparted to the delegates. Principally, it drew us together and confirmed again the importance of the work being done in the field of geostatistics. A significant concern over the past decade and a half has been the declining numbers of local geostatistics practitioners and the need for ongoing education of the geostatistical fraternity. Unfortunately, there are many geostatisticians working in South Africa who have become ‘transparent’ to the professional institutions in that they are not affiliated in any way. All participants at the Conference were urged to enrol as members of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM), and the Geostatistical Association of Southern Africa (GASA).

Copper Cobalt Africa 6–8 July 2015

The African Copper Belt has experienced a huge resurgence of activity in the past decade following many years of political and economic instability. Today, an impressive proportion of capital spending, project development, operational expansions, and metal value production in the Southern African mining industry are occurring in this region. The geology and mineralogy of the ores differ significantly from those in other major copperproducing regions of the world, often having very high grades as well as the presence of cobalt. Both mining and metallurgy present some unique difficulties, not only in the technical arena, but also with respect to logistics and supply chain, human capital, community engagement, and legislative issues. With an increasingly mature industry developing in this region, the Metallurgy Technical Programme Committee took the decision to host the inaugural Copper Cobalt Africa conference, which also incorporated the Eighth SAIMM Base Metals Conference.

Slope Stability 2016

rock2The papers in this Journal issue are selected from the proceedings of the Slope Stability Symposium held in Cape Town in October 2015. The symposium was organized by the SAIMM in conjunction with the South African Institute of Rock Engineering (SANIRE). This was the sixth event in this international symposium series, which originated in Cape Town in 2006 and has subsequently been held in Perth, Santiago, Vancouver, and Brisbane. A total of 222 delegates attended from the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Chile, the DRC, France, Italy, Lesotho, Madagascar, Namibia, Dominican Republic, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Turkey, United Kingdom, the USA, and Vientiane. This is the only international event that is dedicated to slope stability in mining and is therefore well attended by authors, delegates, and sponsors.

A Council for our Youth

Membership of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM) includes mining and metallurgical students and new graduates from various universities and colleges in the southern African region.

Among these young people are those who have either authored or co-authored papers similar to the ones in this edition of the Journal, and the quality of these submissions leads me to believe that we are on the right track in terms of the academic part of the training that we provide in developing our future mining and metallurgical engineers.

Mine Planning and Equipment Selection (MPES 2015)

The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM) hosted the 23rd International Symposium on Mine Planning and Equipment Selection (MPES 2015) at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg from 9 to 11 November 2015. This was the first time that South Africa has hosted the MPES in its 25-year history. This conference’s theme was ‘Smart Innovation in Mining’ in order to recognize technological innovations and new ideas that are required to prepare the industry for the mine of the future.

Furnace Tapping 2014

       

v116n1JournalComment

  Almost too close for comfort - conference delegates admiring the
scale of blast furnace tapping at ArcelorMittal South Africa
Vanderbijlpark Works (photograph by Maryke Pelser)

Furnace Tapping 2014 was the first event of its kind, focusing on the challenges associated with the tapping of furnaces and ways in which these challenges are currently addressed. The conference was inspired by an in-house event arranged by Dr Lloyd Nelson – then employed by Hatch Africa – in 2003, and the need for peer-reviewed papers published in the open literature. This was identified when I conducting a literature survey for my PhD studies, which focused on enhancing the taphole design for silicomanganese furnaces.

The School of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand

Celebrating one’s 21 year of existence is indeed a most joyous occasion, and another milestone in the history of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand. Since its formation in 1995 through the merger of the departments of Chemical Engineering and Metallurgy and Materials Engineering as the School of Process and Materials Engineering, the School has gone from strength to strength. In 2005 ‘Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering’ became the official designation of the School after ratification of the name change by the University Council. The School has been at the forefront of education and research in engineering and has contributed greatly to the demand for skilled manpower by the process, beneficiation, and metallurgical industries in South Africa. The School prides itself on its contribution in terms of human resources training and development, knowledge generation, and community involvement and contributions. A significant number of industry and academic leaders locally and worldwide are Wits Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering graduates and alumni.

Surface Mining September 2014

Two years have passed since the last Surface Mining Conference was held. At that time, optimism prevailed and the spectre of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) had blown away. Commodity prices were cresting a wave created from continued industrial expansion in China, and the mining industry looked set to right its floundering course on a global scale. Explorers and developers on the world’s stock exchanges, whether juniors or majors, thrived and impressive joint ventures, mergers, and acquisitions were the order of the day.

Nuclear Materials

This special edition of the Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy is dedicated to the Nuclear Materials Development Network (NMDN) of the Advanced Metals Initiative (AMI) of South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology (DST). The AMI consists of four networks: the Light Metals Development Network (LMDN) which is coordinated by the CSIR, the Precious Metals Development Network (PMDN) and the Ferrous Metals Development Network, both coordinated by Mintek, and the NMDN which is coordinated by the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation SOC Ltd (Necsa).

Platinum In The 21st Century

‘There is a tide in the affairs of men’ ... Shakespeare

The theme of most of my previous Journal Comments has been job creation. This demands identifying the goods and services for sale, and its corollary, the skills and education required.

On this latter score, the mining professional community has had some spectacular success in the 21st century. Many hundreds of skilled mining engineering graduates and diplomates have been produced using the latest in computer-based education, a good percentage being women.

Heaping coals of fire upon our heads

A blessing at the best of times, electricity has become the bane of life in South Africa: it adds quality to life, but when supply is erratic, as we all know too well, the effects cripple and evoke anger. Constraints in the supply of electricity are damaging the economy. Some predictions even foretell a crisis of monumental proportions. Eskom can barely meet current demand.

Conference ’Platinum – Metal for the Future’

The SAIMM biannual platinum conference was first convened in 2004 and has run regularly through to 2014. During this period the industry has moved through a number of challenges – from the global financial crisis to metal pricing spikes and troughs, labour unrest in the form of a crippling five-month strike in South Africa in the first half of 2014, and now sustained oversupply in the face of reduced demand associated with the slow recovery of the European markets and the cooling of the Chinese economy.

Pyrometallurgical modelling

’It is unworthy of excellent men to lose hours like slaves in the labour of calculation which could safely be relegated to anyone else if machines were used.’
– Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646 - 1716)

’The computer is incredibly fast, accurate, and stupid. Man is unbelievably slow, inaccurate, and brilliant. The marriage of the two is a force beyond calculation.’
– Leo Cherne (1912-1999)

Pyrometallurgical operations are essentially concerned with the high-temperature processing of materials. These chemical processes can be extremely complex, involving reactions between gas, solids, liquid slag, and liquid metal (and sometimes other phases as well).

Young Professionals

As part of its commitment to supporting young professionals entering the mining and metallurgical industries, the SAIMM holds a Student Colloquium every year. The ten papers in this edition of the Journal are based on presentations made at that event by students and recent graduates in mining engineering, metallurgy, and minerals processing.

Sustainability: Environmental, Economic, and Social

The title of this Comment is taken from the excellent recent paper by M. Mostert of SRK, in the Journal of the SAIMM (vol. 114, November 2014.). The paper was both relevant and significant to my previous contributions on strategy and tactics that I compiled for a SAIMM conference that regrettably never took place.

Uncertainty and the Great Unknowns

The February edition of the Journal contains 12 papers that have something for everyone. For the extractive metallurgists, there are papers on jigging and the flotation of coal and gold. For the mining engineers, there are contributions on stope design, mine refrigeration, and decision-making strategies for the selection of heat exchangers and for mine planning.

Mining, the Environment and Society Conference

The SAIMM held its first Mining, the Environment and Society conference in November 2013. The theme of this conference was ‘Issues and Responses’. Over the two days, 21 papers highlighted the range of social and environmental issues associated with mining and how the sector is responding, or could respond, to them. A number of papers in this edition of the Journal have been selected from the conference.

A Southern African Silver Anniversary 2014 - SOMP Annual Meeting

If it was not for the vision of the founder member of the Society of Mining Professors, Professor Günter Fettweis, the International Society of Mining Professors would not have been possible as it stands today. A group of mining professors under the guidance of Professor Fettweiss gathered on 21 October 1990 at the Montanuniversität in Leoben, Austria to establish the Society of Mining Professors.

SARES 2014

The papers in this issue of the Journal have been selected from the Sixth South African Rock Engineering Symposium (SARES 2014), which was jointly organized by the South African National Institute of Rock Engineering (SANIRE) and the SAIMM. The theme of this symposium, ‘Creating Value through Innovative Rock Engineering’, was selected due to the recent global market changes and other challenges facing the mining industry. Mining needs to become still safer and more efficient while addressing the challenges of rising costs, skills shortages, marginal ore, complex geology, and greater mining depth. Innovative rock engineering design is therefore essential for the future of the mining industry.

Physical Beneficiation 2013

Physical Beneficiation 2013 was the third conference of its kind, the first being the DMS and Gravity Concentration Conference held in 2006 and the second the Physical Beneficiation 2010 Conference. Physical beneficiation covers dense medium separation (DMS), gravity concentration, magnetic separation, electrostatic separation, and ore sorting –all processes that are widely used in the Southern African mining industry. A total of 22 papers were presented during the two days of the conference, 19 and 20 November 2013, and covered a wide range of commodities and unit processes within the physical beneficiation field. Two keynote addresses set the stage for each day, with Lionel Falcon and Will Blair sharing their vast knowledge and experience in coal processing and DMS respectively. This issue of the Journal features 10 of the papers that were presented at this conference.

The increasing role of computers in engineering

When I first read the abstracts of the six papers appearing in the Journal this month, I thought that I would have to comment on each paper individually and in depth, as there did not seem to be a common theme linking them in any way. What do you think: CFD modelling of ventilation patterns in mines, sublevel stope optimization, the indexing of mining risk, controlling fires in coal mines, process for treating vanadium titano-magnetites, and erosion of the freeze lining in submerged-arc furnaces?

7th Southern African Base Metals Conference

The 7th Southern African Base Metals Conference was held in Mpumalanga from 2 to 3 September 2013, with a visit to Nkomati Nickel Mine on 3 September. The Conference attracted 22 papers from sub-Saharan Africa (DRC, Zambia, Namibia, and South Africa) as well as from Finland and Australia. The scope of the papers was wide-ranging, including geology, engineering design, and process metallurgy. This edition of the SAIMM Journal includes a selection of four papers from the conference. It is regrettable that four papers were withdrawn from publication for a variety of reasons at the request of the authors.

Mining Research in South Africa

The papers in this edition of the Journal are authored or co-authored by recent graduates in mining and metallurgy. They are based on final year undergraduate projects and were presented at the annual Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy’s Student Colloquium in November 2013. This was held at the University of Johannesburg, and for the first time a student from Namibia presented a paper.