The SAIMM is a professional institute with local and international links aimed at assisting members source information about technological developments in the mining, metallurgical and related sectors.
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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

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.