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A total of 35 delegates from 10 countries attended Nickel Processing ’05. In keeping with the general philosophy of MEI Conferences, this was a small but tightly-focussed session. In the context of historic highs in base metal prices and in nickel specifically, this conference was focused on the processing of both sulphide and laterite ore types. This reflects the future changes in the sourcing of nickel.
The Activox technology undergoing demonstration at Tati in Botswana is a sign that new hope for low-grade nickel concentrates may shortly be to hand. Given the size of this demonstration plant, a smaller scale-up factor remains between this level and the full operating plant.
Several papers on the bioleaching of laterites were presented by the University of Sydney. These amounted to a considerable increment of work, and showed the importance of toxicity training for the microbes. Given the results, which indicate some promise, there is further work to be done in this area before serious consideration may be given to this particular option.
A very solid session on the processing of saprolitic laterites took place on the second day. The Nickel de Vermelho project by CVRD is close to its implementation stage. The paper reflected considerably detailed work that had been performed so as to place CVRD in this position. Intellection launched their new laterite software on QEM*SCAN and demonstrated that there is significant potential application on this platform to, for example, provide advanced information in the upgrading stage of the saprolite flowsheet. Two materials handling papers followed which dealt with the really important features of slurry rheology and pipeline transport options.
Falconbridge and Eurus Consultants presented two nickel sulphide processing papers with Falconbridge applications. A new method of surveying a sulphide concentrator, called Statistical Benchmark Surveying, was presented by Falconbridge. Eurus discussed a case study for the Raglan Concentrator in which batch-scale flotation testing data were used to simulate the full operational scale of grade and recovery.
In all, a strong array of papers was presented, all of which brought a particular relevance to one or the other aspect of the processing of nickel ores and concentrates.
Norm Lotter, Falconbridge, Canada
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