JKMRC Friday morning seminars showcase the latest developments in sustainable mining

  • By Ben Bonfils

The Sustainable Minerals Institute’s Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre (SMI JKMRC) Friday Seminars are an institution to SMI JKMRC staff, students, friends, alumni and minerals industry guests.

The prestigious seminar series started in the 1970s, initially chaired by Prof Alban Lynch, and has been going ever since. During academic semesters, every Friday at 9 am the SMI JKMRC lecture theatre fills up with students, researchers, emeritus professors and eminent members of the minerals industry.

The JK Friday Seminars are a great opportunity to break out from our usual day-to-day and find out about the latest developments in geology, sustainable mining and mineral processing. The students have an opportunity to hear leading practitioners talk about their work and provide an incentive for some lateral thinking on the issues of the day.

I had the honour of organising the 2018 seminar series for semester one. The task was handed over to me last December by Dr Grant Ballantyne, who did a tremendous job coordinating and chairing the seminars in 2017. The popularity and esteem of the Friday Seminars meant that I had to reach out to the best speakers and presenters across the SMI, the University of Queensland and our colleagues from the industry.

With the centre being part of the Sustainable Minerals Institute at the University of Queensland, and with the joined directorship of the SMI BRC and SMI JKMRC, the mineral processing topics were interspersed with geology, mining and some more wide-reaching presentations. Seminars were delivered by researchers as well as METS, mining and technology companies, and explored a wide range of topics, ranging from deep technical advances to an outlook into the future of mining, digital and virtual reality applications. The list of 2018 presenters and the titles of their presentations up to date is included below:

  • Kathy Ehrig, BHP, Industry Perspectives on Geometallurgy
  • June Hill, CSIRO Exploration and Mining, An introduction to multiscale boundary detection and multivariate classification for automated litho-geochemical drill hole logging.
  • Prof Alban Lynch, JKMRC, The Early Days of the JKMRC
  • Virginia Lawson, Glencore Technology, Getting the best out of your bubbles – flotation circuit design using the Jameson Cell
  • Bill Whiten, JKMRC, Nobel prizes and events leading to the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics
  • Anand Musunuri, JKTech, Blasting for improvement in productivity
  • Andrei Poliakov, CSIRO Mineral resources, Automated Image Analysis and textural classification of iron ores
  • Gustavo Pilger – Dassault Geovia R&D, A view of the journey towards a fully digital mine
  • Konuray Demir, KMRC, Vertical Roller Mill applications
  • Peter Rubie and John Russell, Russell Mineral Equipment, 21st Century Relining – the Path to Greater Mine Site Profitability
  • Mehmet Kizil, UQ Mech & Mining Eng, Applications of Virtual Reality in the Minerals Industry
  • Grant Ballantyne, JKMRC, UQ Introducing variable electricity cost into the Comminution Energy Curves.
  • Germán Figueroa, JKMRC – Turbulence in Flotation: Effect of design & Operating Factors on Recovery & Rates
  • Paul Lever, Mining3- Mining3’s future of Mining vision – Building Blocks
  • Neville Plint, SMI – Creating Change for a Safer, Healthier World

Some of these presenters have allowed their presentations to be published on the SMI JKMRC YouTube channel, together with many presentations given in previous semesters.  If you would like to access these presentations yourself, please visit our website: www.youtube.com/user/smiuq.  To whet your appetite, my summaries of this semester’s presentations are included below.

The seminar series started in February with an overview of the advances in the geometallurgical testing program and geological core logging:

Kathy Ehrig from BHP Billiton presented on the challenges of large geometallurgical testing programs, such as the example of the Olympic Dam expansion project. The Olympic Dam geometallurgy team established the predictive mineralogical and metallurgical performance models for the Yeelirrie calcrete-hosted uranium deposit, and her current work consists of optimising the Olympic Dam geometallurgy models for use in short, medium, and long-term mine planning and developing geometallurgical testing programs to be used in exploration.

The following week, June Hill from CSIRO highlighted the importance of rock classification in geological core logging in her talk. June is working on objective logging: using geochemical or geophysical drill hole data to assist geologists to reduce the subjectivity of their geological logging. Drill hole geochemical data is commonly analysed (eg statistics, clustering) without reference to the spatial relationships between samples, especially for rock type classification. In her talk, June demonstrated an intuitive method for extracting spatial information (as rock type boundaries) and using it to reduce unwanted noise from litho-geochemical rock classification.

In March, a very special seminar was presented by the man who first introduced the idea of the weekly Friday Seminars, Prof Alban Lynch. The seminar pulled a large crowd of students, friends, collaborators and previous staff from the centre, SMI and the minerals industry. Prof Lynch gave a retrospective into the early days of SMI JKMRC from 1962 to 1992. The seminar showed the long-lasting legacy that Prof Lynch left in the centre. The talk was captivating, punctuated by references and anecdotes on the most eminent staff and students that went through the JKMRC during those formative years. It was a great pleasure and an honour to listen to the founder of the ‘JK Centre’.

Virginia Lawson presented an update on the application of the Jameson Cell flotation technology from the initial models to the latest application. She showed the different circuit configurations such as the recent cleaner circuit design utilising the unique features of the Jameson Cell to improve cleaner circuit performance.  Case studies were presented where the Jameson Cell has been used in cleaner circuit upgrades.  These circuits take advantage of the Jameson Cell attributes and demonstrate a significant improvement in metallurgical performance, reduced plant footprint and simple and operable plant flowsheets.

As far as I can remember, Bill Whiten never missed a Friday morning seminar. Bill kindly accepted to fill in for a last-minute cancellation, and presented on a different topic, shifting away from mineral processing into another world of scientific discoveries. Bill is passionate about physics and astronomy and presented a history of the Nobel prizes in Physics, and the events leading to the detection of gravitational waves in 2017.

Anand Musunuri from JKTech presented an overview of the latest technologies and case studies on blast design for improvement in productivity. Through three case studies, Anand presented the implications of blast design on rock fragmentation, mill performance, pit design and added value through the life-of-mine estimations.

Andrei Poliakov from CSIRO presented the capabilities of the CSIRO Mineral4/Recognition4 optical image analysis software for imaging and classification of iron ore textures. The powerful image-processing tool can be used to estimate a plethora of mineral properties from optical images such as mineralogy, porosity, mineral association, texture, size distribution, mineral liberation, particle textural classification with calculated class abundances, densities and mineral composition. This information can be used to perform comprehensive resource evaluation, understand the behaviour of ore in downstream processing operations or to predict such behaviour reliably, and optimise ore processing.

Konuray Demir is a research scholar at the SMI JKMRC, and he presented on his previous experience with vertical roller mills. Widely used in the cement industry, Konuray presented basic information on how these complex machines work, their current applications and potential applications for the minerals industry.

Grant Ballantyne presented the latest development in the comminution energy curves. The energy curves are used to benchmark comminution energy intensity at mine sites. Grant has recently added a specific energy cost curve to the suite of comminution energy curves. However, electricity prices vary by an order of magnitude both locally, nationally and internationally; precise details of which are typically commercially sensitive. Grant was able to estimate the distribution of costs associated with comminution energy consumption using a model to assign variable electricity prices dependent on the country and the local power generation assets.

There were two presentations looking into the emerging technologies and opportunities for digital mines and virtual reality applications in the minerals industry. Gustavo Pilger from Dassault Systems provided a view around a few technology enablers that will allow the mining industry to realise the vision of the digital mine. Mehmet Kizil from the UQ School of Mining and Mechanical Engineering gave an overview of the large range of applications of virtual reality and 3D-visualisation for safety inductions, personnel training or teaching of mining engineering methods and concentrator plant designs.

Turbulence plays a very important role in the different mechanisms happening in particle flotation cells. German Figueroa showed the latest development in terms of measurement of turbulence level with piezoelectric sensors, turbulence volume estimations and impact on modelling and cell design, such as height/length ratio and impeller size.

The partnership between CRCMining and the CSIRO Mineral Resources group brings together significant mining research capabilities to effectively deliver research and innovative technologies for the global mining industry. Paul Lever presented Mining3’s vision for the Future of Mining, drawn from engagement with its members and the broader global mining community.

Finally, Neville Plint presented on SMI’s Minerals Industry Safety and Health Centre, an overview of the current strength and future focus of the Centre, along with case studies and opportunities with health and safety in the industry.

If you would like to come and present at the seminar, or would like more information on the JK Friday Seminars, please email Ben Bonfils (b.bonfils@uq.edu.au).

The seminar program for semester two can be downloaded here.

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