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This was the third in the series of the MEI ‘Reagents’ conferences and the best attended (so far!) - the first being held in 1991 in Falmouth and the second being held in Falmouth in 2004. Four people from the first conference demonstrated their support and commitment to the topic by participating in the third - Dee Bradshaw, Jules Aupiais, Antonio Peres and Marcelo Torem!! Over seventy delegates from 11 countries showed their interest by attending.
In the opening address by Dee Bradshaw of UCT, it was noted that although chemistry has long been the cornerstone of the flotation separation process, it is still not possible to reliably predict the performance of reagents. The industrialisation of the flotation process at Broken Hill in the early 1900s involved the manipulation of the chemical environment with the addition of copper sulphate to activate sphalerite. Since then, much research, at great cost, has been done with variable success, either fundamental with questionable applicability or applied with questionable fundamental understanding. Still as reagents account for a large proportion of concentrator running costs, the motivation is there to improve the understanding of their behaviour and optimise their performance.
Therefore a challenge was issued to the audience, that they should be part of taking the use of reagents in the Mining Industry to a new level, brought about, amongst other things, by the sophisticated technology now available and the readiness of the physical models to accept chemical inputs.
The keynote address by Jules Aupiais of Senmin outlined the history of the mining chemical business in South Africa and created a lot of memories and discussion between those who were around at the time and remembered various incidents and turning points that occurred.
There was a wide range of interesting presentations and ensuing discussions. Some papers addressed linkages between laboratory work and plant benefits obtained particularly by Mike Valenta (South Africa), Nag Nagaraj (USA) and Ben Adair (Australia). Presentations of fundamental studies using sophisticated equipment to increase the understanding of the mechanisms of reagent behaviour were given by Greg Hope (Australia), Lesley Parolis (South Africa), Sergio Vianna (Australia), Nora Schreithofer (Finland) and Zafir Ekmekci (Turkey).
A session on the treatment of oxide and oxidised sulphides generated a lot of discussion - particularly with reference to the processing of the increasingly important Central African deposits.
Non sulphide minerals such as carbonates, quartz , calcite and iron ore were also addressed which included novel collectors such as bioreagents, as well as the depression of floatable gangue material using polymeric reagents.
The use of a new series of reagents for water treatment, RHEOMAXTM ETD, that have the possibility of dramatically changing the treatment of residue material and could change sustainability of operations in water scarce regions, were presented by Raymond Daubermann (South Africa).
Very interesting was the concept of re-introducing the use of eucalyptus oil for coal flotation presented by JP Franzidis and he noted that natural oils had been used in the early days of flotation but not for many years and the work showed enough potential to reconsider this.
All in all, it was an excellent conference attended by an International mix of academics, reagent manufacturers and suppliers and operations and all agreed it was a worthwhile event and there was hope that the next in the series to be held in Brisbane in 2009 would be as good!
The Proceedings are available from MEI at www.min-eng.com/reagents06/paps.html.
Dee Bradshaw, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Click here to view photos from this event.
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