Latest CEEC video insights from Medal winner Dr Grant Ballantyne and industry leaders Zimi Meka and Professor Neville Plint

CEEC is pleased to release our latest free video interviews with industry leaders, launched as part of CEEC’s 10-year celebrations by CEEC CEO Alison Keogh in June.

This issue we bring you new insights of cutting-edge work from business and thought leaders, who talk about award winning work and leading change for energy and emissions reduction and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) improvements, with a focus on comminution, ancillary equipment and innovations in circuit design.

What factors help senior leaders decide on new plant designs, or invest in innovative approaches with impact? Don’t miss out on these insightful conversations with leaders on the occasion of the awarding of the prestigious 2020 CEEC Medal for Technical Research to Dr Grant Ballantyne, Director, Technical Solutions at Ausenco (formerly JKMRC). CEEC presents Dr Ballantyne with his Medal, and interviews Dr Ballantyne and Zimi Meka, Founding Director and CEO of Ausenco, and Professor Neville Plint, Director of the Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI) at the University of Queensland.

With some great insights shared on the industry and innovation, CEEC CEO Alison Keogh noted: “Tap into these free interviews which are a part of CEEC’s growing series of free webinars, videos and podcasts that help industry collaborate and communicate ways to reduce the footprint of mining. We discuss how we can operate and design processing plants and comminution to significantly reduce energy, emissions and water impacts, and drive substantial improvements towards ESG actions. Partnerships between miners and mining equipment, technology, and services (METS) companies are key, but so is how we approach the cost and decision-making process, empower our people to share and test innovative ideas, and involve our communities. And it makes business sense. Not only to derisk and address community and investor needs, but also to find the many opportunities for cost and value improvement while we all strive towards better and lower footprint outcomes for future minerals.”

Joe Pease interviews Zimi Meka – link to watch here

Zimi Meka offered a leader’s perspective on how industry can collaborate on important ESG improvements for investors in an interview with CEEC Director Joe Pease. He noted that there are good options for leaders, both within companies and through organizations such as CEEC, to work together to solve critical whole-of-industry challenges such as in energy, emissions and water impact.

Some of the topics included:

  • Collaborating to accelerate decarbonization and ESG goals

Mr Meka said that the industry needs to get better at collaboration around ESG goals. “We have to learn how to better operate in the whole environmental social governance space,” he said. “I think companies are still grappling with what that actually means. I think we're spending a lot of time around carbon footprint, which is only a small aspect of that whole concept. You can have the smallest carbon footprint, but if you haven't got good environmental stewardship of your operation or good social stewardship or good governance at the top, so what that you’ve got a small carbon footprint?

“I think we've got a lot of challenges... If we can collaborate as an industry, we're going to be better off as a result.”

  • Future Comminution and Processing – Energy, Water and Overcoming challenges

Mr Meka emphasized that mineral processing and comminution is key, and he discussed the opportunities to take Dr Ballantyne’s work forward, and technology options such as high-pressure grinding rolls (HPGR), coarse flotation and earlier waste separation for processing plants.

He talked about leading change and overcoming barriers to adoption, CEEC’s role, and how to support innovative ideas and work culture to enable these changes.

“I’m really quite encouraged around what we’re looking at in the future,” he said, noting that it’s not just grinding circuits that can be improved by collaboration, but also other areas of processing such as coarse particle flotation, or even dry stack tailings in order to improve water recovery.

“Water is another big aspect of this, of course – it’s just not the grinding circuits,” he said. “I think that’s a really important area that’s going to help from a water recovery, but also from a dam stability perspective.”

  • Plant Design – Frame NPV goals first to enable win-win results

He also noted that the way we approach the design of plants, from an engineering design view, makes a big difference. “Our approach is a little different,” he said. “Our approach is – what NPV [net present value] and what financial and economic benefits do you need in order for your project to actually happen? And we work back from that.”

Doing the financial model first allows you to estimate what you need from a financial perspective for the project to happen, and then you can look at key outcomes and work out the best approach to achieve this. He explained: “We encourage people to get to the answer first and then work backwards.”

This way, we can increase NPV and substantially reduce carbon footprint to address net zero investors and financiers needs.

  • Leading Change – Key changes coming to mines and plants of the future

“Over the last three to five years, the industry has been focusing on analytics,” he said. “In the meantime, grades have been falling and the cost of energy has been increasing. I think now is the time for us to really have a good hard look at ore sorting upgrading, and improving how we can grind our material, how we can then separate it in flotation and how we can store and stack it.

“The savings that we will get if we do this properly will be 10s of percent, not at the margins. Then of course you've got the whole carbon footprint piece, which everyone's looking at and trying to improve. I think that's really ultra-important.”

  • Why adapt and lead change – and collaborate through CEEC?

Mr Meka said that the industry needs to focus on how to extract the best economic outcome, which may not necessarily be the high recovery, but with the lowest energy and water usage. He noted that financiers and investors are demanding change in this area.

He added: “I'm glad that there are organizations like CEEC that have that emphasis, and we're starting to see clients have that emphasis as well.”

Alison Keogh interviews Professor Neville Plint – link to watch here

Professor Neville Plint brought some visionary and unique ideas about how we can learn from success together in an interview with CEEC CEO Alison Keogh, and said it is important to actively listen to what communities want before we plan our approach – in other words, to put ourselves in others’ shoes before making key decisions.

He brought truly insightful views on ESG, the major challenges in mining and its footprint, and why across-industry collaboration including through CEEC is critical to get breakthrough ideas to reduce energy, emissions, water and tailings footprint.

Some discussion points included:

  • Medal winning work – collaborate and partner to accelerate actions, build learnings

Professor Plint noted that Dr Ballantyne’s CEEC Medal-winning work has focused on where the most energy is used in the value chain. “Arguably, it’s comminution,” he said. “So how efficiently do we use that energy? That’s a great question to ask. I think a lot of people have published work on how efficient the breakage process is, and the numbers are staggeringly low.

“The question is – if we are very low in that space, how do we improve it, but also how do we compare across the industry? Now, that's where the CEEC work is just brilliant.”

Professor Plint explained that it’s important for researchers to partner with industry to solve big challenges, and CEEC’s work brings the sector together to find the benchmark of an efficient operation. This information can be used to identify what those operations are doing well and what we can learn from that success, and then we can use that information as a basis to shift the whole industry towards greater efficiency.

Ms Keogh agreed: “If you make things more efficient, more productive and more sustainable, that's a win-win for the mining leaders to invest in those changes, to share best practice to benchmark and then to implement that change faster through collaboration.”

  • Mining and Processing – what will the future look like?

Professor Plint also talked about what will mining and processing will look like in the future, and the big changes he sees emerging. In the near term – the next five years – he sees the digital automation drive gaining momentum. “It's going to get more and more sophisticated, and that is going really fast,” he said. “We will see the connectivity across value chain, that optimization.”

He noted that while there will be overall productivity improvement, the companies that don’t implement digital automation technology will be at risk of falling behind.

He added that automation has enabled advances such as miniaturization, selective processing and value chain optimization. He said: “We’ve seen that work coming through from CRC ORE, and I think Hatch is picking up on the great engineering, I think we’re going to see some big efficiency gains from that.”

In the longer term, he sees automation enabling technologies around biological systems. “We’ve seen in other sectors that researching biomimicry and in the biological research is moving ahead really fast,” he said. “I don't think one should underestimate the leaps and advances that have been made because of COVID. These technologies and this capability really do supercharge that biotechnology space, so I would be expecting to see in-situ processes coming through.”

He added that we also could start seeing more technologies such as biomimicry being used in the industry. “It will go to zero footprint,” he said. “We're going to have to think about only extracting what we need to be able to supply this technology's transformation.”

Joe Pease interviews Dr Grant Ballantyne – link to watch here

CEEC Director Joe Pease interviewed Dr Grant Ballantyne about the 2020 CEEC Medal for Technical Research he won for the paper ‘Quantifying the Additional Energy Consumed by Ancillary Equipment and Embodied in Grinding Media in Comminution Circuits’.

Dr Ballantyne shared his thoughts on why crushing and grinding technology is important to reduce mining’s footprint. He explained that there is a lot of electrical energy consumed by a mill, and that design and operating decisions should also consider energy use from embodied and ancillary equipment.

Key insights included:

  • Winning Work – Planning the best plants: Embodied Energy and Ancillary Equipment

His winning paper includes embodied energy in grinding media such as the steel balls used within processing plants. “The paper really builds on a lot of the work that I've done in the past on the comminution Energy Curves,” he said. “The Energy Curves were based on the electrical energy that the mills consumed in the breakage of rock. [The paper] adds to that the embodied energy of the grinding media that's consumed in the grinding process.

“Obviously, to get that steel grinding media into the mill, it needed to have been mined, it needed to have been smelted, cast, and then transported to site before it's consumed. There's a lot of energy that goes into that media before it is consumed in the mill.”

The paper also examined the ancillary equipment, such as conveyors used in lower footprint HPGRs, to give a better view of energy use and best practice design at a mine site.

“I really wanted to look wider than just the electrical energy of the mills, and look at the additional energy consumers of the circuit,” he said. “I think it's really important to take those into account when designing an energy efficient mill.”

  • Winning Work – Benchmarking and understanding energy footprint to improve

Dr Ballantyne noted that it’s important to be able to truly compare and benchmark when making decisions to improve energy or emissions, as his new work found that ancillary equipment can add a lot of extra energy to a typical mine site mill.

“They can be vastly different for different circuit configurations and designs,” he said. “We found that they can add between 30% and 50% on top of the electrical energy that the mills actually consume in electrical energy, so very significant.”

However, there are also good ways to reduce the media energy consumption, and to change the design of our processing circuits to reduce the energy used in conveying and pumping. He showed this by using CEEC Energy Curves, which help to visualize and communicate options to a much wider audience and get greater support to invest in the best ideas

He also talked about how industry can meet the challenges to reduce energy and emissions, and why support for new ideas, research and approaches including young engineers is important. Energy Curves can bring together data from operating sites and present them in a confidential, anonymized way in a cost curves format to compare mines and demonstrate energy and emissions improvements. This helps industry communicate and collaborate, and to invest in good changes.

  • Water Usage and Dry Processing – A critical need, important opportunities

Another topic of discussion was water usage in mining, and why Water Curves will be important for industry to share not only ways to reduce water footprint but also tailings. 

“We've done this process of Energy Curves for comminution energy,” he said. “But comminution doesn't just consume energy, it consumes water, and it also generates the fines that lock up the water in the tailings dams. I think there should be some momentum towards pulling together this information into a Water Curve, and I think there's some work in the background that's been pushing that forward. I'd love to see that gain more traction in the industry.”

Looking to the future, Dr Ballantyne thinks that in comminution we will see more effective ways to operate SAG and ball mills as well as new technologies, specifically dry, fine crushing. He added that coarse particle flotation is key, noting that there are a lot of companies developing new equipment at the moment in this area. He also mentioned preconcentration at coarse sizes, as well as tailings that can be simply, cheaply dewatered and stably dry stacked.

“We can reduce energy by 50%, we can reduce water by 50%, we can reduce tailings by 50% combining with some other things,” he said. “But we've done projects where we've looked at that. So substantial [reductions], and I think we can do it now. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”

Presentation of Medal by senior industry leaders to Dr Grant Ballantyne – link to watch here

Industry leaders assembled to be a part of the prestigious 2020 CEEC Medal presentation to Dr Grant Ballantyne. Hear what they had to say about this innovative work.

Dr Zeljka Pokrajcic introduced what the CEEC Medal is about, noting that 2020 Medal nominations reflected some key industry trends – to install renewables, tackle embodied energy and emissions, and actions to embrace emerging technologies such as preconcentration, ore sorting and coarse particle flotation. She said the two winning papers were standout contributions with potential to really improve ESG.

CEEC CEO Alison Keogh acknowledged First Nations people and talked about what the Medal allows us to do as an industry to help sites and companies reduce their environmental footprint and decarbonize.

Joe Pease introduced the winning work and highlighted how it brings important insights to help miners make informed decisions about the energy consumption of comminution circuits.

Dr Grant Ballantyne thanked CEEC, the JKMRC at the University of Queensland and Ausenco which enabled the work and publication of the winning work, as well as key collaborators including Chris Greet from Magotteaux, Malcolm Powell and Greg Lane who provided data on grinding media, overview and insights.

Fellow CEEC Directors Joe Pease and Greg Lane and Professor Neville Plint of UQ SMI and Zimi Meka of Ausenco congratulated Dr Ballantyne and shared their views on the presentation of the Medal.

Joe Pease talked about how Dr Ballantyne’s work instigated the Energy Curves and how his work was an important contribution to build on the tools. Professor Neville Plint acknowledged First Nations, and thanked CEEC and Ausenco for long-term contributions to eco-efficient comminution.

Ausenco MD and CEO Zimi Meka acknowledged the great work of CEEC, and congratulated Dr Grant Ballantyne on his winning work and his ongoing valued ideas as a part of Ausenco’s team, including Greg Lane.

CEEC CEO Alison Keogh said it is an honour to be involved in the CEEC initiative and Medal process, which shines a spotlight on the exciting work done by many people across the world to reduce mining’s footprint. She made a special mention to all of CEEC’s sponsors which enables its role and the award to be presented each year, and ensure industry can share outstanding and best practice advances. She said this helps industry communicate, collaborate and celebrate demonstrated advances and innovative research with a focus on comminution and processing.

Ms Keogh highlighted that sharing new thinking helps industry reduce its energy, water and emissions footprint – because when we share best practice and advances and tools, we learn from each other and also forge new collaborations to act faster. She said this can make a real difference on the ground to ESG actions, and invited everyone to share their ideas, articles and Medal nominations [insert LINK to Medal nominations story] via CEEC, as well as new CEEC sponsors to support CEEC’s continued work.

In closing, she thanked company leaders for supporting their people to publish, to benefit all of industry and accelerate their efforts to reduce footprint.

Future videos and webinars

Thank you to CEEC sponsor Ausenco, which provided the venue and technical support for these insightful leaders’ discussions, which also enabled the presentation of the 2020 CEEC Medal for Technical Research and leader involvement during pandemic restrictions.

If you have a great idea for a future CEEC video or webinar, including topic, leader or speaker suggestions, or would like to share some exciting work, we warmly welcome you to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..