The Northern Miner recently published an excellent article by Nathan Stubina, Managing Director of McEwen Mining.
Titled "Is mining innovation an oxymoron?", Stubina makes many pertinent remarks, reproduced here with the kind permission of The Northern Miner.
"....Many people use the words “innovation” and “research” interchangeably, but in reality, there is a world of difference between these two concepts. As Will Westgate of 3M has said: “Research is the transformation of money into knowledge, and innovation and imagination are the transformation of knowledge into money.”"
".....It is fascinating how complacent our industry can be, even when faced with serious issues. For example, it has been estimated that comminution consumes up to 3% of all the electric power generated in the world: enough to power Germany! At minesites, communition consumes about 50% of the energy used; it is unarguably a major cost component. Yet, grinding in conventional ball mills is terribly inefficient, perhaps only 1-5% in fundamental terms. Can you think of many industries that are using a technology that is over 100 years old and at most, 5% efficient? Now there has been some innovation over the years, such as the move from single drives to twin drives to gearless units. Ball mills have certainly gotten bigger, from less than 2 metres to over 12 metres, but they are still a fundamentally inefficient piece of equipment. Several industrial consortia, such as the Coalition for Energy Efficient Comminution (CEEC) and the Canadian Mining Innovation Council (CMIC) are starting to benchmark grinding circuits in terms of energy consumption and trying to identify alternative technologies. One such technology, SelFrag out of Switzerland, uses electric pulse disaggregation (EPD) that allows liberation or weakening along natural grain boundaries. This technique, which has many advantages in terms of cost and metallurgical performance, has been adopted by other industries, but has not really caught on with the mining sector. A 2011 survey of 100 mining executives showed that two-thirds of respondents felt that a 25% reduction in energy usage would be a realistic target over the next 50 years. A further 14% felt that a 50% reduction was possible. Without proper funding and research efforts, these types of targets will be extremely difficult to attain."