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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

Mine-impacted Water

South Africa has one of the most prominent mining industries in the world. The country saw a boom in the mining industry in the late 19th century with the drivers being gold and diamond mining, followed soon after by coal mining, then PGM processing. Today, gold, PGMs, and coal mining continue to make significant contributions to the economic and social development of the country. Despite the criticality of mining to the growth and development of South Africa and other nations across the globe, the industry is associated with process  challenges and legacies of environmental impact, one of which, is the issue of mine-impacted water.

Mine-impacted water is considered to be one of the main pollutants of surface- and groundwater in many countries that have historical or current mining industries and its potential effects on natural resources, communities, and human health have become increasingly evident. Mine-impacted water has long been regarded as one of the most serious and pervasive challenges facing the mining and minerals industry. While a wide range of technologies are being developed for preventing the generation of, and the control and remediation of, mine-impacted water, most of these approaches consider it a nuisance that needs to be quickly disposed of after minimum required treatment, in line with the legislation of that particular country. However, recently, there has been an emerging paradigm shift towards environmental responsibility and sustainable development. Thus, studies focusing on sustainable treatment technologies, value recovery from the waste solutions, mining closure practices, and legislation to mitigate potential future challenges arising from mine-impacted water have become predominant.

One of the best approaches to dealing with mine-impacted water is to consider it as a valuable resource and look at the recovery of clean water to satisfy the needs of a variety of mining and non-mining users. Since South Africa is a water-scarce country, this is a more practical and applicable approach to the problem. The production of other valuable and saleable by-products such as metals and salts that could be used to offset some of the operational costs is also being considered. In fact, recycling, and re-use of water and the recovery of value products is one of the emerging pragmatic approaches to mitigating the challenges associated with mine-impacted water.

It is at events such as conferences, workshops, and seminars that stakeholders can share unbiased, state-of-the-art expertise and knowledge, novel solutions and approaches, technical knowhow, and advocacy with respect to the legacy of, and sustainable solutions related to, mine-impacted water. Such events can help inspire and accelerate some of the work being done by all interested stakeholders on sustainable and holistic ways to deal with the issue of mine-impacted water. The papers in this edition of the Journal reflect some of the discussions arising from the conference held in November 2020.

The conference, which was organized by the SAIMM in collaboration with the University of the Witwatersrand, Mintek in South Africa, and RWTH Aachen University in Germany, attracted speakers and authors from a number of countries such as South Africa, the UK, Germany, Nigeria, Zambia, Serbia, and Belgium. The idea of the conference was born from a collaborative project between Wits University through the School of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering and the Institute IME Process Metallurgy and Metal Recycling at RWTH Aachen University, which was sponsored by the National Research Foundation in South Africa and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in Germany. Since the issue of mine-impacted water is going to be with us for a long time to come, we foresee more such conferences being organized in the future by these well-known higher education and research institutions in collaboration with the SAIMM on a regular basis.

It is my greatest wish that you all enjoy reading the papers in this edition of the Journal, and I hope that you will benefit from some of the ideas presented by the authors.

S. Ndlovu
Professor of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering
DSI/NRF SARChI Chair: Hydrometallurgy and Sustainable Development
School of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering
University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Some incentives for peer reviewers

Welcome to another edition of papers about the SAMCODES and of general interest.

Every article published in the SAIMM Journal goes through a rigorous peer reviewing process and is reviewed by at least two independent reviewers who are experts in their fields. Peer reviewing is a widely accepted procedure for evaluating the validity, quality, and originality of academic work, and is done on a voluntary basis in scholarly publishing. It is a time-consuming exercise, and sometimes it is difficult to find researchers to undertake peer reviewing as the SAIMM Journal covers a wide range of topics. Although most academics do peer reviewing as part of their scholarly activities, nevertheless it is important to recognize peer reviewers for their contribution to improving the quality and integrity of the Journal.

The Editorial Board of the SAIMM Journal has been working on new ways to reward peer reviewers. Hence, it was decided to recognize peer reviewers by awarding them the following incentives:

  • Letter of thanks: After each completed review, the reviewer will receive a ‘thank you’ letter in the form of an email.
  • Certificate of acknowledgement: Every reviewer will be issued each year with a signed SAIMM Journal certificate showing how many reviews he/she completed in that year.
  • Annual list of peer reviewers: The names of the reviewers who participated in the peer reviewing process will be published every year. The Journal also acknowledges the top peer reviewers annually on the website and at the AGM.
  • Discounts on conference attendance: A 20% discount will be granted to reviewers for one SAIMM conference of their choosing.

There are some other incentives which are currently being considered, and these will be communicated to our readers as soon as they become a part of our initiative.

Enjoy the September edition of the Journal!

B. Genc

Research and its qualities

On a summer day at the University of Chicago several years ago Larry McEnerney, then Director of the University’s Writing Program, gave a lecture on ‘The craft of writing effectively’. It was to a class of graduate students in the social and natural sciences. From the outset, McEnerney challenged widely held views on writing. Writing, he said, is mistakenly taught as a process governed by rules. ‘Stop thinking about rules; start thinking about readers’ and ‘use writing to help [one]self think’, he urged the class. McEnerney then identified the most important quality that marks all effective writing. But he did so only after he had ticked off qualities that we all readily attach to good writing:

‘Yeh, your writing needs to be clear. Sure, [it] needs to be organized . . . to be persuasive. But more than anything else [it] needs to be valuable’ [my emphasis].
As he ticks off each quality, McEnerney writes it on the blackboard. Each quality sits above the preceding one; valuable, unlined, stands out at the top of the list. To emphasize the point he ends, ‘The other stuff doesn’t matter if it is not valuable’.
Writing in some form—as a report or an academic paper, for example—closes off most bodies of research that we undertake. It is no coincidence, then, that the defining quality that McEnerney attaches to effective writing is echoed in effective or good research. That echo reverberates in the question, ‘What is research?’, or more specifically, ‘What characterizes good research?’ There are, however, different pitches to the echo depending on who you are. To hear them one needs to clarify research in the context of the SAIMM and its membership.

The Institute serves three engineering disciplines—mining, extractive metallurgy, and physical metallurgy or allied branches in material science. These disciplines divide the Institute along lines of subject. Another division cuts across these lines, setting members apart within their disciplines. This is the division that separates engineers in industry from academics at universities. It is marked, but it is not impervious: some members—a minority—may switch ‘camps’, even temporarily, depending on whether the problem at hand is framed by an industrial or academic/scholarly need. Being a member of one or other camp is not in itself grounds for discrimination. What is important, however, is the different sense each camp attaches to what is valuable in research. We all know that, as a rule, engineers in industry place value on practical applications. They will view research favourably if it cuts costs or brings in profit; if it introduces measures that secure the safety of workers or that reduce harm to the environment; or if it raises productivity, improves efficiencies, or sets out new possibilities. Value here also has a dimension in time: the value of research might well change when judged in the short, medium, or long term. These values inform research conducted in industry. One thinks of what passed/passes as research at the former Anglo Research and at Mintek. They also inform, and this is far-reaching, the engineer as reader—‘value lies with the reader’ is a point that McEnerney makes. Here we face a dilemma that lingers at the core of the Journal of the SAIMM: many of the papers published in the Journal are written by academics, who invoke a different set of criteria, including a different sense of value, when judging the worth of a paper. Their papers will reflect these criteria, and this will not sit comfortably with the other group, which is also the larger.

Compounding this problem between camps is a blight within the academic camp. To appreciate it we need to take stock of how academics view research. What for the academic constitutes ‘good’ research, where ‘good’ refers to a standard? (I am discounting the notion of excellence, which connotes ‘excelling’—pre-eminence or superiority—and therefore practices of comparison and performance.) All of science is marked primarily by asking questions. Good science or research asks questions of significance, questions that address a key, if not fundamental, concern, questions that look for insight. Nothing is trivial about them—profound might be no exaggeration: In the beginning is the question. Value for the academic consists primarily in the ‘reach’ of these questions. That is not to say that industry does not ask significant questions. Its questions differ not by degree but in class. Questions are less likely to be fundamental than applied, they are less about understanding fundamental processes than about feasibility at the industrial scale. Business and industrial criteria frame the applied category; it is they that impart significance to the questions asked. Not so in academia. Asking the right question is what some academics call ‘Research, with a capital R’. There is no algorithm, rubric, or procedure to finding that question. It is up to chance. One can stack the odds, however; for chance, in Louis Pasteur’s memorable phrase, ‘favours the prepared mind’.

Not only is finding the right question difficult, but preparing one’s mind is hard work, and that contributes to the poor quality of many papers produced at universities. This quality reflects inferior research. The greater part of preparing one’s mind is reading extensively, both within and without one’s field of study. The effort is huge. That we understand English brings little comfort. But not knuckling down to the effort is only part of the problem. The other part is the element of blissful ignorance. The English historian Eric Hobsbawm, in an interview with Simon Schama, a fellow historian, summed it up poignantly when he despaired of historians’ (read engineers’ and researchers’) ‘using the by-products, not the thinking’. What are the by-products of our profession? I suggest they consist in two activities that, properly engaged, support good research/Research. They are method and procedure, which is coupled with technique. Method, as implied in the philosophical label ‘scientific method’ and understood by eminent scholars, refers to the logic we use to validate a thesis or hypothesis, to argue a case, or to work to a solution. (Method is not to be confused with methodology, which is the study of method, an activity that exercises the minds of philosophers.) any of the engineers with whom I have engaged have only a passing knowledge of the logical processes they use to arrive at technical answers. At best, they are unaware of how they think but get it right, or they hide behind statistical tests in the mistaken belief that rigour leads to objective truths; at worst, they run foul of the asymmetries and rules in logical structures. Flawed logic calls into question the validity of research. Nevertheless, papers demonstrating flawed logic continue to be submitted for publication. Some of them slip through the net of peer review and make it to press.

Whereas method is abstract and remote for engineers, empirical procedures are concrete and reassuring. They set out which tests will be conducted, how these tests will be run, and the techniques (the instruments) that will be used. How many engineers know that all these activities are governed by theory—theory appropriate to the principles underlying a technique and theory appropriate to the problem that is the object of a study? Yet the Publications Committee receives papers in which procedures and techniques are disconnected from the problem. It is as if understanding (from theory and principles) and judgment have been suspended. But like specious arguments, procedures, techniques and their inscriptions (graphs and tables) display the trappings of science. They dazzle researchers as much as these practitioners hope to dazzle readers. The satirical BAHFest (Festival of Bad Ad Hoc Hypotheses) plays on this sophistry (much as the Ig Nobel prize ‘celebrates’ ‘trivial questions pursued as research’). The misuse of method and procedure is, I suggest, the ‘by-product’ that, along with asking trivial questions, displaces thinking in poor research.

I have not mentioned communication, the writing of academic papers. It stands apart from questions, methods and procedures in that it does not correlate with good or bad research. Bad writing, however, might well relegate good research to the peripheries of science, if not to oblivion—unless a sympathetic editor, looking through the mist of text and discerning forms of value, gives the authors a chance to redeem themselves.

The papers in this issue of the Journal are not collected around a theme. There may be something here that, consequently, interests a broad section of readers. Ask yourself what value you attach to the point or points of interest you find in any of the papers.

P. den Hoed

†This editorial arose out of introductory remarks I made at a meeting of the Publications Committee in March this year. It owes much to the discussion that followed those remarks. I am indebted particularly to Dick Stacey and Rodney Jones for their thoughts in personal communications following that meeting. I trust that I have not misrepresented them. I have had many hours of discussion with two senior colleagues—Hurman Eriç, Chamber of Mines Professor of Extractive Metallurgy, and David Lewis-Williams, Professor Emeritus of Cognitive Archaeology, both of them at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Every crisis presents an opportunity

It is often said that every crisis presents an opportunity, and Covid-19 is yet another example. The South African mining sector has over recent years initiated discussion and conversation around technology and the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). This comes at a time where South Africa’s mining productivity has declined by over 7.6% in the last decade, with two-thirds of the mining output sitting in the upper half of the global mining cost curve. The discussions have always been a challenge, with various stakeholders highlighting the complexity of the South African mineral deposits, particularly the narrow reef deposits of gold and platinum. Another challenge that often arises is the interpretation of what a modern mine should look like in the South African context, as information in the public domain is focused on massive mines and trackless mobile machinery, which excludes a number of operations in the country.

Covid-19 regulations in the South African mining sector have forced the industry to rethink mining as it was previously known, with a reduced number of employees now being permitted on site and constant monitoring of the possible spread of the virus. Mines were forced to think of creative ways around communications and interconnectivity across various points within the mining value chain. These efforts have stimulated the industry to further embrace elements of 4IR such as artificial intelligence (AI) through the mapping of Covid-19 hot-spots, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, and advanced wireless technologies through the integration of on-mine reporting systems and overall communications.

PWC found that most South African mining companies invest in technology to increase efficiency while lowering costs and improving health and safety. The challenge, however, is that 69% of South African mining companies were considered digital followers, with only 6% being digital champions who have fully integrated their technology. A significant amount of work is still required from CEOs to inspire more confidence within mining companies to allow organizations to be more in the forefront of technology development. This is especially relevant given the nature and uniqueness of some of the gold and platinum mineral deposits.

Although one could argue that some of the changes are not extreme, given where South African operations are with their technology journey, some are extreme – and this is a step in the right direction. Covid-19 has made it more evident that 4IR is more than a necessity: it will be a key enabler for the South African mining sector to take its place in the world of global competitiveness, not forgetting its key roles of safety and environmental responsibility.

K.M. Letsoalo

Sustainable development, digitalization, mineral value chains, and new paradigm shifts

The sustainable development of the Earth’s mineral resources ensures the continuous supply of the raw materials and metals upon which we rely. It is a critical global problem, particularly given the growth of emerging economies and increasing environmental concerns. Digitalization and related advances have facilitated important technological progress and the emergence of several paradigm shifts in the mining industry.

One of these shifts is based on the concept of a mining complex or mineral value chain, introduced to reflect an integrated engineering system. This integrated system manages the quality-quantity and extraction of materials from a group of mines, followed by the treatment of the materials through different interconnected processing facilities to generate saleable products for delivery to customers and/or the spot market. Given its integrated nature, a mining complex is optimized simultaneously in a single mathematical model, integrating all its components to capitalize on their synergies, facilitate multi-source data integration, as well as account for and manage technical risks.

Most technical aspects of a mining complex/mineral value chain are substantially affected by uncertainties (stochasticity) stemming from multiple sources. These range from the materials available in the ground to the operational performance of a mining complex, including the ability to adapt to endogenous and exogenous changes. The effects of uncertainty are compounded by multi-level decision-making. This includes decisions about which materials to extract and when, how to stockpile and/or blend materials, use available processing streams, handle waste, manage capital investments, sequence rehabilitation, and how to transport the various products.

Critical sources of uncertainty in this integrated system include the quality and quantity of materials produced from the mines (material supply uncertainty) and the metal’s spot market price (demand uncertainty). With new technological developments, it is possible to quantify and account for these uncertainties, as well as to assimilate new information collected as a mining complex operates, including data from various sensors. This new information needs to be evaluated and used to update models, forecasts, and further support complex, multi-level decision-making.

To date, new geostatistical simulation frameworks and smart(er) simultaneous stochastic optimization approaches allow us to perform the strategic planning of industrial mining complexes under uncertainty at a new scale of intricacy, not imagined a decade ago. As always, new challenges and opportunities emerge, thus it is hoped that the development of new paradigms will extend to stochastic ’self-learning’ mining complexes. Self-learning will capitalize from developments in artificial intelligence, enabling engineering production systems to learn from operations and respond to new, real-time incoming production information collected by a wide range of online sensors, already available in industrial mining complexes.

New digital technologies and related R&D will continue to create technological step-changes and paradigm shifts to advance the performance of mineral value chains and support the sustainable and responsible development of mineral resources – all new, advanced and exciting developments for both the mining industry and academia.

R. Dimitrakopoulos

A selection of diverse papers

The five papers in this edition cover a wide range of topics from computationally effective stope layouts to the bulk chemistry of critical elements in a waste product. The papers have been submitted by authors from South Africa (2), Canada, Kenya and Germany and I have tried to summarize them here.

The paper by Lohmeier, which examines the potential of copper slag from historic smelting operations at Tsumeb as a source of critical elements, describes the project and case study which was supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

‘Mineral resources and mineral reserves report readability and textual choice’ by Du Toit and Delport recommends the consideration of adding a plain language requirement to improve the informational value of these reports. An awareness that certain textual choices can affect the interpretation of these reports is highlighted.

The research paper by Kiamba et al. on the prediction of rock fragmentation, presents data collected in a case study from two limestone quarries in Kenya. A particular empirical model was selected and shown to be a valuable instrument for pre surveying the impact of varying certain parameters of a blast plan.

The paper on stope layout optimisation by Sari and Kumral from McGill University, Canada, showed that a cluster based iterative approach generates near optimal stope layouts in a computationally effective manner.

Of particular interest to me was the paper on the evaluation of polymer binders for the briquetting of coal fines by a group from the Centre of Excellence in carbon-based fuels. Northwest University. Potchefstroom. A solution as to how to deal with coal fines has dogged and evaded the coal industry worldwide. This topic has been researched extensively over the past 15 years or so and briquettes of an acceptable physical standard can be produced, albeit at a cost. What has yet to be demonstrated is the economic uses for the briquettes and particularly the combustion products and characteristics.

This selection of papers again highlights the diverse nature of the subject matter that the Journal is pleased to publish. Enjoy the read.

D. Tudor

Communication in the Modern Mine

When asked to pen a commentary for the Journal, I felt it important to address the needs and forms of communication in the modern mine. Such communication, in principle, includes the topics of digitalization and personnel communication – both are vital for mine operational efficiency and for mine health and safety purposes. I will connect the two topics rather than comment individually. Two virtual conferences, namely Digitalization in Mining and the International Mine Health and Safety conference, were held recently. Selected papers from both conferences will be published in the Journal in due course.

Digitalization is all about data and how the data is collected, analysed, and used in decision-making. Traditionally in the past, we have relied on data that is collected manually (by a person with an instrument and a notebook) and which is then entered into some form of spreadsheet, for the compilation of reports. In the case of ventilation, geological, sampling, and geotechnical data, these reports are circulated to the requisite levels in the organization. This is a time-consuming exercise. Good reports may flow quickly, while poor reports tend to reside on desks for a long time.

Other data is used for month-end consolidation and reporting. The result is that information upon which decisions are made is usually out-of-date and historical. This includes critical information related to health and safety.

Similarly, verbal communication between personnel is an equally critical component for effective health and safety. However, this is generally limited in terms of language and the communication medium, thereby leading to communication problems, e.g. between individual mine personnel, including senior staff. Printed communications are equally important for health and safety. In these instances, items such as notices, instructions, and precautionary texts needed to convey information or data are required to address the issues of multilingualism and multimedia communication systems. This also requires the ability to read and write.

Digitalization offers us solutions to these concerns with the opportunity for real-time data collection and transmission through installed monitoring systems and instant transmission to control centres and data analytics. This includes environmental monitoring, survey measurement, production data, fleet management, and geological information.

In the case of geological information, most mining companies have implemented the TARP system, which relies on operators elevating problem situations to higher levels for assistance with solutions. In the case of hazardous geological conditions being encountered, it may take several days to reach resolution. In a digital world, however, the situation can be photographed, digitalized, and transmitted instantly to the point where the right decision can be made. The solution is rapidly communicated back to the operator for action.

Most newer operations have fibre optic systems installed well into the mine, and these need to be fully utilized to enhance communication and real-time control.

Data analytics in the control centre allows decisions to be made in real time and on the fly, through competent people appropriately skilled to make these decisions.

The power of artificial intelligence takes the manual drudgery out of data collection and analysis, making time available for people to reach value-adding decisions and be more in control.

Embracing the world of digitalisation will bring about step changes both in terms of more effective communication and vastly improved mine and health and safety in our journey towards zero harm.

A.S. Macfarlane

New Year, New Horizons

The beginning of a New Year brings with it the hope that new and better opportunities will arise, and this hope is no more acute than in this New Year. The difficulties encountered in all walks of life during 2020 will be long remembered. It remains to be seen how the world fares in 2021.

However, despite all the disruptions of the past year it is gratifying to note growth and continued interest in the SAIMM, its Journal and its published papers. Statistics show that over the year 2020, more than 300 new papers were submitted from 44 countries, with contributions from South Africa (42%), China (12%), Turkey (7%), Iran (6%), India and Indonesia (both 3%), an increasing number from north, central, and other southern African countries, the EU and USA, and from as far afield as Australia to Argentina and Chile to Russia. In terms of website statistics, data indicate that up to 17 000 visitors seek the SAIMM website per month, with the largest overview of pages on publications and Journal papers. As reported by the ASSAf and SciELO SA, over a period of 12 months to July 2020, the Journal recorded 10 349 resolutions for the 1 409 papers, giving and average of 7.4 resolutions per paper.

In the interests of increasing the standard of published scientific papers, new guidelines for authors are currently being drawn up and are due to be published shortly, with new schedules for reviewers to reduce the time for reviewing. The Editorial Board has recently expanded to include the panel of International Editorial Advisors as well as increased representation from industry and academia. As the Journal is now produced exclusively online, this has led to the elimination of printing costs and expanded the potential for circulation to a wider community.

With respect to content, it is worthy to note that the Journal continues to serve the interests of academia and industry, and in so doing it publishes fundamental research and applied industrial papers of interest to both. In addition, the Publication Committee has sought to re-define the Journal’s focus areas, dividing the minerals, mining, and metallurgical (MMM) sectors into further defined disciplines and sub-disciplines, with experienced Editorial Board members dedicated to each sector. In so doing, the disciplines may be seen to cross the entire MMM value chain, i.e., from geological exploration and mineral resources/reserves through mining and metallurgy, to digitalization, the environment, energy, and economics. Some editions provide papers on a dedicated theme, while others present a mix of general papers from a wide range of sources in this multidisciplinary industry.

This current edition of the Journal presents papers that illustrate the multidisciplinary nature of the publication. One paper is on mining (examining the influence of stemming practices on ground vibration on an opencast coal mine), two on extractive metallurgy (one on adapting a crusher design and a second on the effect of froth flotation operational parameters on froth stability and recovery), and a further paper is on energy efficiency (designing a framework to improve current efficiency in electrowinning).

The final contribution illustrates the interdisciplinary aspect of certain papers. For example, the overlap between the mining and geological disciplines. In this case, a pothole stress investigation is reported in the Merensky and UG2 reefs of the Bushveld Complex. The stress measurement in one porthole was found to be unique, indicating a very high stress level in the pothole rock which could have significance from a mining safety point of view. Questions regarding the nature, structure, and mechanical features of the pothole rocks and the geological process responsible for their formation were raised, which require collaboration between the mining and geological communities. It is to be hoped that further such collaboration between these disciplines will ensue. For the present, however, these issues remain unanswered. This paper was published in the interests of safety and not scientific prowess.

With the new steps being taken regarding the operation and content of the Journal and the clearer definitions of its fields of focus, it is to be hoped that such approaches will be of benefit to the entire MMM community and that collaboration, integration, and expansion of technical horizons across the MMM board will increasingly ensue.

R.M.S. Falcon

Journal Comment on December 2020 Edition

Welcome to another edition containing papers of general interest. In this issue, you will find a total of six papers, four of them are mining-related and the rest metallurgy.

This is a typical example of how the Journal intends to maintain a 50/50 split of papers between mining and metallurgy. The topics related to mining include practical modelling of long-term production scheduling, future trends in the international reporting codes, evaluation of mineral resources carrying capacity, and the prediction of flyrock and flyrock-related fields.

Metallurgical papers include a nonlinear prediction model with mass transfer theory and expert rules for refining low-carbon ferrochrome, shock heating of quartz used in silicon and ferrosilicon production, and optimization of chlorite and talc flotation using the experimental design methodology.

It is important to note that the Journal continues to receive papers from the international community, as only two out of the six papers in this edition are from South Africa. This is in line with Journal editor Professor Rosemary Falcon’s observation in May 2020, that approximately 70% of the papers submitted for publication are from international sources. With the Journal’s latest improved impact factor, this trend is expected to continue.

Enjoy the December edition of the Journal!

B. Genc

The Wave

Q.G. ReynoldsDuring the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve heard a lot about waves. First waves passing, second waves arriving, and how many such waves we might still have to endure in the future. Despite all the talk, each wave seems to catch us largely by surprise and we are too frequently left in a shell-shocked state, wondering ‘How on earth could things get so bad so fast?’ The problem here is that epidemics are an exponential growth phenomenon, and human beings are notoriously bad at grasping the import of exponential behaviour. Our internal forecasting and world-modelling instincts like to assume that things change linearly, and as a result we find it difficult to prepare ourselves for the true impact of an exponential event even as our rational minds can see it looming.

Exponential growth is linked to another part of the modern human experience, namely the computing power of our digital machines. This means that their ability to solve any particular problem passes from laughably impossible to difficult, then to trivially easy in a remarkably short space of time, upsetting and revolutionizing everything in its wake – much like a wave.

The point at which that wave breaks over your industry is determined only by how difficult it is to compute solutions to the mathematics describing it. In process metallurgy we might be forgiven for thinking that our engineering challenges are so vastly complex that traditional workflows will never be replaced by computational alternatives, but it’s only a matter of time. Right now the digitalization tsunami is tiny and easily ignored, but the ripples are building momentum, and recent experiences should warn us that it’s time to prepare, prepare, prepare.

Q.G. Reynolds
Pyrometallurgy Division, Mintek
Process Engineering Department, Stellenbosch University