This years event run by the Society for Mining,
Metallurgy, and Exploration Inc. (SME) claimed to attract 4,215
attendees no mean feat in these challenging times. Sure,
most exhibitors admitted to IM that traffic at
the 2009 SME Annual Meeting & Exhibit was certainly down on
the previous year (held in Salt Lake City), but others were
positively surprised with Denvers level of attendance.
The event is a longstanding and established one in the
international mining and minerals calendar, and this
years event slogan was: Stewardship and
sustainability Getting it done in the 21st
Century indeed, getting it done just
this year will be a challenge for many.
Get the message out
The Keynote Session this year was a round-table affair
moderated by Barbara Filas, president US
operations, Knight Piesold who prompted the viewpoints and
opinions of Harry M. Conger IV, president
Americas, Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., Gary
Goldberg, president and chief executive officer, Rio
Tinto Minerals (RTM), Bill Scoggins, president
Colorado School of Mines, and Ernesto Sirolli,
Gary Goldberg highlighted the importance of the industry in
balancing relations between local communities and technical
best practice. As an example, Goldberg used Rio Tintos
experience in developing its potash deposit in Argentina
Potasio Rio Colorado, in Mendoza, central Argentina (recently
sold to Vale, see IM March 09, p.7).
RTM had to shift a by-product salt stockpile away from its
close proximity to a river owing to local concern over the
potential impact of the salt on the salinity of the river.
Although Goldberg assured that there was no technical problem
attributed to the stockpiles presence, RTM deemed the
somewhat costly move worth making in order to allay the local
Goldberg went on to comment on how industrial mineral
products were good for the environment and our [mining]
business and that the industry should get this
message out to the public.
This sentiment very much echoed that of Efthimios Vidalis,
chief executive officer, S&B Industrial Minerals SA, in his
presentation Challenges & opportunities, at the
18th Industrial Minerals International Congress
& Exhibition, 31 March 2008, in Athens.
Vidalis talked about the adverse public perception of the
mining sector The European public is not aware of
the link between the extractive sector and the manufacturing
and construction industry. he said and underlined
a need for its education by the industry.
The SME paper programme comprised several interesting
sessions focusing on aspects of the industrial minerals
The China factor
In the session Impact of China on industrial
minerals topics included fluorspar, barytes, attapulgite,
rare earths, high alumina minerals, and magnesite.
The common denominator was that for all these minerals,
China has imposed export restrictions and this has had a direct
impact on availability and costs for these materials. The
silver lining, if it can be realised, is for western companies
to develop alternative supply sources as soon as possible
Bill Miles, Miles Industrial Mineral
Research, Denver, highlighted how already two new US sources of
barytes were being developed in response to a claimed shortage
of 4.2SG barytes from China.
Rare earths was covered comprehensively in the session
Rare earths Geology, Deposits, and Economic
One of the key issues was the evaluation of new rare earth
deposits to bring in to production over the next few years in
order to meet anticipated increased market demand and reduced
raw material supplies from China. Global demand is expected to
exceed 200,000 tonnes for the first time in 2013.
Projects discussed during the session included the Lemhi
Pass thorium-rare earth district in Idaho and Montana, the Bear
Lodge REE property in Wyoming, the Snake Valley- Deep Creek
Range Region, in Utah, the Nolans Bore REE-P-U-Th deposit, in
Northern Territory, Australia, and supergene REE deposits in
The New Technologies session was dedicated to
innovations in the mineral processing sector.
Presentations covered vibrating equipment monitoring
technology, developments in dry rare earth magnetic separation,
jet milling and dry grinding in the submicron range, and
reducing the toxicity of asbestos.
Mineral processing supplier Outotec (USA) Inc., based in
Jacksonville, Florida, revealed significant rare earth magnetic
separation developments that are claimed to result in superior
performance. Advancement has become necessary in recent years
to address decreasing particle size, maintenance issues, and
detrimental design flaws.
In their paper Significant developments in dry
rare-earth magnetic separation, Misty
Dobbins and Ian Sherrell detailed the
new developments as maintaining the best features of existing
technology while minimising shortcomings.
Outotec (USA) Inc. has also begun development of a hybrid
rare earth dry magnetic separator. This new design does away
with current belts that can incur downtime and high maintenance
costs, and implements a sealed cassette that eliminates the
potential for build up of magnetic dust on the magnet roll.
This session covered a wide range of topics, including
changes in the US and international clay industry, global
regulation, maintaining and proving reserves, encapsulation of
limestone treated waste, microporous ceramic media in bricks,
and the impact of social, commercial, and political issues on
In his paper, In the future maintaining and proving
reserves will be more difficult, Fred
Heivilin, president of HGPS LLC, underlined that the
industry was competing for land use with Endangered
Species, wetlands, farming, forestry, cities, roads, and
hunting and that Weve mined the best quality, low
overburden, easiest to mine and process raw
However, Heivilin suggested that oversights and mistakes in
drilling or interpretation of deposits may be opportunities:
Overburden ratios and other items increasing cut-off
costs need to be rethought. Suddenly doubling cut-off ratios
for overburden and decreasing pit sizes are good alternatives
to looking elsewhere where we might not be able to mine for a
number of reasons.
The final day of the conference covered some very topical
and thought provoking issues in the session entitled
Reducing carbon footprint in industrial minerals,
and included the carbon footprint of kaolin and calcium
carbonate, limestone fines used in CO2 mitigation,
and evaluation and use of ultramafic rocks for CO2
Bob Pruett, of Imerys paper entitled
The carbon footprint and lifecycle analysis of kaolin and
calcium carbonate pigments in paper concluded that
pigments can be used as a means to reduce the overall carbon
footprint of paper products.
He described that this is accomplished by
...displacing virgin fibre and other components that have
higher carbon intensity, by reducing the energy intensity of
manufacturing paper products, and by possibly improving the
efficiency of the printers operation by reducing ink
It was pointed out that hydrous kaolin and GCC have low
carbon footprints when sold in slurry product forms which do
not have the energy intensive processes associated with thermal
The final session focused on industrial minerals and related
issues of the US western states, covering bentonite, asbestos,
admixtures, vermiculite, iodine, and sapphires.
In her paper, Factors influencing use of mineral
admixtures for the past decade in the western US,
Gretchen Hoffman, of the New Mexico Bureau of
Geology and Mineral Resources, reviewed how government
regulations have played a large role in increasing the use of
artificial pozzolans and supplementary cementitious materials
(SCMs) as mineral admixtures blended in cement or concrete. As
well as imparting properties, they also lower energy costs and
However, Hoffman warned that there are still barriers to
mineral admixtures use because of differences in state
regulations and experiences with inconsistent quality and
availability. Hoffman urged specifications to be updated and
As ever the focal point of the SME Industrial Minerals
Divisions activities was the Tuesday luncheon, which had
as its guest speaker, Dr Ian Wilson, providing
us with a most entertaining review of things happening in China
A number of awards were bestowed on division members:
Jessica Kogel, minerals resource development
manager, Imerys was recognised as a Distinguished Member for
her 20 years services to the SME IndMin Division.
The A. Frank Alsobrook Distinguished Service Award went to
Gretchen Hoffman, senior coal geologist,
employed for 28 years at the New Mexico Bureau of Geology &
Fred Heivilin, president of HGPS LLC,
received the Robert W. Piekarz Award, and Paula
Alves, production engineer, Imerys North American
Ceramics, received the Young Scientist Award.
The recipient of this years Hal Williams Hardinge
Award was Ian Wilson, industrial minerals
consultant, UK, for outstanding contributions to the body
of knowledge on the geology of industrial minerals,
particularly in the areas of kaolin clay and calcium
Next years event will be held in Phoenix, Arizona, 28
February - 3 March 2010.