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29th APCOM Meeting, China University of Mining & Technology (CUMT)
International meetings on applications of computers and operations research in the minerals industry (APCOM) have been running for more than four decades with a focus on geostatistics, exploration, mine planning & economics, operational research and aspects of mineral processing relating to measurement and automation. This marked the first meeting ever held in Asia and was well attended with approximately 300 delegates from 26 countries listening to some 186 papers.
Readers who have not visited China recently may find themselves surprised by the rate of development in the sophistication of Beijing, its facilities and, importantly, the serious forward vision of the mining industry in China (backed by new government funding in the area of energy and resources). CUMT provided an ideal backdrop for the event and must surely be the largest world-wide training entity dedicated to the subject, based on two sites with a reported current enrolment of more than 18,000 students (1200 postgraduate) with a faculty staff of 3845 (1245 academic staff, 173 professors).
Although the bulk of the meeting was oriented to those engaged in mine planning & development, some important mine-to-mill interfaces were addressed along with specific mineral processing technologies. Paper and concepts that gained my attention included: the use of smart stereoscopic 3D displays (that did not need special VR spectacles) for process visualisation (Drebenstedt & Grafe); application of geostatistics to environmental modelling of dust contamination from coal processing plants, based on case study in Vietnam (Ch Quany & Lan Anh); a distinct element modelling (DEM) study of rock draw from longwall top-coal caving (Fu & Wu) and a related paper (Nazeri et al.); DEM applied to geomechanical properties of oil sands, with an interesting comparison with triaxial tests (Tannant & Shen); on-line measurement techniques for coal quality determination (Sauer); further work on the use of image analysis of froths for on-line measurement of coal flotation (Wang et al.); characterisation of kaolin from reflectance measurements (Conceicao et al.); a practical study of optimising a control system at Huaibei coal preparation plant (Xu et al.); investment decision making tools for selecting mining vs. waste refining strategies (Fedunets & Teimenson); automatic control of flotation plant based on multi-stream measurements (Yang et al.). As might be expected, there was a keen 'IT-GIS' flavour to many presentations, and on the education-front a useful review was provided of Australian experiences in mineral education delivery via the Internet (McKee et al).
For those wishing to delve deeper, the proceedings were pre-published by A A Balkema (Netherlands) [see www.balkema.nl] "Computer applications in the minerals industries - proceedings of the 29th international symposium, Beijing, China, 25-27th April 2001" H. Xie, Y. Wang and Jiang (eds.), ISBN 90 5809 174 0. The cost is EUR 135/$131/£90.
Richard A Williams, Anglo American plc Professor of Mineral and Process Engineering, University of Leeds, United Kingdom.
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