|Burswood Complex from Swan River|
The week started off with the 3-day Nickel-Cobalt-Copper conference from Monday to Wednesday and then the Uranium and Gold Conferences, run in parallel on Thursday and Friday.
The annual ALTA conferences are now well established, and have been held every year in Perth. Just as the CMP conference in Ottawa is an annual meeting place for Canadian Mineral Processors, so does ALTA provide a meeting place for Australian hydrometallurgists to gather. But ALTA is much less parochial than CMP and in the 5 day programme only half of the 71 papers were from Australia, which is commendable as Perth sits close to the huge catchment area of Western Australian mining. This was indeed a truly international event with a total of 286 delegates preregistered, 171 of these from Australia, one of the 26 countries represented, with 19 from USA, 15 from Canada, South Africa (12), Japan (11), China (8), Finland (10), Germany (7), UK (6), France and Singapore 4 each, Poland (3), Russia, Italy, Philippines and New Zealand with 2 each, and South Korea, Sweden, Egypt, Turkey, Ghana, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea and Chile each with one delegate.
There was very little representation from academia. This is essentially an operators conference, although major research institutions, such as CSIRO and the Parker Centre were well represented, as were suppliers of equipment and chemicals to the mining industry.
The conferences are run by ALTA Metallurgical Services, led by its Principal, the indefatigable Alan Taylor, with his wife Joan. Apart from overseeing events, he presented three papers in the technical sessions, as well as presenting two one day short courses, prior to and immediately after the conferences!
The following is my diary of events over the week, which I hope will be supplemented by comments from delegates.
Sunday May 22nd
I met for the first time Alan and Joan Taylor of ALTA, pictured with Bryn Harris of Canada, who I had never met before, but is very active with CIM, John Canterford (Australia) and Mike Adams of Mutis Liber, Australia.
Monday May 23rd
As always I will be reporting more on people than presentations, and reports on the latter will be published in the June issue of Gold & Minerals Gazette (GMG). A preview of the papers can also be found in the May issue of the magazine (pps. 30-36).
MEI is the International Media Sponsor, GMG is the official media magazine for the conference. The magazine, run by Australia's Resource Information Unit (RIU) is also a media sponsor for MEI's Cape Town events, Flotation '11, Comminution '12 and Precious Metals '12. GMG's Advertising Manager, Marcia Lewis, was keen to show me the new iPad version of the magazine, launched in the May issue, which will soon be a free application on iTunes.
Exhibitors were given maximum exposure, as lunch and coffee breaks were held in the exhibition area.
|With Jonas Addai-Mensah|
Tuesday May 24th
|Delegates from Outotec|
|Alan and Joan Taylor|
Judging the success of a conference dinner is a very personal thing, dependent mainly on two things, the quality of the food, and the personalities of your table partners. The food was excellent, as it has been all week, and I was lucky enough to be sharing a table with Alan and Joan, Suresh Bhargava of RMIT, and Pete Smith of Mogas Industries, the sponsor of the dinner. I was also pleased to be sitting with the affable Jonas Addai-Mensah and got the opportunity to talk to David Weight, who opened the conference, and his delightful wife Mandy. All in all I had a very pleasant evening.
Wednesday May 25th
|Morimatsu delegates from China|
After last night's light-hearted look at pressure acid leaching, the day finished with a serious forum on PAL, concluding with a panel discussion on the subject.
It is interesting to note that over half of the papers in this Ni-Co-Cu programme have been directly related to nickel, particularly to the processing of laterite deposits, which is increasing in importance with increasing demand for nickel. This is one of the main themes of next year's Nickel Processing '12 in Cape Town.
Thursday May 26th
ALTA split into parallel sessions today, with the start of the conferences in uranium and gold. Each conference commenced with a keynote address. Suresh Bhargava, of RMIT University, Australia, discussed the challenges and research opportunities in uranium leaching, and Ed Clerk, of Golder Associates, Australia, presented an overview of the application of the Cyanide Code. Most of the day's papers in the gold conference were concerned with leaching, and in the uranium conference with solvent extraction, ion exchange and refining, but both conferences opened with non-hydromet papers. Lutke von Ketelhodt, of Commodas Ultrasort, South Africa provided an update on the optical sorting of Witwatersrand gold ores, while Mark Pownceby of CSIRO discussed the geometallurgy and processing of Australia's uranium deposits.
Geometallurgy is one of the hot topics in mineral processing at the moment, and Mark is hoping to present more of his work at next year's Process Mineralogy '12. He is one of five members of the CSIRO team at ALTA who are involved with the peer-review of papers submitted to Minerals Engineering.
|The CSIRO/Parker Centre booth|
The Au/U conference dinner in the evening was held at the Royal Perth Yacht Club. Good food and company again, with entertainment provided by a local singer.
Friday May 27th
The last day of the uranium conference dealt mainly with SX/IX/Refining, and leaching, while the whole of the day in the gold conference was spent on cyanide destruction and recovery. The traditional methods for cyanide destruction, Caro's Acid, sodium meta-bisulphite (SMBS)/air and hydrogen peroxide were discussed in depth, and Mike Adams presented an interesting alternative, the MMS CN-D process, which is claimed to provide complete destruction of total cyanide and cyanate using oxygen only, in a superoxygenated Aachen Reactor, thus having the advantage of no requirement for hydrogen peroxide storage or generation of sulphuric acid or sulphates, as with the other options.
|With Stuart Glen, metallurgist at MMS Australia,|
and Mike Adams
And so at 4pm, after short panel discussions, ALTA '11 came to an end. I have been really impressed with this conference, its participants and its organisation and hope to make it a regular MEI fixture. I am told that around 250 people finally registered for the 3-day base metals conference, and about 200 for the two days on gold and uranium, 140 delegates being registered for the full five days. Having now returned to UK, there are a few delegates that I would like to contact about various things, but unfortunately email addresses were not supplied with the delegate list. Maybe this is something which could be considered for next year?
My only gripe, which is nothing to do with ALTA, is the price of WiFi internet connection in Australia. When are major hotels going to wake up to the fact that business travellers these days expect free WiFi in their rooms - cable connections are useless with devices such as iPads, which are increasingly used? I had to work in the noisy hotel lobby, where WiFi was $10 for 30 minutes. Even more scandalous, the convention centre charged conference delegates a "special" rate of $75 per day!
There is a call for papers for ALTA '12, to be held in Perth again, from May 28th-June 1st.
The papers from ALTA '11 are available as either E-Documents (by email) or CDs. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.