It is in our national interest to participate in international scientific activities when one considers the relatively low level of spending on research and development in the country. Participation in the international arena facilitates access to the knowledge and information it needs to succeed in the global economy. National Research Foundation
This issue contains a thought provoking collection of excellent contributions from foreign countries. I could indulge in reminiscing on the last century origins of the flotation froth measurements and in the first computer controlled haulage system open pit mine in South Africa. I refrain from this old man’s privilege, to rather follow the excellent suggestion of the Publication Committee to explore whether the cosmopolitan character of this issue is a signal of increasingly foreign interest and influence in future years. It so happened that this issue coincided with a number of news items indicating an increasing activity having widespread impact, both nationally and internationally. I have selected these as a grab sample corresponding to topics attracting such foreign contributors.
The two papers on open pit mining from Turkey and India are not unrelated, and coincide with an announcement from the Fossil Fuel Foundation from which I quote a short
‘...recent developments with regard to the proposed National Coal Roadmap for South Africa (SACRM). ….The initiative continues to attract interest, including internationally.
We would like to encourage any stakeholders who have not yet participated in the initiative to contact the SACRM via the FFF at http://www.fossilfuel.co.za. We thank you for your support whilst the Roadmap is being established and look forward to your participation with us on this important national endeavour.
‘Also relevant is announcement of a series of events on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) as a strategic topic decreed by Government as being of urgent national priority.
‘I am sure that the forthcoming conferences will have a proper scientific status and authoritative technical presentations. The results are eagerly awaited...’
The paper from Iran on gold is also a topic in the news, and a recent press release from Mintek includes the following:
‘Strem Chemicals Inc., a USA-based manufacturer of specialty chemicals for research and development, has entered into a distribution agreement with Mintek for the
AUROliteTM gold catalysts developed through Project AuTEK of Mintek’s Advanced Materials Division….
‘AuTEK is a joint venture between Mintek, and three major South African gold mining houses—Anglogold Ashanti, Gold Fields, and Harmony Gold—the main focus of
which is to develop novel industrial applications for gold.’
One of the potential uses of gold catalysts is for the oxidation of methane, one of the most pernicious global warming gasses. Iran with its huge oil and associated
methane resources must, for our global sake, be interested in putting their reported small gold production to such use.
As regards the excellent paper from Mexico, which I found of great value to bring me up to date after a long break from the topic of control of froth conditions in
flotation plants, this must be of interest to the group in Cape Town, which has a great reputation by way of its association with AMIRA International, as being among the
world leaders in this subject. Collaboration with Mexican mineral engineers could well be worthwhile pursuing.
There is another news item associated with Mexico in an indirect way. This is the news item from SAIMM itself advertising the International Mine Water Conference, which
includes acid rock drainage, mine closure and efficiency in mine water management.
Mexico also has water deficiency problems and has established an Institution of Hydroponic Fertigation in order to improve water usage in the irrigated small lot farming
community of the central lakes area of Mexico. There have been dramatic results and I should dearly like to promote a cooperative agreement with Mexico in this field and in
return, a cooperative programme on the mine water treatment technology in South Africa.
Also related to open pit coal mining is a paper of importance from India. This immediately reminds us of the IBSA treaty among India, Brazil and South Africa on
collaboration on technology, nuclear non-proliferation and WTO negotiations. Brazil is the recognized authority on design of plants to produce ethanol fuel from sugar cane.
India has established highly significant activities in using bagass as a source of power generation. These two countries with their huge populations could excite many
The message is clear—there is going to be a wealth of material from overseas contributors and of great relevance to the professional engineers and scientists in South Africa
So what is the implication for the SAIMM and its Journal?
Questions, challenges and dangers:
Undoubtedly there will be a Plethora of P5s (Profitable Popular Power Point Presentations).
How many of these scientific P5 efforts lead to any semblance of diligent accreditation, which might be of interest to professional stakeholders, be they taxpayers or
Very few, if any. They are not intended to do so. Another disturbing question is what proportion of the research publications from our own statutory institutions
and postgraduate researchers are local and reasonably accessible to the professional scientific body in South Africa?
Very few about the extractive metallurgical disciplines and probably many other aspects of our industry. There are many well-known reasons. But the challenge is to convince
them that accreditation by peers at home in a local, small, but internationally respected publication and Website is much better than ‘mega-hit’ dilution in Google.
Our challenge is to use our unique approach of publishing both ‘Journal papers’ and refereed transactions to provide our constituency of local and foreign readers, a scientifically and professional account of the collaborative and strategic projects.
I consider that it is very important that this be done. I do not believe that it is appreciated how many professional engineering and scientific disciplines are involved in mining
and metallurgy. More than ever, it must be recognized in projects of strategic and international importance, that it is vital to keep the body of such professional peers adequately
informed of the critical scientific progress and decision making.
I would go further to say our future stature as a scientific and innovative first world country is more defined by the perceptions of the populations of professional engineers and scientists, than by the amount of money allocated by Government. The transfer of accredited quality research and decision making is of critical importance. Such a challenge is way beyond the volume capability of the SAIMM. But maybe we can set a pattern for the other professional societies to follow.
Our culture and professionalism evolved from our previous association with the membership of the Commonwealth Mining and Metallurgical institutions. It has and still is serving us well. The challenge is to convert it to a more cosmopolitan character without sacrificing our sanctity and scientific protocols.◆
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