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Keynote Presentations

Leading experts from around the globe share insights on the trends and factors changing the future of the industry.

Embracing New Technology in a Traditional Industry

Richard Johnson, JohnsonMCS, LLC, United States

What can we do as Engineers to overcome the natural resistance to change within our perceived “Risky Business”.  Mining is a conservative industry and is slow to accept anything new. Several years ago in SME Keynote Session, a question was raised by the audience about why Mining is so averse to change. Speakers from two Major Mining companies addressed the question. The first said mid-tier companies are the ones that take the risk on innovative technology and as a major, we sit back and wait and see how it goes. The other speaker said he did not agree, and his firm does introduce innovation but albeit they would not be the first inline. Mid-tier companies do seem to adapt innovative technology at a faster rate than the majors. Do they take these risks to be more competitive or are they more encouraged to take risks? I would like to discuss three areas that are driving changes in our Plan Design for our industry, 1) Primary Grinding circuits, Flotation cell development and Concentrate regrinding.

About the Speaker: Richard Johnson is a strategically focused executive with extensive expertise in Mining & Metals projects including a background in feasibility studies, startups, commissioning and operations.  He has a strong record in leading teams to successful project completion on budget and achieving or exceeding design capacities. The roles that brought these results include: Operations Manager in achieving turnaround performance, NA Director of Projects providing divisional leadership, EPCM Project Manager completing successful project design, construction & start-ups, Process Engineering management and providing projects independent peer reviews on major projects (multiple Industries) including staff development through mentoring.

New Strategies for Recovery of Nickel and Cobalt for a Low Carbon Future

David Dreisinger, University of British Columbia, Canada

Nickel and cobalt are critical elements for the electric vehicle transition.  New strategies are being developed for recovering nickel and cobalt from sulphide and laterite resources to meet the expected future demand.  These include pressure oxidation of nickel sulphide concentrates to form battery chemical precursors, the CO2 Mineralization and Selective Leaching (CMSL) process for limonite and saprolite treatment and the ATLAS Materials process for low carbon nickel and cobalt from saprolite ores.

About the Speaker: David Dreisinger, Professor and Chair, University of British Columbia

David completed his B.A.Sc. and Ph.D. in Metallurgical Engineering at Queen’s University at Kingston. Since 1984, David has worked at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada and holds the position of Professor and Chair, Industrial Research Chair in Hydrometallurgy. Dreisinger has worked closely with industry to develop and commercialize technology. He has received a number of professional awards including the Sherritt Hydrometallurgy Award (METSOC), the EPD Science Award (TMS), the Wadsworth Award (AIME) and the INCO Medal (CIM). Dreisinger is a Fellow of CIM, Engineers Canada and the Canadian Academy of Engineering. David was elected to the United States National Academy of Engineering (NAE) as an International Member in 2023. In 2021, David co-founded Atlas Materials.

The Importance of Process Mineralogy and Geometallurgy in Enabling the Energy Transition

Megan Becker, Centre for Minerals Research, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Cape Town, South Africa

Enabling the energy transition requires the mining industry to generate unprecedented amounts of metals such as Li, Cu, Co, Ni and the REE. Dependent on metal concentrations, these geochemically scarce metals may occur in discrete minerals, or substitute for other elements in more common minerals subsequently forming complex, refractory ores. Our future ore sources will sample this mineralogical variability from a variety of feedstocks including conventional primary ores and historical mine waste. This paper demonstrates the pivotal role of process mineralogy and geometallurgy in facilitating the sustainable processing of these complex ores, thus ensuring a successful transition towards cleaner energy sources.

About the Speaker: Associate Professor Megan Becker leads the geometallurgy and process mineralogy research activities in the Centre for Minerals Research, and the Minerals to Metals Initiative in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Cape Town. Her research interests focus on understanding the effects of mineralogy on minerals processing, metallurgy and the environment, and how best mineralogy information be articulated and communicated to maximize the value of minerals to society. To date, she has supervised 30 postgraduate students. She has 70 peer reviewed publications, and a Y1 NRF rating. After having recognized the complete non-existence of relevant references texts on process mineralogy in 2011, she initiated a Monograph on Process Mineralogy. She was the lead editor of this Monograph, published in 2016 through the Julius Krutschnitt Mineral Research Centre. The text contains over 30 peer reviewed chapters written by international experts in the field of process mineralogy.

Changing the Face of Comminution – Insurmountable Hurdles or Just Speed-humps on the Journey?

Richard Bearman, Bear Rock Solutions Pty. Ltd., Australia

Comminution has become somewhat of a Piñata for those looking to criticize mining and processing. The sector is often subject to disparaging comments in relation to the energy and water footprint of comminution, particularly as it relates to tumbling mills, use of steel media and the speed of change, but is this fair? – where have we come from?, what are we doing? and what more can be done?  Given the rapidity that is demanded in relation to change, the mining sector does struggle, often due to the long life, capital intensity and risk-averse nature of both mining companies and investors, but change is happening, albeit not at the pace that some expect.  The rise of compressive grinding, more efficient multi-stage systems, early waste rejection and customized flowsheets, are all examples of changes in the core thinking, but deployment is slow.  Currently, we do not have all the answers, amongst others, we still need to improve our understanding of ore and gangue behavior, how complexity is traded-off against non-traditional metrics, the role of non-mechanical comminution and scalability of concepts.  Many of the changes will be uncomfortable, but our sector can, and has, responded to imperatives in the past and this gives us reason to believe we can continue to do so.

About the Speaker: Dr. Ted Bearman holds a B.Eng. and Ph.D. from the Camborne School of Mines and is a Chartered Engineer, with over 36 years’ experience in the mining sector. He has held a number roles across equipment vendors, R&D organizations and mining companies. Since 2009 he has operated an independent consulting business specializing in both strategic innovation and system optimization for mining and processing. He is an Honorary Professor in Mineral Processing at the University of Nottingham, a Fellow of the IoM3 and AusIMM and an active Mentor for the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences & Engineering.

Dry Beneficiation

Jayson Ripke, McCarl’s Technical Services, United States

Dry processing is important for the future of mineral beneficiation to reduce water consumption and improve sustainability, especially with the impending energy transition. Dry unit operations include grinding, magnetic, gravity, electrostatic, screening, and sensor-based separation. This paper will review the current state of the art in dry beneficiation and provide two case studies used in operation. High-tension electrostatic separation is used to remove silica gangue and upgrade the hematite concentrate at one iron ore operation in Canada. If the upstream wet unit operations are not optimized to consider the impacts on dry processing, the concentrate can actually be downgraded. Dry low- and medium-intensity magnetic drums were used in pilot-scale operations in Canada and Peru to reject silica from magnetite and titano-magnetite concentrates from iron sand. Surprisingly, higher feed rates simultaneously improved the grade and recovery.

About the Speaker: S. Jayson Ripke, Ph.D., MMSA-QP, Director of Operations for McCarl’s Technical Services in Charlotte, NC has prior experience as Brushy Creek Mine & Mill Site Manager and Chief Metallurgist with The Doe Run Company, Sr. Applications Engineer with Solvay, Manager of R&D and Manager of Tech Center Operations with Midrex Technologies, Inc. where he developed the Midrex Green Hydrogen concept which was recently commercialized, was VP – Technical with Cardero Iron Ore, and Chief Metallurgist at Cleveland Cliffs, Inc.’s Wabush Mines. He has 60 publications (17 peer reviewed) and 555 citations (according to Google Scholar). Ripke was educated at Michigan Technological University (MTU) with B.S. and M.S. in Metallurgical & Materials Engineering and Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering; Dissertation: Advances in Iron Ore Pelletization by Understanding Bonding and Strengthening Mechanisms. He is currently a member of the SME Board of Directors, was the 2012 SME Mineral & Metallurgical Processing Division (MPD) Committee Chair, and has been an active member of SME for 27 years.

The World of Water in Mining

Laurie Reemeyer, Resourceful Paths, Canada

Mining is reliant on inputs of both water and energy, without these, it would not be viable. Water is a more complex utility than energy as both quantity and quality attributes must be considered. Competition for water supply and environmental effects of mining on water resources have the potential to create tensions between indigenous groups, local and regional communities, and industry, leading to political instability if not properly managed.

Mining operations may need to consider a combination of water sources, including ground water, surface water from rivers or lakes, stored water from precipitation runoff on mine property, mining pit or underground dewatering, direct or desalinated seawater, and third-party municipal or sewage treated water. All of these have their own regulated or permitted quantities and qualities, may come at considerable cost, require major energy inputs, and may have significant environmental impacts for extraction, treatment, and conveyance. Mines also need to carefully manage the interaction of process affected waters or waters contacting mine waste materials to avoid pollution of surrounding water resources. How mining companies deal with fresh water is often the main concern of the community at large.

About the Speaker: Laurie is a minerals process engineer with 30 years of experience in the mining industry. Laurie began his career in technical and operational support roles at base metals mines in Australia and North America. He was Manager Metallurgy at Zinifex’s Century Mine, where he was responsible for the second largest zinc concentrator in the world; a major concentrate pipeline and tailings storage facility. As Principal Development Advisor with Zinifex he assisted with process, tailings and water management due diligence, mergers and acquisitions and project development for polymetallic base metals projects globally. Laurie worked for Amec Foster Wheeler in study management, process engineering management and strategic roles before forming his own consulting business, Resourceful Paths in 2016. Laurie’s consulting firm focuses on improving sustainability performance of mining in aspects relating to tailings and water management and greenhouse gas emissions reduction. He is a facilitator for the AusIMM Professional Certificate in Tailings Management. Laurie’s work in water has included gap analysis and review of water management, recovery and reuse, assistance in preparing site water balances, assessment of tailings thickening and filtration and the interface with process water management, the evaluation of seawater use in processing, and modifications to concentrator and mine site water systems to allow discharge of water streams for beneficial water use.

Laurie holds a Bachelor of Engineering in Minerals Process from the University of Queensland and a Master of Business Administration from University of California at Berkeley.

Critical Skills for Critical Minerals

Diana Drinkwater, Metcelerate, Australia

The mining industry is currently riding a wave of opportunity generated by new technologies, and it’s encouraging to see policymakers around the world highlighting the importance of a secure supply of so-called critical minerals and making some startling predictions about the increasing demand for the traditional staples Cu, Al and Steel.
It’s also encouraging to see an acknowledged need for investment in education. However, the focus tends to be on mining and exploration activities, and there is little apparent appreciation of the opportunity for value gain, or value loss, in concentration, extraction and purification of minerals and metals.

The International Mineral Processing Council (IMPC) has conducted several studies aimed at identifying good practice in mineral processing education and the broader environmental factors required to ensure best outcomes. This presentation will review the work done to date and suggest some actions that directly address the needs of the critical minerals boom. The policymakers may not yet realize how much they need us, but eventually they will, and we need to be ready.

About the Speaker: Diana is a mineral processing engineer with over 40 years’ experience across mining operations, engineering, consulting, and education. Her principal interest is early-career professional development, and she draws on her significant practical experience to ensure education and training programs meet the needs of learners whether they be in Australia, Asia, Africa, the Americas or Europe. Diana is a director of Metcelerate Limited, and a principal at Mineralis Consultants. She chairs the Education Commission of the International Mineral Processing Council (IMPC), was a director on the board of the Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM) from 2014 – 2020, and chaired the AusIMM Metallurgical Society from 2012 to 2015.

Commercial Sources and Processes for Heavy Rare Earths

Jack Lifton, HREE-USA LLC, United States

The rare earths have atomic numbers, beginning with lanthanum, No. 57, and ending with Lutetium, No. 71, but they are not uniformly distributed in nature. The vast majority of them economically accessible to us, geo- physically and chemically are just the first 4 of them, lanthanum, cerium, neodymium and praseodymium. These constitute more than 90% of all of the rare earths possibly available to us on this planet. The next three rare earths, the SEG, samarium, europium, gadolinium constitute most of the remaining rare earths available to us. It is however the tiny remainder, perhaps 2% in total, of the higher atomic numbered rare earths, especially the first two after gadolinium, which are dysprosium and terbium that are super critical to the manufacturing of the rare earth permanent magnet motors upon which the electrification of motor vehicles will depend. Paper will describe here, where we find accessible “deposits” containing heavy rare earths and how they are now processed to extract and refine them individually and what innovations in processing them are in the on-deck circle of chemical engineering today.

About the Speaker: Jack Lifton began his work career in 1962, while still in graduate school, as a physical chemist specializing in the ultra-purification of rare metals and the preparation of their chemical compounds and alloys for use in the then new disciplines of solid-state electronics and energy storage. After a decade, including a stint in the development of the photocathodes for solid-state image intensifiers for the Lunar Landing (Apollo) Program, he transitioned first to technology marketing and then to technology manufacturing management. He ultimately became the CEO of two engineered materials companies, each of which specialized in production materials and parts for OEM automotive and aerospace.  He retired in 1999 and then took on a new career as an author, lecturer, and consultant in the business operations of mining, refining, and fabricating ventures specializing in the use of rare metals.  He coined the now widely-used term “technology metals” in 2007 to describe those metals whose electronic properties enable the miniaturization of electronic technologies. In addition to his advisory roles he has also served on many boards of technology metals-themed enterprises. He is a widely sought consultant in rare earth and EV materials’ related metals processing. Mr. Lifton also serves as Editor-in-Chief for Critical Materials for and is the Chairman of the Critical Minerals Institute.  Mr Lifton was the Co-Founding Principal, with Dr. Gareth Hatch, of Technology Metals Research LLC, a newsletter and informational database for rare metals market fundamentals. He has advised both the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Energy on the sourcing, processing, and fabrication of rare earth enabled products for both military and consumer end use. He is a co-editor of “The Rare Earths Metals’ and Minerals’ Industries published in January 2024 by Springer.

Catching Lightning in a Bottle – The Future of Tailings

Christopher N. Hatton, WSP, United States

This keynote lecture will discuss three elements of the tailings profession, touching on GISTM and its industry impact, emerging tailing management technologies and their efficacy, and the sustainability of the tailings profession from an engineering support standpoint.

GISTM and the application of ESG have had a significant impact on our industry. Experience has shown us that although the standard has improved industry governance it continues to be challenged by issues we have yet to resolve. The question we have to ask is whether GISTM is sustainable and if its application is practical from the standpoint of industry survivability.

New technologies in tailing management continued to emerge and be refined but the age-old questions remain… why can’t we take all the tailings and put them back in the open pit? Is dewatered tailing truly a panacea, or is it doomed to mediocrity? Emerging technologies and their practical application and limitations will be discussed.

Finally, and probably most critical is the fact that the industry is fraught with a lack of resources that progressively becomes more critical. Our industry continues to lack critical resources and has insufficient capacity to place a qualified engineer of record at each mine site, a responsible tailing facility engineer in critical leadership positions, and independent technical review boards to protect the industry from costly mistakes. What does a sustainable future look like?

About the Speaker: Christopher N. Hatton, MS, PE, is a Senior Vice President I, Geotechnical Engineer, and Technical Fellow with the Lakewood, Colorado, USA Office of WSP. Mr. Hatton entered the engineering consulting industry in the early 1980s and has compiled a resume of diversified heavy civil and environmental professional engineering experience. Chris has spent much of his 36 years of experience evaluating, implementing, constructing, operating, and maintaining designs at active and closed TSFs worldwide. He understands the balance between geotechnical stability, surface water management, and establishing environmentally sustainable inert landforms while considering post-closure operation and maintenance costs. His approach considers alignment with ESG sustainability principles and climate transition. Mr. Hatton is a founding member of the USSD/CDA EoR Committee dedicated to establishing the state of the practice for the EoR. Chris is also an active contributor to multiple Tailings Review Boards for world-class mining companies. Chris co-authored three chapters of SME’s Tailings Management Handbook: A Life-Cycle Approach. First Edition (2022) was a co-author for the Geo-Professional Business Association (GBA) Guidance for EoR and is a continuous contributor to other industry cornerstone documents.

Application of the Boycott Effect in Maximizing Grade and Recovery

Kevin Galvin, ARC Centre of Excellence for Enabling Eco-Efficient Beneficiation of Minerals, Australia

Ultrafine colloidal particles, otherwise known as slimes, impede gravity and flotation separations to a degree that is often not widely appreciated. These particles produce exponential increase in suspension viscosity and contamination of mineral and bubble surfaces. The Boycott Effect, operating with counter current washing via fluidization provides the essential elements for effective desliming. The approach forms the basis of a platform technology that includes the Reflux Classifier for gravity separation, the Reflux Flotation Cell, and the Graviton for ultrafine desliming. This paper describes the synergy between the Boycott Effect and the fluidization, including the synergy between these different technologies.

About the Speaker: Kevin Galvin is the inventor of the Reflux Classifier used in gravity separation of fine mineral particles. With over 240 installations around the world, the technology has been used to beneficiate iron ore, mineral sands, metallurgical coal, potash, chromite, lithium, and other base metal oxides. New innovative systems are emerging including the Reflux Flotation Cell, Graviton, and a novel agglomeration technology. Kevin Galvin is a Laureate Professor at the University of Newcastle, Australia. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering and previous recipient of numerous awards including the Ian Wark Medal, ATSE Clunies Ross Award, and Antoine Gaudin Award in mineral processing. He is Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Enabling Eco-Efficient Beneficiation of Minerals.

Advances in Model Predictive Control for Flotation

Pablo Brito-Parada, Imperial College London, United Kingdom

Model Predictive Control (MPC) strategies rely on the model that represents the dynamics of the process, which has often hindered its application in flotation. We present a new dynamic flotation model that incorporates froth physics, and which is suitable for MPC. Unlike other flotation models for control, our model includes important variables related to froth stability and pulp-froth interface physics, and incorporates phenomenological equations for froth recovery and entrainment. The model is the basis for an economic MPC strategy that was implemented in both simulations and a laboratory-scale flotation rig, with encouraging results for its exploitation in industrial flotation circuits.

About the Speaker: Pablo Brito-Parada is a Reader (Associate Professor) in the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London. A Chemical Engineer by training, his research focuses on mineral resources, from its extraction, processing, and use, to the links between critical raw materials and other resources, such as energy and water. He is particularly interested in developing frameworks that incorporate systems thinking and sustainability principles into the management of mineral resources. His work in mineral processing combines novel experimental and modelling techniques for the optimization of multiphase separations. His team works on various aspects of froth flotation, including the modelling of pulp and froth phase phenomena, advanced control techniques, and experimental characterization of flotation systems from bench to industrial scale. At industrial scale, the team has carried out optimization test work in mineral concentrators worldwide. Pablo is the Editor-in-Chief of Elsevier’s Minerals Engineering journal and serves on the International Mineral Processing Council (IMPC).

Development of Sustainable Hydrometallurgical Technologies for Critical Minerals and Precious Metals: A Focus on Glycine

Jacques Eksteen, Western Australian School of Mines, Minerals, Energy & Chemical Engineering; Curtin University, Australia

For most of the 20th century, our metallurgical focus has been on metallurgical bulk commodities that could be concentrated, smelted, converted, and refined under less stringent constraints imposed by communities, water availability, safety, and governments. As ore grades decreased and ores also became more polymetallic, and as the risks around Critical Minerals became clear, particularly insofar they are used in the renewable energy transition, and compliance to ESG targets became essential, a sea change has been required in how we extract and refine metals. The high-grade requirements imposed by smelters (or pressure leach operations) have become hard to satisfy without significant recovery loss at the mine and concentrators. As the value of water increased in many mining jurisdictions and the industry have become more focused on Circular Economy drivers, the reuse, repurpose and recycle of water and reagents and wastes have become essential. Dry disposal of tailings has also become a major driver to recycle the water and chemicals back to the metallurgical operations. Conventional hydrometallurgical operations, which mostly used either mineral acids such as sulfuric acid, ammonia, or sodium cyanide for metal recovery, has become problematic due to their lack of selective dissolution, the need for expensive post-treatment (neutralization and detoxification) and the poor ability to recover, recycle and reuse the reagents have become problematic and often not sustainables.

About the Speaker: Professor Jacques Eksteen is the Chair for Extractive Metallurgy within the Western Australian School of Mines, Minerals, Energy and Chemical Engineering at Curtin University. Jacques is also the Program Lead for Technology Readiness Level Progression in the national Trailblazer program on Resources Technology and Critical Minerals and the Chief Scientist of the Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre (FBICRC). He also held the roles of Research Director and Chief Operating Officer at the FBICRC. Jacques has 30 years’ experience in academia and industry, most of that time in work related Critical Minerals, Metals and Materials, in particular in platinum group metals (PGMs), rare earths, battery metals and energy metals. He has published over 200 peer-reviewed articles in leading journals and refereed conference proceedings and is a listed inventor of many patents related to extractive metallurgical technologies.

Advances in Flotation Which Have the Potential to Address the Challenges Associated with Energy Transition

Kym Runge, SMI-JKMRC, Australia

The energy transition will require unprecedented quantities of metal. To help satisfy this demand, it will be imperative that flotation be conducted optimally. The mining industry is currently undergoing a transformation with many new technologies being developed that have the potential to improve flotation performance. New flotation machines are emerging that can recover coarser and finer particles, traditionally not recovered well during flotation. Flotation reagents with increased specificity have the potential to enable selective separation of minerals of similar chemical structure. New comminution methods are improving the liberation and thus the selectivity achievable in flotation. Advanced ore characterization tools and improved methods of process measurement provide means of better overcoming bottlenecks in our flotation processes. The aim of this paper is to provide an overview of these emerging new flotation technologies and outline the challenges that must be overcome to enable fast adoption by what is a traditionally conservative mining industry.

About the Speaker: Associate Professor Kym Runge is the leader of the Separation Research Program at the SMI-JKMRC. This program aims to develop novel separation processes that will make a step change in mining and involves research into high voltage comminution, coarse and fine particle flotation, improved classification and novel dewatering. Prior to this appointment, Kym worked 25 years as a flotation specialist. She has worked as a researcher and consultant, focused on development of flotation simulation and diagnostic procedures. She is currently the technical director of a collaborative industry sponsored research program into coarse particle flotation (CPR) and also a chief investigator within the Australian ARC Centre of Excellence for enabling eco-efficient beneficiation of minerals..

How Can We Re-Innovate Innovation in the Mining Industry

Saskia Duyvesteyn and Dawn Wellman, Rio Tinto, United States

The mining industry is facing unprecedented pressures from environmental, social, economic, and regulatory factors. To survive and thrive in this complex and dynamic context, the industry needs to re-innovate its innovation processes and practices. Innovation in the mining industry has evolved in the last decades with shifts in technology, intellectual property, risk, development & demonstration, capital investment, and partnerships. More consideration needs to be given to the intersection of the technology with the people and systems in which it is used, as change management is a critical factor for successful implementation of innovation. The paper identifies drivers, barriers, and enablers of innovation in the mining industry, and suggests some directions for future research and practice, such as developing new frameworks and tools to support innovation, fostering cross-sectoral and multidisciplinary collaboration, and enhancing the social license and sustainability of mining innovation.

About the Speaker: Saskia Duyvesteyn is the Chief Advisor Research & Development for the Rio Tinto Copper product group and manages the portfolio of innovation projects across the entire value stream including ore body knowledge, underground & surface mining, mineral processing & metallurgy, tailings and digital projects. Saskia has over 20 years of experience in operational, technical and leadership roles based in Nevada, California, and Utah for a range of commodities, including copper, gold, silver, borates, molybdenum, and other critical minerals. Prior to her career in mining, Saskia was an assistant professor at the University of Utah’s Department of Metallurgical Engineering. Saskia has a Ph.D. in Extractive Metallurgy & Mineral Processing and a Master of Science in Minerals Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. She holds 4 patents in the area of process development and machine learning. She has a Bachelor of Science in Materials Science & Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is also a Senior Rio Tinto Expert.