The role of metallurgy in enhancing beneficiation in the South African mining industry
Beneficiation, in the context of this paper, has two distinct definitions. From an economic perspective beneficiation relates to adding value to a mined raw material as opposed to simply exporting the raw material, in which case other countries will benefit from the value add potential. From a metallurgy perspective beneficiation relates to processes used to upgrade the mined raw material. Clearly then, 'economic beneficiation' is dependent on 'metallurgical beneficiation'. South Africa possesses the world's largest mineral resources by value and is the world's largest producer of many mined commodities.
Therefore, one would expect a greater degree of beneficiation of the many mined raw materials in South Africa. However, increasing the degree of beneficiation will depend initially on the effective application of metallurgical processes to the various mined raw materials. The fundamental objective of the application of metallurgy is to produce the materials required for fabrication and manufacturing. The role of metallurgy in economic beneficiation will be examined in terms of what is practised currently and the potential to expand. South Africa's main mining commodities will be covered, namely gold, platinum, coal, iron ore, manganese, chromium, vanadium, copper, nickel, titanium, zirconium, uranium, and diamonds.
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Marek was born and educated in the United Kingdom. He attended the University of Leeds where he studied Mineral Processing, graduating in July 1980 with a BSc Honours. During 1979 he worked as a vacation student at Hartebeestfontein gold mine in South Africa and decided that on graduation he would start his mining career in South Africa. As it turned out he has spent his entire mining career to date in South Africa. Marek was recruited by Union Corporation, just before it became Gencor, in 1980. He decided that he would not start his career at a gold or coal mine but instead started at Impala Platinum in Rustenburg. His first job was as a concentrator metallurgist at the central mineral processing plant, where he underwent a graduate training programme followed by project work on cyclone classification and flotation reagents.
After five years at Impala Platinum Marek decided that a change in direction was required, and he moved to Johannesburg in 1985 and joined Montan Chemicals as a development metallurgist. He continued his foray into the commercial side of mining by joining Joy Process Equipment in 1986 as an applications engineer, thus shifting his focus from mining chemicals to process equipment. In 1987 Joy Process Equipment was effectively closed down and another change in direction was required.
Marek then decided to turn his attention to projects. In 1987 he joined Group 5 Projects as a process engineer in their newly formed EPCM department for mining projects. His first project involved a small waste anode treatment plant at the Alusaf aluminium smelter, quickly followed by two flotation plants, phosphate and copper, at Foskor and a vanadiferous magnetite beneficiation plant for Rhovan. These projects kept him busy in design and commissioning for three years.
In 1990 Marek again made a significant change in his career path by taking an independent consulting metallurgist route, meaning self employment. For the next nine years he was involved in numerous roles for small mining companies, covering project consulting and implementation together with plant audits in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. He also participated as a process engineer in many project studies for most of the EPCM companies then in South Africa.
Marek's most recent change in direction came in 1999 when he joined Anglo American as a senior process engineer. His first role was as concentrator process engineer for the Gamsberg feasibility study. In 2000 he was appointed Manager Process Engineering in the Technical Division. He and his team of process engineers provided consulting services to all of Anglo's business units. In 2008 his role changed to purely consulting to the business units for the next three years. Since 2000 a significant amount of time had also been spent as project review leader, leading multi-disciplinary technical teams for the independent review of projects on behalf of the Anglo American Board. The last two years have been spent as a technical specialist at Anglo Research, focusing on magnetic separation research and consulting.
Marek is a registered professional engineer with ECSA. Currently he is the chairperson of ECSA's professional advisory committee for metallurgy. He is a fellow of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy. He is a member of the editorial board of the Mineral Processing & Extractive Metallurgy transactions of the Institution of Materials, Minerals & Mining (IOM3) and the Australasian Institute of Mining & Metallurgy. He is a board member of the Mineral Processing & Technology Research Centre at the University of Johannesburg.
Having joined the SAIMM in 1981 as an associate, Marek became a member in 1985 and a fellow in 2006. In 2000 he joined the Metallurgy TPC. To date he has convened seven SAIMM conferences. In 2002 he became a co-opted member of Council and then an elected member from 2008. In 2009 he joined the publications committee and became chairperson of the metallurgy awards committee. In 2010 he became an office bearer. He is also the SAIMM representative on the councils of the Mine Metallurgical Managers Association (MMMA) and the Southern African Coal Processing Society (SACPS).
Marek is married to Dagmar, whom he met when working in Rustenburg. They have a son, Marek Peter and there are four stepdaughters, Colinda, Velda, Rene, and Bronwyn. Having a big family means maximizing quality family time. Recreation involves reading a good novel and listening to different types of music.