Geometallurgy Conference 2018
The theme of this first geometallurgy conference “Back to the future” is inspired by looking both into the past and the future: the concept of Geometallurgy goes back to some of the earliest mining activities when mineral recognition, mining, separation and concentration were undertaken simultaneously. Over time, changes in operational structures, product expansion and specialisation ultimately led to the diminishment and breakdown of this holistic approach.
In the last two decades ‘Geometallurgy’ has become a sophisticated yet entirely logical return to this integrated approach to mine planning. In a world of exponentially increasing ore heterogeneity and economic complexity, Geometallurgy is effectively a highly structured, integrated multi-disciplinary collaboration for optimising the value of an ore deposit. The approach is premised on acquiring multi-dimensional, spatially constrained (blocked) ore body knowledge that quantifies and qualifies all aspects of ore body variability. This data must include each element’s response to blasting, excavation, crushing, grinding, separability and the environment and of course, its economic factors. These discrete elemental data sets are modelled to optimise a mine plan which takes into account the respective threshold criteria for each of the dataset components. Geometallurgy provides for truly integrated mine planning, ore flow management and processing from exploration to operations and through to final closure and rehabilitation. (Think of it as 4D Whittle on steroids, but for the entire mine life cycle, not just the optimised pit or stope envelope for the mining operation).
Looking into the future, we need to visualise what our ‘ideal’ mining operation in Southern Africa should look like, how it will function, and be equipped to articulate what we need to do to achieve this. Geometallurgy is a critical tool in achieving this.