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Material, Minerals & Metal Ecology (MMME) 06
Cape Town, South Africa, November 15-16, 2006

Arguably the steel (also aluminium) industry has gone the furthest down the path of closing the material cycle since large companies are in many cases engaged in most aspects of the steel cycle as shown in the figure below. The largest and most significant steel companies mine hematite, produce steel, engage in product design (e.g. in the car industry), recycle steel close to 50% (this number is rising) and extensively use environmental tools to monitor environmental impacts. They are also involved for example in large European projects such as ULCOS (lower CO2 emissions per ton of hot metal) and SuperLightCar (design a super light car for energy efficiency) to improve environmental performance of steel production and consumer products. It is this cyclic thinking that will assist the Minerals and Metals industry to improve environmental performance and be able to mimic nature’s sustainable cyclic ecological systems.

This conference had as a theme the various aspects depicted by the above figure i.e. touching its cyclic nature as well as discussing the technology that facilitates the closure of the cycle i.e. recycle as well as metallurgical process technology. Also the minimization and end-of-pipe treatment of residues were discussed as well as the overall measurement of environmental impact of the complete system. This conference achieved bringing together a new mix of disciplines, unusual for a typical minerals engineering conference, reflecting all aspects of the above figure. For example, members from the life cycle assessment and environmental database community (EMPA (Switzerland); and PE Europe and University of Stuttgart (both Germany)) attended as did delegates from the metallurgical recycling community (Boliden (Sweden), Umicore (Belgium)). Also plant designers such as HATCH (Australia/South Africa) and Outokumpu (Finland/Germany) discussed issues surrounding sustainability while CSense (South Africa) discussed process control and its link to sustainability. Various members from the international academic community provided their insight and tools to describe the complex systems in minerals and metals processing.

The conference was divided into two sections, viz. one section considering the bigger picture of sustainability (i.e. the complete cycle) and system design and the second section the technology aspects of recycling and waste processing. Some papers in each of these sections will be discussed to provide some overview of this conference.

The cycle: Sustainability and System Design

The opening address was done by Prof. Reuter on behalf of Prof. Theo Lehner (Boliden Mineral AB/Lulea University of Technology, Sweden) “On the wise production and use of metals”. As usual his presentations are provocative and at the same time giving the key issues surrounding the sustainable use of metals and recycling. Following this talk Philip Bangerter (Hatch Associates, Australia) provided a very useful framework for determining the sustainable nature of a company and how to integrate sustainability into the design process of metallurgical plants.

Australia has initiated various research activities in sustainability through research centres. Dick van Beers (Curtin University of Technology, Australia) discussed local synergies in the Australian minerals industry while Stevan Green (Centre for Sustainable Resource Processing, Australia) discussed the CRC for Sustainable minerals situated in Perth.

A number of papers followed considering the modelling of recycling systems e.g. Dynamic, long term optimisation of the coal-electricity supply chain: an agent analysis for industrial ecology by B. Cohen (University of Cape Town, South Africa), Exergy as a tool for evaluation of the resource efficiency of recycling systems by Olga Ignatenko (Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands), Reducing the environmental impacts of metal cycles: copper in the USA by Damien Giurco (Institute for Sustainable Futures, Australia) and J.G. Petrie (University of Sydney, Australia).

If these models are to change the way we do business they should link to the way we design and run our businesses. Some papers touched on these issues e.g. Development of a new a methodology to translate identified ELV’s treatment limits into requirements for automotive design feedback by Daniel D. Froelich (ENSAM de Chambéry, France), The use of fuzzy set models to link product design, recycling and environment by Antoinette van Schaik (Delft Technical University, The Netherlands), Digital visual simulation for design of mineral and metal recycling processes and of secondary products by Richard Williams (University of Leeds, UK) and Active and passive gangue: a framework for mineral extraction, disposal and finance by Jan Cilliers (Imperial College London, UK).

Without good environmental data and environmental data analysis tools it will not be able to communicate environmental impact. Papers from organizations that are world leading in this field were presented e.g. From product to material analysis - challenges, chances and limits of LCA by Julia Pflieger (University of Stuttgart, Germany), Energy Efficiency Analysis (EEA) as baseline study for Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Joint Implementation (JI) on the example of the steel industry by Johannes Gediga (PE Europe GmbH, Germany) and The role of alloying constituents in ecological valuation of metals by M. Classen (EMPA - Materials Science & Technology, Switzerland).

Without process control all these models cannot be implemented on processing plants. CSense Systems (South Africa) presented a paper Rapid emission troubleshooting.

Technology: Recycling and Waste Processing

Without state of the art technology strategically situated within the complete material cycle, recycling will not be economically achieved and hence the sustainable use of matals and materials will not be reached. Michiel Verhelst (Umicore Precious Metals Refining, Belgium) discussed in the paper “The art of sustainable precious metals recycling” the state-of-the-art of precious metal recycling. This is an example of how it should be done and to which heights any company should strive for in future! Following this paper Andreas Orth (Outokumpu Technology GmbH, Germany) discussed Low CO2-emission technologies for iron and steelmaking as well as titanium slag production. This company has for many years been a leading-edge technology provider to the minerals and metals processing industries as this paper once again demonstrated.

Physical recycling technology is crucial for providing recyclates of sufficient economic value. Daniel Froelich (ENSAM de Chambéry, France) discussed State of the art of plastic sorting and recycling: feedback to vehicle design (summary of Renault project) while Kari Heiskanen (Helsinki University of Technology, Finland) discuss the measurement of multidimensional separability curves from shredded consumer goods. Two PhD students discussed their projects i.e. Investigating the use of vertical vibration to recover recyclable materials by Ms. N. Mohabuth (University of Nottingham, UK) and Christa Meskers (Technical University of Delft, The Netherlands) evaluated the recycling of coated magnesium using exergy analysis.

In many cases end-of-pipe applications are required to clean inevitable end-of-pipe streams of processes. The following papers summarize a few of these applications presented at the conference (i) Waste yeast for cost reduction of precious metal recovery from aqueous wastewaters by Ms. Mack (Rhodes University, South Africa), (ii) Recycling of waste pickle acid by precipitation of metal fluoride hydrates by K.M. Österdahl and Å.C. Rasmuson (Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden), (iii) Treatment of an acid mine drainage through a ferrite formation process in central Hokkaido, Japan by S.P. Herrera (Hokkaido University, Japan), Y. Ochi (Ataka Construction & Engineering, Japan), N. Iyatomi (Nittetsu Mining Co., Japan), and S. Nagae (Japan Oil, Gas & Metals Corp., Japan), (iv) Reduction of arsenic leaching from various rocks by controlling geochemical conditions by T. Igarashi, T. et al (Hokkaido University, Japan), and H. Imagawa (Nippon Mining & Chemicals Co. Ltd, Japan) and (v) Compared biosorption studies of cadmium and zinc removal with rhodocococus opacus for environmental applications by T.G.P. Vásquez, B.A.E. Casas, M.L. Torem and L.M.S. Mesquita (Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil).

This two-day conference was attended by 45 delegates from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Finland, France, India, Iran, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and UK. The 30 oral papers were presented in the mono-session format of MEI conferences, which permits the optimal exchange of ideas during sessions, teas and lunches. It is perhaps the preferred manner in which to run such new multi-discipline conferences, which break new ground by bringing together people from very different backgrounds.

We trust that this conference has created a multi-disciplinary vehicle through which the minerals and metals industry will be supported in its quest for “sustainability” by creating the new tools that will aid the industry in future. Above all I believe the conference’s most significant contribution is the exchange of ideas, learning the language of each other and harmonizing all the disciplines represented at this event. This is of future crucial benefit to the minerals industry.

Prof. M.A. Reuter, Honorary Professorial Fellow, University of Melbourne, Australia
Chief Executive Technologist, Ausmelt Ltd., Australia

 

Click here to view photos from this event.

 

 

   

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