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MEI Online: MEI Conferences: Automated Mineralogy 07: Conference Report

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Automated Mineralogy ’07 was organised by MEI in collaboration with Intellection Pty Ltd, and sponsored by Bruker AXS, JKTech, SGS Mineral Services, Struers, the Gold & Minerals Gazette, and International Mining.

Held at Brisbane’s Stamford Plaza Hotel, the event was attended by 127 delegates representing Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Netherlands, Peru, South Africa, UK and USA.

The international interest, and the 30 % increase in attendance over last year’s meeting, also held in Brisbane (www.min-eng.com/automatedmineralogy06), reflects the growing importance of this rapidly evolving field.

All of the 34 papers that were submitted to the conference were included in the final programme for 20 minute oral presentations, and there was only one drop-out. It was disappointing, however, that only 50% of the authors responded to the request to submit draft papers for the conference Proceedings CD.

In general the papers were well received by the majority of the audience, testimony to this being that over 90% of the delegates were present at the final session, and animated discussion followed virtually every paper.

It is inevitable in a field such as this, which is dominated by two major producers, that some concerns regarding commercialism and marketing should manifest themselves. All delegates were asked to submit their view on the conference, and all responses received are listed below. It is evident that some delegates were unhappy with MEI’s involvement with a commercial co-organiser, which could be seen to lead to bias.

Although MEI would like to stress that there was no bias in choosing papers for presentation, the co-organisers are keen to ensure that no such suspicions manifest themselves in future years. Intellection has been the driving force in instigating this series of events, but has agreed that the conferences should be seen to be completely neutral, such that next year’s, and subsequent events will be organised solely by MEI, with abstracts assessed by the editor of Minerals Engineering, in consultation with independent members of the journal’s international review panel.

B.A. Wills, MEI, UK


Delegates Comments:

Thanks once again for a great conference - I thoroughly enjoyed most of the papers except for a few (which I have already voiced my concern over to you and think can be solved by using an independent consultant for the next conference). It was a great forum for meeting some new faces as well as catching up with others which I first met at last year's conference.
Dr. M. Becker, University of Cape Town, South Africa


My compliments to all the organisers of Automated Mineralogy '07. Every aspect was great: the choice of hotel, facilities and menu was excellent, and choosing a location in the northern half of Australia was a smart move for early Aussie springtime. The choice of speakers and diversity of topics presented was extremely enthusing and informative. The generous teabreak and lunch times were a clever strategy and the exhibitors’ info stalls were well supplied with industry Reps, brochures and factsheets.

I enjoyed every session of the event and it was excellent value for money for my employer (the Australian Intellectual Property Office).
Dr. S. Bewlay IP Australia


There are basically two questions that require answers:
Did I receive value in terms of knowledge-gain for my registration fee? - While the location and ‘connecting’ were satisfactory, I felt that the presentations – which were classified as technical - lacked in results and application. By that I mean, statements were made about what the problem was and what was done to examine the problem; however, there were too few solutions and/or conclusions drawn from the work.
Would I attend in the future? - I suspect probably not.
R.J. Blaskovich, Teckcominco, Canada


I want to thank you for the well organised and highly appreciated Automated Mineralogy conference. I was originally employed as a sample preparation technician for SGS, and only recently started operating a QEMSCAN. I am an ecologist and therefore have a limited background in mineralogy. I found all the talks interesting and informative. Overall I learnt a lot and I am looking forward to the following conference.
J. Botha, SGS Advanced Mineralogy Facility, Australia


This was an interesting conference and well attended. I enjoyed being there and renewed many friendships as well as made new acquaintances. Being in neither camp, I did not initially appreciate the significance of the large number of Intellection contributions, many of which were rather light weight in terms of data presented. After reviewing my notes on the papers I began to realize that some of the presentations were premature, being more of a "what we intend to do" rather than presenting data for discussion and assessment. However, some Intellection presentations were of high calibre (eg Ann Hagni and Paul Gottlieb), as were CSIRO and some other presentations. I do not like the term "Automated Mineralogy" because it contributes to the view that you simply insert your polished sections and press some switches, whereas the experience and knowledge of the operator is fundamental to getting meaningful results. I do not have a suggested replacement term.
Dr. L.J. Cabri, Cabri Consulting Inc., Canada


I thought the Conference was first class, and it was very much to my advantage that I attended. News of developments in the fields were reported, many of which gave insight to the directions automated mineralogy is moving. The appearance of papers comparing the various systems, specifically MLA and QEMSCAN, was useful and welcomed. This allowed people to judge the merits and limitations of each
Dr. R.A. Creelman, Intellection, Australia


The conference was good and the opportunity for networking is always valuable. The level of some of the presentations was a bit disappointing but not I think that is to be expected at this type of conference and, overall, the talks would have benefited many in the audience.
D. de Nooy, SGS, Australia


My personal professional view is that the conference was severely compromised in its technical quality by the commercial interests of the co-organiser. The first and last papers on the Saturday were the most blatant examples of this, and quite honestly, were a disgrace. They made no original contributions to automated mineralogy and were obviously promotional platforms. From listening to other delegates comment on those particular presentations, I am convinced they achieved exactly the opposite. The technical level on Sunday was much improved.

I appreciate and accept that many papers and presentations have an underlying promotional function for a technology or product, but most authors use a technical basis and some originality in their work to achieve this. The papers presented by the co-organiser's employees made no efforts in this regard. As an engineer/scientist working the in field, these papers were professionally insulting. As someone in the industry who is trying to increase the profile of automated mineralogy and broaden its application base, I felt the conference and in particular the contributions from the organiser, did our industry a disservice.

As a value proposition the conference was very disappointing:
1. An entire weekend was sacrificed for many low quality and insulting presentations.
2. My employer paid for an envelope with a CD, no conference dinner and a disgruntled employee. I am very glad an airfare and hotel bill was not also incurred.

The positives were:
1. A great venue and catering.

I have never been to, or known of, a technical conference to be entirely organised by a major sponsor and AM 07 has just reinforced my views on why that does (should) not usually happen.

Please try and accept my comments, not as those from an employee of the organiser's competitor, but those from someone simply interested in the technology and its development. I have tried to formulate them also as such. Thank you for making this avenue for comment available.
Dr. R. Fandrich, JKTech, Australia


Firstly, may I say many thanks for organising such a well organised and informative conference. The venue was terrific and the all the speakers presented excellent papers relating interesting topics and angles of research. This certainly paved the way for delegates to enjoy meeting and discussing the many elements of automated mineralogy and associated fields. Thanks again and look forward to seeing you next year.
S. Faulkner, SGS Lakefield Oretest Pty Ltd, Australia


I only attended the second day but enjoyed the meeting very much, particularly the opportunity to meet folks. I think, however, the idea of automated mineralogy being a competition between QS and MLA should be underplayed, with more alternate technologies, process mineralogy discussion, diluting the QS/MLA component. Students, by the way, are waking up to mineralogy again as a career and there is a wealth of new techniques that interest them of course.
Dr. K.O. Hoal, Colorado School of Mines, USA


I thought this was an excellent conference with a lot of interesting papers presented. My only disappointment was the poor attendance from people actually involved in the mining industry. Most of the delegates were from suppliers to the industry. But I don't know how one goes about improving the ratio of mining people to industry suppliers.
Dr. P. Hofmeyr, Innovative Met Products, South Africa


I would like to thank you for organizing this event. I enjoyed the conference very much and I am looking forward to seeing you next year. From the organization point of view I think you did a wonderful job.

From the research point of view I would appreciate a little more technical and practical content next time in relation to the company presentations. I understand that it is quite hard to address such a diverse audience and wish you good luck with Automated Mineralogy for the future.
T. Hrstka, SGS, Australia


I must admit I was rather disappointed in the technical papers presented. Although there were a few good ones, most of them were either a rehash of existing knowledge or worse, blatant commercial marketing which should not be present at a conference like this. I canvassed several other delegates, and without exception they said they would not attend this conference again. I fully agree with that sentiment. This is the only automated mineralogy conference available and it is a shame that commercial interests have overshadowed what could have been a good conference.
E. Louwrens, ALS Mineralogy Pty Ltd, Australia


The two questions that I have to ask myself are:
Did I receive value for my registration fee? - While the facilities and social aspects were fine I found the technical presentations lacking in application or results i.e.: What I did or what the problem was but few conclusions or solutions presented.
Would I go again? - Unlikely.
M. MacDonald, Kennecott Utah Copper, USA


I was greatly impressed by the quality of topics and standard of presentations at this year’s AM07 in Brisbane. The range of problems discussed covered broad aspects of mineralogy including: the use of automated mineralogical techniques in mineral processing case studies; studies which illustrated new applications of existing e-beam automated techniques (e.g. characterisation of extraterrestrial, meteoritic samples, and quantitative determination of different structure types of pyrrhotite); and discussions on stereology, particle shape shape factors and their potential impact on liberation and/or grade calculations.

My only minor criticism is that the conference still seems to be regarded, by "outsiders" as an e-beam meeting with most talks focussed on SEM-based technologies. This is reflected in the high proportion of e-beam papers (~70%). The few non e-beam presentations on topics such as micro X-ray tomography, X-ray diffraction and IR spectroscopy were a welcome addition and seemed to generate greater discussion among attendees. For AM08 we need to embrace other mineralogical techniques and encourage more presentations from these complementary areas of research. This will only strengthen the already impressive breakthoughs made by e-beam techniques.
Dr. M. Pownceby, CSIRO Minerals, Australia


Automated Mineralogy '07 was a great meeting; 33 presentations in 2 days is indeed an achievement. Hopefully I will be able to participate as an author in future. I would suggest that the meeting becomes biennial instead of annual; it is difficult for me, and probably others, to travel to Australia every year and some issues may be repeated from one event to the next.
R.K. Ribeiro, CVRD, Brazil


I will probably express the same disappointment you have heard from others. The conference was very light on innovative technical content, and very heavy on marketing (specifically from Intellection). My company, FEI Company, is aligned with JKTech, and so it's in one way natural that I'm frustrated that Intellection basically ran the conference as a sales event. But I'm pretty objective about this. I actually believe there is a place, an important one, for industry conferences where both QEMScan and MLA users are presenting and hearing about the innovations from their colleagues. Over my career, I've seen technical conferences handled extremely professionally in which strong rivals are both represented (such as semiconductor process technology conferences). The key seems to be:

(1) The conference has a strong neutral organizer, which this one did not. How did it happen that the CSO from Intellection basically ran the conference?
(2) That organizer enforces the emphasis on technology sharing and discussion of results by reviewing the papers and not allowing in company logos, sales pitches. No unreviewed papers should be allowed. That's standard at most respected conferences. Not allowing papers which don't have relevant new results. These presentations need to be peer reviewed (with a panel that has both MLA and QEMscan users) to have academic credibility.
(3) The conference is focused only on presenting truly new material and results, not just rehashing old sales presentations which I had seen before arriving at the conference.
(4) Neither Intellection nor JKTech should be running sessions.

If there are not significant changes made to the conference, and enforcement about the removal of sales and marketing materials, then there is no value and I will recommend to JKTech and our combined customers that they not participate in 2008.
Dr. P. Scagnetti, FEI Company, USA


Regarding my comments after attending the AM2007 conference in Brisbane:

(1) After spending so much of my time submitting a paper draft on time- under some impression that it was required for presenting my work – I came away extremely angry that so few of the presenters actually complied. What is worse is that presentations of substance numbered so few. In fact, most of the presentations would be more accurately described as "vendors selling their wares". One of the worse cases - leastwise, the vendor with the most unsubstantial papers - was Intellection!! As far as I am concerned, those vendors should have covered my registration fee. I wondered what $800 would buy me - now I know!
(2) Will I be attending AM2008 - No!
(3) Will I be submitting either of my papers for MEI peer review? - No!
M. Shaffer, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada


I thoroughly enjoyed attending the Automated Mineralogy conference. The presentations were informative and interesting and it was a good opportunity to meet people in the field.
Dr. N. Tsafnat, University of Sydney, Australia


If you would like to comment on this report, you may do so via the MEI Online forum at: www.meionline.proboards2.com/index.cgi?board=conference&action=display&thread=1191917603




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