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MEI Online: MEI Conferences: Pyrometallurgy 05: Conference Report

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By: Prof. M.A. Reuter (Technical University of Delft, The Netherlands). M.A.Reuter@CiTG.TUDelft.NL

This conference was once again a welcome change to so many conferences the reviewer has recently visited. With around 50 participants from industry and academia this conference had all the ingredients for what one comes to a conference for: meeting people, discussing informally with everyone topics of mutual interest around a gorgeous Mount Nelson lunch, catching up on the gossip of the field, hearing of new industrial projects and just simply meeting long standing friends once again. This in the end leads to such a relaxed atmosphere that each paper can be informally discussed in depth on a very high level benefiting both the author but also everyone present, benefiting the quality of the paper that can be submitted for publication to Minerals Engineering. This is so different to so many large conferences, where due to many parallel sessions and the impersonal atmosphere one ends with a couple of people in the audience not asking any questions and a chairman having not sufficient depth to lead the discussion!

The single session format of this conference was divided into a posters session with 5 snapshot presentations of 10 minutes each and two technical sessions viz. (I) Pyrometallurgical processes & furnaces and (II) Slags and Fluxes with 17 oral presentations of 30 minutes.

Various papers in the conference touched on ilmenite smelting, an important industrial topic for South Africa. Three papers on this topics included a discussion of solid state reduction of a natural ilmenite by C.S. Kucukkaragoz (University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa), the one dimensional modelling of an ilmenite-smelting DC arc furnace process by Dr. J.H. Zietsman (Ex Mente, South Africa) for predicting freeze-lining thickness, and the oxidation of high-titanium slags by water vapour by Prof. Chris Pistorius (University of Pretoria, South Africa) to these upgrade slags. In addition to this Prof. H�rman Eric (University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa) presented a paper on the reduction of chromite in the presence of silica, discussing a first principles model for this. A.J. du Toit from the University of Cape Town (South Africa) discussed the iron redox equilibria and sulphide capacity of PGM melter-type slags, work the author is doing for the completion of his master thesis.

Two theoretical papers within the field of melt formation were presented. PhD student Greg Georgalli (Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands) discussed the co-ordination number of grains in a pellet with size distribution in order to be able to predict the melt formation within a pellet. This is a project within a large greening of the blast furnace project. J.C. van Dyk (Sasol Technology, South Africa) discussed the influence of acidic components (Si, Al, and Ti) on ash fusion temperature of South African coal sources, an important issue within the Lurgi coal gasifiers of the synfuel company Sasol. It is interesting to note that this chemical company is approaching this problem from a classical metallurgical point of view.

Magnesium is an important material for light-weighting products. Its production is energy intensive and alternatives are required, the motivation for the paper by M.A. Abdel-latif from Mintek (South Africa) for exploring the atmospheric thermal extraction of magnesium. A. McKenzie (Mintek, South Africa) discussed the reactivity of reductants for the reduction of SiO to produce SiC at 1650oC. He went on to discuss the corrosion resistance of refractory oxides in gaseous environments, a refractory evaluation programme within Mintek to address refractory choice and use, at a fundamental level.

These more theoretical papers were offset against some industry papers where the interesting discussion on the Mufulira smelter upgrade project - 'industry' smelting on the Zambian Copperbelt by J. Ross (Mopani Copper Mines, Zambia) lead the way. This paper describes the equipment, technologies and processes that will be commissioned during 2006 as part of the US$115million Mufulira Smelter Upgrade Project and which will eventually provide capacity for `industry' smelting on the Zambian Copperbelt. Also the extended tracer test of the Mortimer smelter by Hatch was presented by L. Malherbe and Dr. Lloyd Nelson to establish the active reactor volume of the electric furnace. Also the various practical issues surround the injection of pulverized coal for the reduction of copper/nickel slag was discussed in a very practical manner by J. Kirsch (Clyde Bergemann Africa, South Africa). Dr. A. van Schaik discussed the dynamics in an ISF Furnace, an industrial project in Germany to optimize the control of an imperial smelting furnace for the recycling of lead and zinc containing materials. In an interesting paper Dr. Jacques Eksteen discussed the integration of pyrometallurgy and robotic systems engineering into a fully automated fire assay laboratory for rapid PGE (platinum group elements) analysis, emulating the technology within the steel industry, obviously with its own problems within the PGE industry.

An interesting set of papers around the control; optimization and modelling of various furnace types formed a significant section of the conference. In three papers by the University of Chile the authors Dr. G. Riveros and Prof. A. Warczok presented papers on the magneto-hydrodynamic siphon for tapping of liquid metals from reactors and two papers on slag cleaning viz. (i) Slag reduction and modification in slag cleaning process and an novel way of slag cleaning in crossed electric and magnetic fields. Extensive modeling was shown to support measurements. In a very interesting visual/photographic and theoretical discussion, the behaviour of arcs from a twin-electrode DC smelting furnaces was discussed by Q.G. Reynolds (Mintek, South Africa), this elaborating on previous work by his co-author Rodney Jones. In two papers from the Delft University of Technology (The Netherlands) the process modelling of an industrial rotary furnace (Konzelmann, Hannover) for the melting of aluminium scrap in a molten salt and metal bath was discussed (PhD project of B. Zhou) and the PhD student Emile Scheepers discussed a dynamic CFD model for the control of a thermal phosphorous producing 60MW submerged arc furnace for the company Thermphos (Vlissingen, The Netherlands). Since the company is starting to integrate secondary P-sources into its feed, this study is of extreme future importance, since secondary materials bring into the system as yet poorly understood phenomena.

In summary, this very intimate high quality meeting, is such a welcome change to so many other pyrometallurgical conferences; attendance can be recommended in 2008!



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