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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

Student Projects

The alchemists of past centuries tried hard to make the elixir of life: ...Those efforts were in vain; it is not in our power to obtain the experiences and the views of the future by prolonging our lives forward in this direction. However, it is well possible in a certain sense to prolong our lives backwards by acquiring the experiences of those who existed before us and by learning to know their views as well as if we were their contemporaries. The means for doing this is also an elixir of life. Hermann Franz Moritz Kopp.

The papers in this issue are a selection of the best presentations at a colloquium of undergraduate student projects held between the mining and metallurgical orientated faculties in Pretoria and Johannesburg, together with students from the Tshwane and Vaal Universities of Technology.

‘Tickle Four’ Future Foresight

‘In its short commercial life, titanium has been tagged ‘the wonder metal’. As strong as steel, it weighs only half as much; Heavier than aluminium, it is twice as stong’. Time Magazine 11 August 1952

The papers in this issue are a selection from the ‘Advanced Metals Initiative: The Light Metals Conference 2010’, held at the CSIR, the home of much of the materials science work in the last few decades.

The Platinum Group Metals

‘Do you know who made you’ ‘Nobody, as I knows on said the child, with a short laugh I ‘spect I grow’d’. Topsy, in Harriet Beecher Stowe Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852)

It was in 1924 that Hans Merensky first reported the presence of the platinum group metals (PGMs) on the rim of the largest and most complex igneous extrusion known.

Safety bonus in blasting

Apuleius, Roman philosopher (124–170 AD).

From the time that mining involved working in holes in the ground, it has been considered a dangerous occupation. It is obviously so because of the possibility of the walls, the hole, or the roof of a tunnel collapsing on the miners.

12th International Ferroalloys Congress: Future sustainability

‘The old order changeth, yielding place to new’

It is appropriate that the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy devote an issue of its Journal to the 12th International Ferroalloys Conference, even though published proceedings are available.

Ore Dressing

Everything has its limitations Iron ore cannot be educated into gold - Mark Twain 1906
The papers in this issue are of a pragmatic nature and they provide examples of new applications and improved operating procedures for the well-known physical beneficiation processes.

Wits Mining: moving from great to the exceptional—the road ahead

F.T. Cawood, Professor of Mine Surveying and Head of School: Mining Engineering, University of the Witwatersrand
This SAIMM Wits Special Edition is a special tribute to Professor Huw Phillips, who has led the School for 25 years and has left, as a legacy, the largest Mining Engineering school in the English-speaking world.

Sustainability and slimes dams

‘!ke e:/xarra//ke:’ South African Motto; Coat of Arms.’ ‘Unity in Diversity’
In this August issue, among the papers that give the conclusions of well-done scientific work, we also present a paper that admits defeat in providing a final answer. This is a legal paper on the ownership of slimes dams.

Traditions, transactions, and technology transfer

‘No one should approach the temple of science, with the soul of a money changer.’ Thomas Browne

Appropriately this issue contains papers from the recent International Coal Processing Conference, which was held in Lexington, USA in April. In past decades this aspect of coal mining was not generally considered as a topic of advanced highly scientific opportunity for forefront research.

Nuggets or Nano Gold

‘I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, And express it in numbers, you know something about it; But when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, Your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.’ Lord Kelvin, 1882

The papers in this issue were selected from a conference on sampling and blending held last year. This topic is generally considered by most production industries as a necessary,

Leaner and meaner or keener and cleaner

‘GM will be leaner and meaner’ Barack Obama, President of the USA Comments on the General Motors bailout 2009

We are emerging, I hope, from the most traumatic recession for many an era

Educating entrepreneurs

We have not achieved much. It's a big lesson; we have to learn from that. The principle of the charter was to try to deracialise the mining industry, which has not been achieved’.
Minister of Mineral Resources, Susan Shabangu, talking in New York, explaining why the Mining Charter has to be revised—March 2010

It has been a firm tradition that one of the annual issues of the SAIMM Journal be devoted to publication of papers derived from undergraduate projects in the mining and metallurgical faculties.


‘Keep right on to the end of the road Though the way may be long, let your heart be strong. Keep right on to the end’ Words from a Scottish Ballad...

I must confess to reading the papers in this issue with much interest and a measure of excitement. I have been involved with comminution since 1955, not directly but circumstantially.

Black sands, black swans, and teachers

‘A little neglect may breed mischief’. ‘For want of a nail, the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost, for want of a horse the rider was lost, for the want of a rider the battle was lost. All for the want of a nail’

This issue is devoted to the treatment of the black mineral sands such as those that abound along the east and west coasts of Southern Africa. The papers are from the latest of the conferences that have formed part of a continuing series by the SAIMM over several decades.

Converting techno talk to techno transfer

‘Publish or Perish’  ‘The Academic Man: A Study in the Sociology of a Profession’  Logan Wilson, 1942

This first issue of 2010 features a selection of contributions from the Hardrock Safety conference in September 2009. This is as important a topic as any for an industry that deals with a work function as hazardous as that of deep-level hard rock mining. It is also as complex as any involving rock mechanics, seismology, zero defect in engineering and instrumentation, plus psychology, training and exhaustion hygiene, as illustrated in the papers.

Physical Metallurgy

‘The future is here. It’s just not widely distributed yet’ William Gibson.

This issue contains six Transaction papers and one Journal paper. This is a pleasing change from the pattern of the previous issues during this year, in which there have been some extremely important events and conferences from which a wealth of Journal papers have emerged and which have contributed greatly to the technology transfer functions of the Institute’s publication. It is thus good to see some detailed experimental work with evaluation and conclusions in traditional format.

Many ways to kill a cat

‘The difference between foolishness and wisdom is time and the prevailing norms. In real terms, human beings are unable to distinguish between wisdom and foolishness.This helps to show us that there are many ways to kill a cat’ Ancient African Wisdom for the Current and Future global Solutions. Jabulani—August 2008

This seems to be a strange title for a comment on a Journal issue dealing with base metals.

I should explain that the English phrase quoted was frequently used by me more than two decades ago when I was heading a project contracting company and involved in critical path planning, PERT diagrams and risk analysis. It referred to the successful completion of a challenging activity, such as a research and development (R&D) project or a plant construction contract, (CAT).

Mintek 75th Anniversary Issue

From the Good Earth: Lessons from the Past, Inspirations for the Future. Michael Abelman

This issue is devoted to a selection of eight papers from Mintek to represent a cross-section of the contribution to Mineral Research and Development to celebrate their 75th anniversary. They are all eminently note-worthy and the one most relevant to my interests is the paper on Resin–in-Pulp which endorses my predictions a few months ago that this technology is likely to take off internationally in the near future.

Sulfuric Acid

Plaisir d’amour ne dure qu’un moment; chagrin d’amour duré toute la vie. Classic French Ballad

The papers in this issue focus on sulfuric acid. Sulfuric acid has become an integral part of the mining industry and today there are more sulfuric acid plants operated in the mining industry than in the chemical industry in South Africa. This revolution took place in the 1950s with the advent of the uranium extraction and recovery process. The first plant in the mining industry was, I believe, at Zincor, the raw material being derived from the roasting of sphalerite, the sulfide of zinc. Most of the large uranium plants had their own sulfuric acid plants using pyrite as the source of sulfur.

From Commonwealth To Cosmopolitan

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.

Super Sport, Super Science, Moguls And Minions

……‘Mogul—an important or powerful person’, ‘Minion—a servile dependent’. Collins English Dictionary.

The dress rehearsals for the 2010 Soccer World Cup have been successful and, short of an apocalyptic event, well over 10 million visitors annually are predicted to visit South Africa in future years.

The International Hydrometallurgy Conference

……And Noah he often said to his wife when he sat down to dine, “I don’t care where the water goes if it doesn’t get into the wine. G.K. Chesterton.

I had the privilege of attending the International Conference on Hydrometallurgy at the Misty Hills Conference Centre. It did justice to the close proximity to the ‘Cradle of Humankind’ and a good choice for the association with the SA mining and metallurgical industry who had provided the ‘Cradle’ for hydrometallurgy.

New Sustainability Strategies

We believe that sustainable development is a shared responsibility. It is not an outcome we can deliver in isolation. Society, industry and government must all contribute and work together to achieve meaningful results. Karin Ireton

The theme for this comment was promoted by the suite of papers presented in the last issue of the Journal. I have previously commented on one of these papers, but there is such a wealth of value in this group of presentations of an international series of symposia on the topic of long range strategic planning in the mining and metallurgical industry that I felt that further comment was justified. In particular the paper by G.L. Smith and co-authors from Anglo Platinum was quite remarkable in the comprehensive and detailed account of the long range strategic planning procedures used at this company. I am sure that it must rank among the most thorough in the world of mining.

Statistics And Strategies

Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital Aaron Levenstein

The March issue of the Journal presents an exceptional set of prestigious papers that had been presented at conferences in Chile, Australia and South Africa on long-range strategic planning. It was difficult to pick out any one paper for comment and of course the topic is so well covered in the presentations and in a vast amount of literature that to attempt to condense it into a short Journal Comment would be difficult. However, one particular paper caught my eye as a topic of personal interest and could also be related to the next issue of the Journal, which contains a selection of papers from student research projects. Long-range strategic planning in relation to research and technology is not often a topic in conferences and journal contributions, and it was for this reason that one of the papers in the March issue fascinated me.

Portfolio Planning And Pipe Dreams

No matter how carefully you plan your goals they will never be more than pipe dreams unless you pursue them with gusto W. Clement Stone

There is a paper in this issue that rates among the most interesting contributions that have come my way in the Journal: ‘CFB technology provides solutions for reducing CO2 emissions’, from: Foster Wheeler Energia Oy, Finland. There are also a number of news items that are particularly topical and contributed to the theme of this Comment. Somewhat irritating but highly significant is an item from Engineering News that the Canadians have beaten us to the draw in successfully growing biofuel crops on several mining slimes dams. This initiative was promoted by Mining Innovation, Rehabilitation and Applied Research Corporation (MIRARCOR), apparently advanced thinking mining research consultants, specializing in techniques using virtual reality computer protocols from Laurentian University in assessing multidimensional feasibility studies. 


In Revolution and Reformation how can a people who have struggled long years under oppression throw off their oppressors and establish a free society? The problems are immense, but their solution lies in the education and enlightenment of the people …. Thomas Jefferson

The new year issue is starting off well with a revolution. This word is to the old guard aristocracy a frightening term and inspires fearsome thoughts of the many heads that rolled from the guillotine in the notorious French revolution. The revolution in our case also has to do with rolls, as in the paper: HPGR—revolution in platinum? By C.M. Rule, D.M. Minnaar and G.M. Sauermann In this case, the rolls refer to the high pressure grinding rolls, which were the basis of some very successful testing at two of the Anglo Platinum mines.


‘It is an ill wind that turns none to good’ Thomas Tusser 1524–1580

In this issue is one of the rare papers that I rate as compulsory reading for those interested in technical training and its strategic role in economic development. Although written with reference to mining, there is much of general importance in a much wider context. I refer to the paper, ‘Technical Skills: a major strategic issue’, by Stacey, Hadjigeorgiou, and Potvin. It deals with the training of technically qualified personnel at graduate and postgraduate level for mining industries in South Africa, Canada and Australia respectively. It is a classic example of a ‘bitter sweet’ article with an intriguing mixture of good and bad news.


The most appropriate meaning of OBE is ‘Other Buggers’ Efforts’ G.S. James, OBE, past director of the DRL

The quotation heading this Journal Comment refers to the Order of the British Empire, an honour bestowed on services rendered to the nation usually in times of national crisis such as war. But I took the liberty of a parody on Outcomes Based Education since I thought it was most appropriate to the comments I wish to make on the education situation in this country, a very topical subject at the time that the ‘matriculation’ results are about to be published. Jimmy James’ modest comments on his award are not inappropriate to education. It is a time of crisis in the war against unemployment and poverty. It is used, not in a critical sense, but to reflect somewhat crudely some positive suggestions about our education structure particularly in this climate of global instability.

Tomography: fantasies and facts

‘The gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.’ Albert Einstein

The papers in the Journal section selected from the Tomography Symposium focus on slurries and mineral processing and some aspects of extraction metallurgy. They are somewhat specialized but the review papers included provide a window onto a much wider field of applications. The sophistication in the medical field, for example, has been spectacular and I am sure way beyond the fantasies of the early pioneers. I thought it would be interesting to reminisce to illustrate many concepts being explored, but it is only in the last few decades that the potential in mining and metallurgy are beginning to mature into sophisticated systems available for routine work implants and mines. I have the feeling that there are steep learning curves ahead.

Nothing ventured nothing gained

‘The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away’ Linus Pauling

An excellent piece of work in this issue (‘A Review of the Physical Properties of Base Metal Mattes’) which being highly specialized, will be glossed over by most of our readers. This led me in a convoluted way to the topic of this Journal Comment. There have been a number of references recently to the difficulty of attracting venture capital (VC). In a discussion paper from the South African Venture Capital Association in May, the situation in South Africa has been comprehensively and well analysed. The primary authors were J.P. Fourie (Executive Officer SAVCA), Greg Voigt (Blue Catalyst) and Ela Romanowska (Seed Fund Manager, Innovation Fund), and is well worth reading. The noteworthy motivation for the paper is: R&D spend and patent rates indicators, as compared to other developing countries such as Korea and China, show that for South Africa’s economy to remain competitive, R&D spend and the translation of R&D activity into economically traded goods and services, through inter alia the creation of high tech, high growth potential, high risk ventures, needs to be accelerated dramatically.