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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

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.

Transactions, proceedings and transformation using IT

‘ The lecturer should give the audience full reason be believe that all his powers have been exerter for their pleasure and instruction’ Michael Faraday 1781–1867

For once I am not taking my theme from the papers in this issue. This is not because they are unimportant. Safety, rock bursts and rock mechanics are as important as one can get in the mining business. The reason is that I attended the monthly meeting of the Johannesburg Branch, which was a panel discussion on the topic of coal, energy supplies and electric power generation. Clearly, I was not the only one who rated these topics as worthwhile discussing and probably the hottest topics so far this year since load shedding started in January. The speakers from Eskom and from power consumers were excellent on the economic situation in SA. After short highlight presentations, they were joined by a panel of prominent authorities to field the discussion points raised by a sea of hands in the audience.


‘Contrary to popular belief, good scientists don’t seek to prove a hypothesis true. We make every possible effort to prove it wrong by subjecting it to the most withering attacks we can dream up. (It’s actually great fun). This refusal to accept a new idea until it has run a gauntlet of testing is the very reason scientific ‘truth’ is so reliable.’ Paul G. FitzGerald, PhD, University of California

I am compiling this Journal Comment during some of the most unhappy and turbulent times I have experienced in South Africa. It is not appropriate to use this Journal to comment on the social, economic and political impact of savage mob violence in the xenophobic atrocities we have experienced, other than to observe that a major contributing factor is the horde of jobless impoverished populations living in squalid shanty towns. In sharp contradiction, it is in these turbulent but exciting times that we have more opportunities than ever before to create jobs at a comprehensive range of skill levels in numbers large enough to break the back of the unemployment scourge. There are millions of houses to be built with water reticulation and effluent systems.

Waste not, want not’

Proverb, dating back to 1772

I had just returned from my visit to family in Australia when I was faced with the latest issue of papers for the May Journal. To find a common theme from this mixed bag of topics was not as difficult as first anticipated thanks to some experiences on my visit. Our family in Melbourne is like almost all households in Australia, highly digitalized with five computers in a family of five. I and my laptop were very soon hooked up to high-speed facilities. Perhaps the most enjoyable were the 24-hour broadcasts from the Australian Broadcast Corporation, completely free of advertisements and excellently presented, authoritative and thoroughly informative and entertaining with news, topical, political, science, international and general discussion features.

Tithes for technology transfer

‘tithe—tax of one tenth, esp. one payable in kind taken for support of clergy and church’ The Concise Oxford Dictionary

The annual student papers are as interesting as ever. Nickel and platinum are always fascinating to me and most other members. Perhaps the most ambitious paper is that on computational fluid dynamic modelling of a hydro cyclone. To achieve such a model, which can be used in practical design and for optimizations has been a ‘Holy Grail’ target for mineral engineers for half a century. Some innovative thinking could have a most valuable outcome. I should like to hope that a logical conclusion to these projects might be papers in the transaction section of our Journal. This leads me to ponder whether this has a reasonable possibility of happening. A brief attempt to get a figure for the number of research workers in the field of mining and metallurgy reveals that at Wits in the department of Materials and Process Engineering there are 80 postgraduates. There are now many other centres of tertiary activity in mining and metallurgical research: Stellenbosch, Pretoria, KwaZulu, Potchefstroom (University of the North West), RAU (Johannesburg University of Technology) and Cape Town. So I guess that there are maybe several hundred worthwhile publications emanating from the MSc and PhD theses at our universities.