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

Copper Cobalt Africa 6–8 July 2015

The African Copper Belt has experienced a huge resurgence of activity in the past decade following many years of political and economic instability. Today, an impressive proportion of capital spending, project development, operational expansions, and metal value production in the Southern African mining industry are occurring in this region. The geology and mineralogy of the ores differ significantly from those in other major copperproducing regions of the world, often having very high grades as well as the presence of cobalt. Both mining and metallurgy present some unique difficulties, not only in the technical arena, but also with respect to logistics and supply chain, human capital, community engagement, and legislative issues. With an increasingly mature industry developing in this region, the Metallurgy Technical Programme Committee took the decision to host the inaugural Copper Cobalt Africa conference, which also incorporated the Eighth SAIMM Base Metals Conference.

Slope Stability 2016

rock2The papers in this Journal issue are selected from the proceedings of the Slope Stability Symposium held in Cape Town in October 2015. The symposium was organized by the SAIMM in conjunction with the South African Institute of Rock Engineering (SANIRE). This was the sixth event in this international symposium series, which originated in Cape Town in 2006 and has subsequently been held in Perth, Santiago, Vancouver, and Brisbane. A total of 222 delegates attended from the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Chile, the DRC, France, Italy, Lesotho, Madagascar, Namibia, Dominican Republic, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Turkey, United Kingdom, the USA, and Vientiane. This is the only international event that is dedicated to slope stability in mining and is therefore well attended by authors, delegates, and sponsors.

A Council for our Youth

Membership of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM) includes mining and metallurgical students and new graduates from various universities and colleges in the southern African region.

Among these young people are those who have either authored or co-authored papers similar to the ones in this edition of the Journal, and the quality of these submissions leads me to believe that we are on the right track in terms of the academic part of the training that we provide in developing our future mining and metallurgical engineers.

Mine Planning and Equipment Selection (MPES 2015)

The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM) hosted the 23rd International Symposium on Mine Planning and Equipment Selection (MPES 2015) at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg from 9 to 11 November 2015. This was the first time that South Africa has hosted the MPES in its 25-year history. This conference’s theme was ‘Smart Innovation in Mining’ in order to recognize technological innovations and new ideas that are required to prepare the industry for the mine of the future.

Furnace Tapping 2014



  Almost too close for comfort - conference delegates admiring the
scale of blast furnace tapping at ArcelorMittal South Africa
Vanderbijlpark Works (photograph by Maryke Pelser)

Furnace Tapping 2014 was the first event of its kind, focusing on the challenges associated with the tapping of furnaces and ways in which these challenges are currently addressed. The conference was inspired by an in-house event arranged by Dr Lloyd Nelson – then employed by Hatch Africa – in 2003, and the need for peer-reviewed papers published in the open literature. This was identified when I conducting a literature survey for my PhD studies, which focused on enhancing the taphole design for silicomanganese furnaces.

The School of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand

Celebrating one’s 21 year of existence is indeed a most joyous occasion, and another milestone in the history of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand. Since its formation in 1995 through the merger of the departments of Chemical Engineering and Metallurgy and Materials Engineering as the School of Process and Materials Engineering, the School has gone from strength to strength. In 2005 ‘Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering’ became the official designation of the School after ratification of the name change by the University Council. The School has been at the forefront of education and research in engineering and has contributed greatly to the demand for skilled manpower by the process, beneficiation, and metallurgical industries in South Africa. The School prides itself on its contribution in terms of human resources training and development, knowledge generation, and community involvement and contributions. A significant number of industry and academic leaders locally and worldwide are Wits Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering graduates and alumni.

Surface Mining September 2014

Two years have passed since the last Surface Mining Conference was held. At that time, optimism prevailed and the spectre of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) had blown away. Commodity prices were cresting a wave created from continued industrial expansion in China, and the mining industry looked set to right its floundering course on a global scale. Explorers and developers on the world’s stock exchanges, whether juniors or majors, thrived and impressive joint ventures, mergers, and acquisitions were the order of the day.

Nuclear Materials

This special edition of the Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy is dedicated to the Nuclear Materials Development Network (NMDN) of the Advanced Metals Initiative (AMI) of South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology (DST). The AMI consists of four networks: the Light Metals Development Network (LMDN) which is coordinated by the CSIR, the Precious Metals Development Network (PMDN) and the Ferrous Metals Development Network, both coordinated by Mintek, and the NMDN which is coordinated by the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation SOC Ltd (Necsa).

Platinum In The 21st Century

‘There is a tide in the affairs of men’ ... Shakespeare

The theme of most of my previous Journal Comments has been job creation. This demands identifying the goods and services for sale, and its corollary, the skills and education required.

On this latter score, the mining professional community has had some spectacular success in the 21st century. Many hundreds of skilled mining engineering graduates and diplomates have been produced using the latest in computer-based education, a good percentage being women.

Heaping coals of fire upon our heads

A blessing at the best of times, electricity has become the bane of life in South Africa: it adds quality to life, but when supply is erratic, as we all know too well, the effects cripple and evoke anger. Constraints in the supply of electricity are damaging the economy. Some predictions even foretell a crisis of monumental proportions. Eskom can barely meet current demand.