Each year, students from the University of Queensland chemical and metallurgical engineering program lead, organise and run a technical field trip to gain an in-depth understanding of current industry practice.
The 2017 metallurgy field trip was a valuable learning experience and this year the opportunity to take part was opened to not only undergraduate students, but also postgraduate students conducting research in this field. The trip encompassed a number of different parts of the extractive metallurgy product chain from mining to mineral processing, pyrometallurgy and hydrometallurgy and metals and alloys. A number of different commodity flow sheets were included in the trip from primary metals to precious metals as well as specialty metals such as germanium.
Highlights of this year’s trip to Europe were the use of diverse feed materials including metal scrap recycling, novel research into mining and extraction technology and the uranium enrichment process for nuclear power.
The trip began as we flew into Helsinki, Finland and we took the train to Tampere, where we visited our first sites. Our first stop was the Sandvik test mine, where the group was shown the underground mine where they test new automation. We followed this with a visit to the Metso Research Centre, specialising in comminution, and the adjoining Tevo Lokomo steel foundry. The group then travelled to the Boliden smelter in Harjavalta in Pori, where our hosts discussed the challenges present in daily operations. The Outotec research centre was our next stop where we gained an appreciation for the operational support they provide through test work, sample characterisation and process simulation.
From Finland we then travelled to Skellefteå in Sweden, where we arrived at the Boliden area concentrator and learned about the integration of the Boliden area mines. We were able to see the milling, flotation and leaching circuits used to process the ores from Boliden mine sites. The next day we visited the Boliden Rönnskär smelter where Boliden concentrates are processed further. It was a great opportunity to compare how different sites adapt their processing to suit feed ore variability. Our time in Scandinavia was filled with great people, and some informative insights into the metallurgical processes that were employed in the region. We also enjoyed the mild summer weather and the late night sunsets while travelling through northern Europe.
Our next destination was Hamburg, Germany where we visited Glencore’s Nordenham zinc plant where both roasting and Albion leaching processes are used to treat sulphide concentrates. On the way to Brussels, Belgium we visited the Urenco uranium refinery and while staying in Brussels, we visited Umicore Olen where we were introduced to germanium crystallisation and pyrometallurgy pilot plant testing, Aurubis Olen where we saw copper recycling and product extrusion and Nyrstar Balen where we saw zinc roasting and casting.
This extensive itinerary was made possible by our site hosts who generously gave their time and we would like to thank them for their hospitality. This trip would also not have been possible without our valued industry sponsors, whom we would like to sincerely thank for their invaluable response. The trip has been incredibly rewarding and we have gained a holistic technical and practical understanding that can be applied in the future to design and research projects throughout the rest of our careers.