Speaker Spotlight: Dr Steve Morrell

15 July 2019

As we approach MetPlant 2019, we will be interviewing our keynote speakers about their upcoming presentations and some key issues in the minerals processing sector.

We recently interviewed Dr Steve Morrell, SMC Testing on his upcoming presentation at MetPlant 2019 and his views on the industry.  Dr Steve Morrell is a mineral processing engineer with over 35 years of specialist experience in the resources industry.
Read more on Steve Morrell.

Just how important is it for a successful comminution program to select the most appropriate ore characterisation Tests?

It is critical. In the same way that if you needed appropriate footwear for working on a mine site you would select a good quality safety boot (not bedroom slippers), you need to select ore characterisation tests that are fit for purpose. This means selecting tests whose results have been proven to closely correlate with the observed performance of the associated comminution machines/circuits.

When planning the undertaking of an ore comminution characterisation program what are the most common questions that are initially considered?

In my experience there are three principal ones which I will go into detail in during my keynote presentation:

  1. Which tests(s)?
  2. How many samples do I need to test?
  3. How much will it cost?

Unfortunately, the answer to question 3 can often be the main driver and may dictate the final choice of test and the number of samples, regardless of the correct answers to the first 2 questions.

At MetPlant 2017, Dean David gave a keynote postulating that yourself and Fred Bond would have been mates if your professional paths had crossed. Do you agree?

I would like to think so.  I have a great deal of respect for the work that Fred Bond did.  He pioneered laboratory ore characterisation for comminution purposes and for the first time integrated it into a practical approach to sizing/selecting comminution machines through the use of power-based equations.  I have unashamedly followed his general philosophy.

However, that does not mean I think that everything he did was correct or necessarily applies to the comminution machines and circuits that we have today.  As Dean pointed out, Bond himself acknowledged these possibilities and concluded that Bond “foresaw that his -0.5 exponent was not perfect and that the only obstacle to using a variable exponent was the physical and mathematical work necessary to develop the concept further.”

All I have tried to do is put in the work necessary to try and find what the variable exponent might be and at the same time develop ore characterisation tests that are more relevant to some of the more popular comminution machines of today such as AG/SAG mills and HPGRs.

What are you most looking forward to at MetPlant 2019?

I have been semi-retired (with the emphasis on “retired”) for a few years now and realise I have lost touch with a lot that has been going on in our industry.

MetPlant focuses on best practice in plant design and operations, which have always been most dear to my professional heart I am looking forward to hearing about the latest developments in these fields, plus catching up with old colleagues (who haven’t fully retired!) and hopefully meeting some new, younger professionals.

What is the key message you would you like to provide to MetPlant delegates? Is it the same for the early career professionals when compared to the “more seasoned” ones?

It may sound pompous, though it is not meant to be, but the message is to always try and find the time for “due diligence”. That is not to imply that today’s professionals are not diligent but “due diligence” is about fully appraising and understanding what it is you are involved in. It is only then that you can make an informed decision.

I suspect the challenge for professionals is to find that time, as we are in an industry that has progressively and aggressively denuded its technical departments of staff (or disbanded such departments altogether) leaving those professionals who remain with increasingly little time to ponder important technical questions.

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