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

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.

The Development of Research in the Western Cape

This volume of the Journal focuses on minerals processing and extractive metallurgy research currently being carried out at the universities of Cape Town and Stellenbosch and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. This collection of current research presents an opportunity to reflect on the development of these research areas in the Western Cape over the past few decades. The minerals processing activities in the Western Cape go back to the 1970s, at which time impressive new facilities were constructed at the University of Stellenbosch (SU) where Nico Louw and John de Kock were establishing a strong minerals-related research activity. John had moved from UCT where he had begun a small but active research group focusing on coal processing.

New Vistas

‘We are equipped as never before, And the question arises: What shall we do with our strength?’ 1953 Sir Robert Robinson, Nobel Laureate

The papers in this issue are from the 5th conference on Platinum: ‘A Catalyst for Change’.

The platinum industry has suffered a sequence of unfortunate events causing much concern about its future. These setbacks run fairly deep. The most serious is the crippling increase in electric power cost which, because of the heavy demand of the electric smelting furnace, has caused the cost of processing to move into the danger range relative to the prices obtained for the products. The gloom has been deepened by the carbon emissions tax announced in the latest budget.

The state of the local foundry sector

The ten papers appearing in the Journal this month were presented during the Ferrous and Base Metals Development Network Conference 2012 held in Johannesburg over the period 15–17 October 2012. With the exception of the paper on the coordination chemistry of zirconium, they cover a spread of research activities associated with the physical and metallurgical properties of alloys.

Student projects: Collegiate of Miners and Metallurgists

‘There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, And that is an idea whose time has come’ Victor Hugo.

The papers in this issue are from the annual colloquium in which students are given the opportunity to present a report on project work undertaken as part of their undergraduate training. In publishing a selection of the papers it is not the intention to announce the advent of great new advances in technology, but rather to produce a window on the best examples of the state of the nation for perusal by the collegiate of professionally qualified practitioners in mining, mineral processing, and metallurgy.

Black Swans versus White Swans

‘Black Swans occur when there is a, disjoint between what we know and what we think we know’ J.C. Ngoma, Presidential Address SAIMM, September 2009.

Those who attended the Presidential Address in 2009 did not suspect that the prophetic theme of ‘Swinging with the Black Swans’ would materialize within the next three years. ‘These beasts could lie hidden, only to appear unexpectedly and cause much havoc.’

The Mining and Metallurgical industries are going through the most serious criticism that I have encountered in my 62 years’ association with them. This is at a time when South Africans are looking at them to provide the key to the solution to an even bigger crisis facing the Nation: that of unemployment and poverty.

Percolation leaching

R‘Nature provides a free lunch, but only if we control our appetites’, William Ruckelshaus, Business Week, 18 June 1990

Six of the papers in this issue are from an international conference on a topic that many consider as one of the most important in future extraction metallurgy. It deserves its more exotic name of ‘percolation leaching’ rather than the previous names of dump or heap leaching, which suggest that the technology is best suited for treatment of waste materials.