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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

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.

Precious Metals 2013

South Africa has a rich resource in precious metals and other minerals and metals and has certainly used this to its benefit in the creation of great wealth and the provision of a substantial number of jobs for its citizens and those of neighbouring states. The question, though, is can more benefit be derived from this mineral wealth?

Sampling and Analysis: Best Practice in African Mining

In this edition of the Journal a selection of the papers given at the conference ‘Sampling and Analysis: Best Practice in African mining’, held in Johannesburg from 4–6 June 2013, is presented.

The main objective of the conference was for the companies that are involved in the African mineral industry to present the procedures that they use for sampling and analysis, from exploration through face sampling and grade control to their processing plants and the final products that are sent to market.

Portfolio Potential

‘What have I done to achieve longevity? Woken up each morning and tried to remember not to wear my hearing aid in the bath Robert Morley, 1908–1992

The papers in this issue cover a variety of topics from a number of contributors with no common theme such as a conference topic. To provide some coherent interest, I have chosen a theme inspired by a review paper from Finland which can be related to almost all of the papers. This is ‘A review of real-time optimization in underground mining production’ by Z. Song et al. of the School of Engineering at Aalto University.

Where are all the coal researchers?

Coal is big. Really big. In 2011 the industry earned R 87.8 billion from coal sales, including more than R50 billion from exports. According to the Preliminary Statistical Release P2041 Mining: Production and Sales, published by Statistics SA in July 2013, the value of coal sales represented 24.5 per cent of all mineral sales for the first quarter of 2013, with gold and PGMs following at 20.5 per cent and 20.8 per cent respectively. Yet fundamental research in coal, in South Africa at least, seems to be lagging. If one can take this Journal as a benchmark, it has, since 1991, published 1168 articles of which only 167 had the word ‘coal’ in the title – representing 14 per cent of the published research output. So where are all the coal researchers, and why are they not publishing?

Mine optimization

It is appropriate – at a time when wage negotiations are underway and productivity is under the spotlight – that the Journal discusses mine optimization.

Productivity is not a well-understood term in the mining industry and tends to be narrowly defined as units of production per worker. The papers presented here, though, offer a broader view – covering a whole range of productivity issues in the value chain from defining the orebody through to optimizing the logistics around getting the product to market.

Refractories and Sulphuric Acid

‘What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is the difference we have made to the lives of others. That will determine the significance of the life we lead’. Nelson Mandela

The paper by M. Nyoka, D. Brazier, T. Courtney, and RA. Parry from Vereeniging Refractories, (Pty) Ltd, refers to andalusite as a key mineral resource. I am sure the staff of Vereeniging Refractories will join me in paying tribute to the staff of the Ore-Dressing and Mineralogy divisions of the Government Metallurgical Laboratory (now Mintek), Pieter Overbeek, Jack Levin, and Joe Liebenberg, in establishing, some 60 years ago, andalusite, sillimanite, and magnesite as high-quality and strategically important minerals.

It’s all been done

‘We don’t know a millionth of one percent about anything’ Thomas Edison

The papers in this issue are from the 5th bi-annual conference in the series Diamonds—Source to Use, which covered the full spectrum of the diamond pipeline from exploration through to sales and marketing.

Almost 150 years after the first discovery of diamonds in southern Africa, the region’s diamond industry remains healthy and continues to surprise through its ability to reinvent itself and create new opportunities, at times from deposits regarded as having been less than interesting in the past.

Job creation concepts

‘An educated man or woman is someone who learns, first of all, to doubt. At 56, I can honestly say I am more convinced than ever that I know very little and have so much to learn.’

This issue of the Journal is not associated with any conference or prescribed topic. I had hoped it would provide a small window on the mining and metallurgical research efforts at our universities and other institutions. I was not disappointed.

There are two, much welcomed, papers from Iran and Egypt. From the University of the Witwatersrand Mining School, there were five excellent papers - those of Matthew Handley and Dick Stacey are monumental contributions which certainly provided me with a much better insight into the status and importance of rock mechanics, even though the extensive detail was at a speciality level beyond my comprehension. The Institute will hopefully make these contributions available as monographs for students and groups working on rock mechanics.

The Development of Research in the Western Cape

Overview:
This volume of the Journal focuses on minerals processing and extractive metallurgy research currently being carried out at the universities of Cape Town and Stellenbosch and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. This collection of current research presents an opportunity to reflect on the development of these research areas in the Western Cape over the past few decades. The minerals processing activities in the Western Cape go back to the 1970s, at which time impressive new facilities were constructed at the University of Stellenbosch (SU) where Nico Louw and John de Kock were establishing a strong minerals-related research activity. John had moved from UCT where he had begun a small but active research group focusing on coal processing.

New Vistas

‘We are equipped as never before, And the question arises: What shall we do with our strength?’ 1953 Sir Robert Robinson, Nobel Laureate

The papers in this issue are from the 5th conference on Platinum: ‘A Catalyst for Change’.

The platinum industry has suffered a sequence of unfortunate events causing much concern about its future. These setbacks run fairly deep. The most serious is the crippling increase in electric power cost which, because of the heavy demand of the electric smelting furnace, has caused the cost of processing to move into the danger range relative to the prices obtained for the products. The gloom has been deepened by the carbon emissions tax announced in the latest budget.

The state of the local foundry sector

The ten papers appearing in the Journal this month were presented during the Ferrous and Base Metals Development Network Conference 2012 held in Johannesburg over the period 15–17 October 2012. With the exception of the paper on the coordination chemistry of zirconium, they cover a spread of research activities associated with the physical and metallurgical properties of alloys.

Student projects: Collegiate of Miners and Metallurgists

‘There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, And that is an idea whose time has come’ Victor Hugo.

The papers in this issue are from the annual colloquium in which students are given the opportunity to present a report on project work undertaken as part of their undergraduate training. In publishing a selection of the papers it is not the intention to announce the advent of great new advances in technology, but rather to produce a window on the best examples of the state of the nation for perusal by the collegiate of professionally qualified practitioners in mining, mineral processing, and metallurgy.

Black Swans versus White Swans

‘Black Swans occur when there is a, disjoint between what we know and what we think we know’ J.C. Ngoma, Presidential Address SAIMM, September 2009.

Those who attended the Presidential Address in 2009 did not suspect that the prophetic theme of ‘Swinging with the Black Swans’ would materialize within the next three years. ‘These beasts could lie hidden, only to appear unexpectedly and cause much havoc.’

The Mining and Metallurgical industries are going through the most serious criticism that I have encountered in my 62 years’ association with them. This is at a time when South Africans are looking at them to provide the key to the solution to an even bigger crisis facing the Nation: that of unemployment and poverty.

Percolation leaching

R‘Nature provides a free lunch, but only if we control our appetites’, William Ruckelshaus, Business Week, 18 June 1990

Six of the papers in this issue are from an international conference on a topic that many consider as one of the most important in future extraction metallurgy. It deserves its more exotic name of ‘percolation leaching’ rather than the previous names of dump or heap leaching, which suggest that the technology is best suited for treatment of waste materials.

Paste and Thickened Tailings

The November edition of the Journal contains papers that were presented at Paste 2012, the 15th International Seminar on Paste and Thickened Tailings that was held in the Pilanesberg during April this year.

I am sure that every reader has heard the joke about the argument between the various organs of the body as to which would be crowned as the ‘King’. The brain, heart, and lungs all made their respective impressive cases. Then an unmentionable organ quietly announced its claim to the title, to be greeted with laughter and derision.

The best research in mining and metallurgy

‘All men by nature desire knowledge’ Aristotle
‘Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can. That is the only secret.’ Matthew Arnold

This month’s issue of the Journal carries papers on a wide range of topics in the areas of mining, metallurgy, and mathematics. This gives rise to the question of what constitutes a good paper. Essentially, the subject matter should be of interest or importance to at least some readers; the content should be communicated clearly and logically; and some papers should communicate new knowledge that is worth being referenced by other authors. The ‘value’ of a
paper is a difficult thing to define, let alone to measure, but that hasn’t stopped people from trying.

International Rock Mechanics Symposium

“Rock of Ages cleft for me Let me hide myself in thee” Augustus Toplady 1772.

In the papers in this issue we are exposed to some of the expertise that has evolved over the decades in rock mechanics - the basic science involved in rock breakage, whether accidently or intentionally.

Breakthrough Technologies

The ten papers in the July edition would appear, at first glance, to have little in common. Upon a second glance, they can be grouped into three broad themes:
 * Environmental (two papers)
 * Technology (four in metallurgy and two in mining)
 * Human knowledge (two papers). I admit that it’s not a
very imaginative analysis, but it’s the best that I can do!

Innovation from fluidization

Innovate: ‘to invent or begin to apply’- Collins Dictionary

Several papers in this issue from an international conference on industrial fluidization represent an exceptional opportunity for innovation.

It is common cause that innovation is the prerequisite for job creation, which is rated as the highest priority in Africa.

In this context the most succinct definition of ‘Innovation’ from Collins Dictionary includes two components; invention and application. Concepts are two a penny. Inventions, (let’s call them R&D projects so as not to be confused with patents) are much more demanding in professional expertise at research institutions, and are widely reported in journals such as this one. The application component in all respects is the most comprehensively difficult.

Fascinating Possibilities

Professor Robbie Robinson written his thoughtprovoking comments on a monthly basis since 1995, and he assures the Publications Committee that this is not the end of his comments or his involvement with the Journal. However, May 2012 has fallen to me.

This issue contains ten papers covering a range of subjects. Two mining papers concern uncertainty and planning in mining projects. A topic often discussed in the Journal. A further two present fundamental aspects of rock breakage, elastic deformation energy, compressive and tensile. As a metallurgist, when looking at such papers, I wonder whether the understanding that mining engineers have in the area of rock mechanics could not be borrowed to design a new method of rock breaking. One paper talks about abrasion which only recently appeared in modelling of comminution processes.

Student Colloquium 2011

Every year the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy holds a student colloquium. This provides the opportunity for selected undergraduate students to present a paper before an audience of their peers and senior members of the Institute. Presenters are drawn from those universities in the region where courses are offered in mining engineering, metallurgy, and minerals processing. This edition of the Journal is devoted to the nine papers prepared subsequently by the presenters, sometimes in conjunction with their academic or industrial mentors.

Physical beneficiation

“Old Soldiers Never Die They Only Fade Away” Song of 1914–18 war.

I was particularly delighted to work through the papers in this issue, for two reasons.

Firstly, a high proportion of the papers are the work of two of the most prestigious research capabilities in South Africa, namely those of Anglo American and De Beers, with headquarters in what might be described as the Crown Mines research park.

Mine Safety with Heritage Security

“Tug on anything in nature and you will find It connected to everything else”

John MuirIn this issue there is much for the pragmatist and a great deal for the philosopher. With this Journal Comment, I start my 62nd year of association with mining and metallurgy. The quotation reflects my experience. I have rubbed shoulders with every element in the periodic table, from hydrogen, via the platinum group metals to uranium; from pragmatism to philosophies on job creation. And so it is in this issue.

New Year Options

“There is a tide in the affairs of men Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and in miseries……” William Shakespeare (Julius Caesar)

There is once again a selection of papers for a variety of specialists. The two papers on statistics of sampling are far too erudite to allow comment from me. I mention them in deference to the many students and statisticians who enjoyed the pioneering work of the internationally honoured Danie Krige, a platinum medallist of the SAIMM.

National Planning Strategies

‘If you are planning for one year, grow rice. If you are planning for 20 years grow trees. If you are planning for centuries, grow men’ - Chinese Proverb.

There is no pre-designated theme for the contributions in this issue. Apart from one review paper, they are research contributions from a range of specialists, and it is impossible to comment in detail on all of them.

PyroMetallurgy Conference

“History must be written of, by and for the survivors, Anonymous

There is a wealth of interesting reading in this issue with papers taken from the recent PyroMetallurgy Conference. It is possibly one of the most pleasing editions we have published with items from our University departments of mining and metallurgy, and our research institutions of highly significant and scientific research stature. Also it focuses on topics representing great future wealth potential.

Health and Safety in Mining

‘Good prose is the selection of the best words……’ Poetry is the best words in the best order; And journalese (legalese) is any old words in any old order’ In a letter (1987) to the Times of London.

There is much food for thought in the papers in this issue, which were selected from a workshop that was held last year on the Health and Safety Acts in South Africa. Three of the papers by W. Le Roux are in the form of a digest and commentary, specifically as valuable guidelines for those in the industry.

International Interaction

‘Give us the tools and we will finish the job’, Winston Churchill, 1941

The highest priority in South Africa is job creation, and this also applies to most of Africa. On a time scale that is critical, this can come about only through international investment and assistance.

Facts and footsteps forward

“Science is built of facts, as a house is built of stones; But an accumulation of facts is no more a science Than a heap of stones is a house Henri Poincaré 1854–1912

Once again, the Journal presents a miscellaneous group of papers, rather than a collection from a colloquium or conference. All of them represent facts and footsteps forward in areas of importance in Mining and Metallurgy, rather than the final chapters in a new plant or mining enterprise

Restoration and rocket science

‘Every revolution evaporates, Leaving behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy’ Franz Kafka 1883–1924
There is no common theme such as a topic of a conference in this issue, but rather a collection of papers from different countries and different subjects.