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

7th Southern African Base Metals Conference

The 7th Southern African Base Metals Conference was held in Mpumalanga from 2 to 3 September 2013, with a visit to Nkomati Nickel Mine on 3 September. The Conference attracted 22 papers from sub-Saharan Africa (DRC, Zambia, Namibia, and South Africa) as well as from Finland and Australia. The scope of the papers was wide-ranging, including geology, engineering design, and process metallurgy. This edition of the SAIMM Journal includes a selection of four papers from the conference. It is regrettable that four papers were withdrawn from publication for a variety of reasons at the request of the authors.

Mining Research in South Africa

The papers in this edition of the Journal are authored or co-authored by recent graduates in mining and metallurgy. They are based on final year undergraduate projects and were presented at the annual Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy’s Student Colloquium in November 2013. This was held at the University of Johannesburg, and for the first time a student from Namibia presented a paper.

Precious Metals 2013

South Africa has a rich resource in precious metals and other minerals and metals and has certainly used this to its benefit in the creation of great wealth and the provision of a substantial number of jobs for its citizens and those of neighbouring states. The question, though, is can more benefit be derived from this mineral wealth?

Sampling and Analysis: Best Practice in African Mining

In this edition of the Journal a selection of the papers given at the conference ‘Sampling and Analysis: Best Practice in African mining’, held in Johannesburg from 4–6 June 2013, is presented.

The main objective of the conference was for the companies that are involved in the African mineral industry to present the procedures that they use for sampling and analysis, from exploration through face sampling and grade control to their processing plants and the final products that are sent to market.

Portfolio Potential

‘What have I done to achieve longevity? Woken up each morning and tried to remember not to wear my hearing aid in the bath Robert Morley, 1908–1992

The papers in this issue cover a variety of topics from a number of contributors with no common theme such as a conference topic. To provide some coherent interest, I have chosen a theme inspired by a review paper from Finland which can be related to almost all of the papers. This is ‘A review of real-time optimization in underground mining production’ by Z. Song et al. of the School of Engineering at Aalto University.

Where are all the coal researchers?

Coal is big. Really big. In 2011 the industry earned R 87.8 billion from coal sales, including more than R50 billion from exports. According to the Preliminary Statistical Release P2041 Mining: Production and Sales, published by Statistics SA in July 2013, the value of coal sales represented 24.5 per cent of all mineral sales for the first quarter of 2013, with gold and PGMs following at 20.5 per cent and 20.8 per cent respectively. Yet fundamental research in coal, in South Africa at least, seems to be lagging. If one can take this Journal as a benchmark, it has, since 1991, published 1168 articles of which only 167 had the word ‘coal’ in the title – representing 14 per cent of the published research output. So where are all the coal researchers, and why are they not publishing?

Mine optimization

It is appropriate – at a time when wage negotiations are underway and productivity is under the spotlight – that the Journal discusses mine optimization.

Productivity is not a well-understood term in the mining industry and tends to be narrowly defined as units of production per worker. The papers presented here, though, offer a broader view – covering a whole range of productivity issues in the value chain from defining the orebody through to optimizing the logistics around getting the product to market.

Refractories and Sulphuric Acid

‘What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is the difference we have made to the lives of others. That will determine the significance of the life we lead’. Nelson Mandela

The paper by M. Nyoka, D. Brazier, T. Courtney, and RA. Parry from Vereeniging Refractories, (Pty) Ltd, refers to andalusite as a key mineral resource. I am sure the staff of Vereeniging Refractories will join me in paying tribute to the staff of the Ore-Dressing and Mineralogy divisions of the Government Metallurgical Laboratory (now Mintek), Pieter Overbeek, Jack Levin, and Joe Liebenberg, in establishing, some 60 years ago, andalusite, sillimanite, and magnesite as high-quality and strategically important minerals.

It’s all been done

‘We don’t know a millionth of one percent about anything’ Thomas Edison

The papers in this issue are from the 5th bi-annual conference in the series Diamonds—Source to Use, which covered the full spectrum of the diamond pipeline from exploration through to sales and marketing.

Almost 150 years after the first discovery of diamonds in southern Africa, the region’s diamond industry remains healthy and continues to surprise through its ability to reinvent itself and create new opportunities, at times from deposits regarded as having been less than interesting in the past.

Job creation concepts

‘An educated man or woman is someone who learns, first of all, to doubt. At 56, I can honestly say I am more convinced than ever that I know very little and have so much to learn.’

This issue of the Journal is not associated with any conference or prescribed topic. I had hoped it would provide a small window on the mining and metallurgical research efforts at our universities and other institutions. I was not disappointed.

There are two, much welcomed, papers from Iran and Egypt. From the University of the Witwatersrand Mining School, there were five excellent papers - those of Matthew Handley and Dick Stacey are monumental contributions which certainly provided me with a much better insight into the status and importance of rock mechanics, even though the extensive detail was at a speciality level beyond my comprehension. The Institute will hopefully make these contributions available as monographs for students and groups working on rock mechanics.