Geology & GeoMetallurgy

Geology & GeoMetallurgy 2017-04-04T06:58:01+00:00
  • To participate in the 911Metallurgist Forums, be sure to JOINLOGIN
  • Use Add New Topic to ask a New Question/Discussion about Geology and Geometallurgy.
  • OR Select a Topic that Interests you.
  • Use Add Reply = to Reply/Participate in a Topic/Discussion (most frequent).
    Using Add Reply allows you to Attach Images or PDF files and provide a more complete input.
  • Use Add Comment = to comment on someone else’s Reply in an already active Topic/Discussion.

How Geometallurgy was Born: Genesis and History (16 replies and 2 comments)

John Koenig
2 years ago
John Koenig 2 years ago

I am trying to compile a brief history/genesis of geometallurgy from conception to present day. Does anyone know who first coined the term "Geometallurgy"? Which commodities, other than thermal coal, were employing "geometallurgical" concepts prior to the term being coined? The reason that I have excluded coal is that I am aware of the use of washability data in coal estimation, but am uncertain when this was implemented (early last century?). I suspect (or rather know) that the principles have been around for a lot longer than the term "Geometallurgy", hence my question. If anyone knows of literature that may assist me in demystifying the history of geometallurgy, I would be most appreciative.

Maya Rothman
2 years ago
Maya Rothman 2 years ago

I guess it depends on what you mean by Geometallurgy.

I would say that, for the whole of my career as a mining engineer involved largely with base and precious metals, what are now called "geometallurgical" concepts have been universally applied, within the constraints of the technology of the time. Intelligent mine planners (in the broadest sense of the term) have always been accounting for the effects of, for example, mineralogy or ore type or whatever on such things as processing rates, recovery, etc, and hence value, planning to mine the best value material rather than the highest grade material, sooner rather than later, but again given all the relevant planning and scheduling etc constraints.

The current focus on geometallurgy, engendered by the use of the term, conferences focussed on it, and so on, is nevertheless very welcome, because its importance hasn't always been recognised or appreciated across the industry as a whole. As a mining engineer working in long-term planning and strategy optimisation, I now don't get looked at with a bemused or dumbfounded expression when I ask geologists and metallurgists for geomet info for input into studies!

1 year ago

hello, I'm interested in study a master of geometallurgy, maybe you could recommend a University.

Paul Morrow
1 year ago
Victor Bergman
2 years ago
Victor Bergman 2 years ago

Not sure where it all started, however the following initiatives are worthy of investigation: Minnovex SPI based CEET and the JK/AMIRA mine to mill project.

You might be interested to know that in Russia we have some experience in the field of evaluation of deposits with a large number of small samples. This Russian analogue of geometallurgy we call "geo-technological mapping". The first works were carried out just after the Second World War.

I am not sure it is a valid question to try and identify who was doing Geometallurgy prior to the word being coined - but some history buffs can do their best. I fully agree with comment that the word GeoMetallurgy is not clearly defined enough. I certainly am aware Minnovex (now part of SGS) were strong advocates of Geometallurgy

I don't consider the JK/AMIRA/JKTech Mine to Mill Project as Geometallurgy because it has a very defined scope that is not broad enough to be considered Geometallurgy.

John Koenig
2 years ago
John Koenig 2 years ago

Thanks again to all those that have commented. You have been a tremendous help.

I was not aware of the Russian terminology, but will definitely follow up on your recommendation. Thank you.

I agree. The definition is rather ambiguous. What I have decided to do, based on the SGS website definition of geometallurgy (which I think incoprorates most, if not all of the components of geometallurgy),:

"Geometallurgy is the integration of geological, mining, metallurgical, environmental and economic information to maximize the Net Present Value (NPV) of an orebody while minimizing technical and operational risk."

To break the history down into categories - i.e. the origins of mining, the origins of extractive metallurgy, the introduction of geostatistics, the use of the supercomputing in geological estimation, the origins of the use of geotechnical and geometallurgical concepts in geological estimation and mine planning, and advances in process (autimated) mineralogy.

If you can think of any others, please feel free to comment.

The "coining" of the term was, in my opinion, the formalisation of the field of "Geometallurgy". Unfortunately, much confusion has subsequently arisen due to varying definitions. Geometallurgy is, I feel, an enabler in the bridging of multidisciplinary silos. It is, for this reason, not an easy term to define in a concise manner.

Victor Bergman
2 years ago
Victor Bergman 2 years ago

What I find particularly interesting about the compound words:

Geometallurgy and Geostatistics.

is that the meaning of the prefix 'Geo' is not the same.

  • In Geometallurgy , I suspect Geo means Geology.
  • In Geostatistics, Geo means spatial (as in geography, rather than Geology).
2 years ago
JohnnyD 2 years ago

Oh dear. I really don't want to drive this discussion into a bunfight about what geometallurgy is and is not, but I can't let the SGS definition that Wendy quotes go unchallenged!  It says: "Geometallurgy is the integration of [in effect, all relevant] information to maximize the Net Present Value "

I would say that's the definition of "Strategic Optimization" or some similar term, and that Geometallurgy is a narrower technical field that is primarily concerned with identifying, quantifying, estimating, etc, physical properties of rock and their effects on metallurgical outcomes (such as recovery, treatment rate, product quality etc etc.). Note that that's intended to be a generic, indicative type of definition for discussion, not my decree of what "The Definition" is. It's the understanding implicit in my original comment that geometallurgy has been happening in the industry for as long as I've been part of it.

We've always accounted for grade and rock strength, for example, in designing and scheduling mines and predicting product volume and quality, and hence revenues, costs, and so on. So now we're adding in other properties like mineral textures and grappling with how we quantify them, estimate their values at various locations in the rock mass when estimation techniques that work well for grades don't work with these; and then trying to work out how we model their non-linearly-additive effects when we schedule a particular blend of feed to the mill, and so on.

So the field of geometallurgy is expanding to quantify the impact of things we used not (quantitatively, at least) take account of, but it does not, by my understanding, absorb other technical fields (geological, geotechnical, mining, environmental, economic, etc etc) that were and still are accounted for within the overall planning process that pulls all relevant and available information together to develop a "Mine Plan" (in the broadest sense of that term). It is not itself the integration of everything, as the SGS definition says.

And just in passing, nice as it might be to think so, very few mines are really planned to maximize NPV! But that's a whole different discussion, way beyond the scope of this one.
However, all the inputs described above, including geometallurgy according to my more-limited concept of it, will nevertheless be used to develop whatever mine plan is developed. As in everything, the ways in which they are applied may be good or not-so-good, and the resulting mine plan may or may not deliver the corporate goals, but again, that's a separate issue from the genesis.

John Koenig
2 years ago
John Koenig 2 years ago

Yes, the name is definitely ambiguous  As it stands, geometallurgy only implies two of the required disciplines; geology and metallurgy (spacial distribution of metallurgical and mineralogical parameters). I have often wondered why mining has been omitted. Shouldn't it possibly be "geometallurgical mining" or "mining geometallurgy". One of my colleagues referred to it as geominmet the other day.

Brian, having just completed a draft compilation of a summarised chronology for geometallurgy, I have to agree with you...many operations have been using "geometallurgical" principles for decades. When I started this discussion, I was trying to source literature on the subject. Since the first recorded use of the term commenced in the 1990's, this has proven rather difficult. I thus utilised the most comprehensive "definition" (no formal one appears to exist) that I could find - one that incorporates the various disciplines (geology (and mineralogy), mining (mine planning and scheduling) and metallurgy) associated with geometallurgical practices, and worked backwards. And yes, quite evidentally, geometallurgy does not absorb other technical fields, but it does require input from the disciplines mentioned above, as well as act as an enabler in the bridging of disciplinary silos.

Anyway, yet again thank you for all of your interesting contributions. I suspect that this type of a discussion can become rather philosophical, which was not my aim. As mentioned earlier, I was mearly trying to source literature on the subject. If you know of any other useful references on the subject, I would be most appreciative if you would share them.

2 years ago
JohnnyD 2 years ago

I don't have references to the use of the term "geometallurgy", so I'll butt out now to avoid going any further down the philosophical track. Our company uses the term "GeoMinMet", which we see as putting Mining back into Geometallurgy! We say we've always done it, before there was a buzzword, but if we have to have a buzzword

If you want some early references to geometallurgy before the term was used, try De Re Metallica. The introductory paragraphs of Books I and VIII, for instance, could be interpreted as a recognition of the importance of it!

I wish you every success with the task you've set yourself and look forward to seeing a paper some time in the future.

Alan Carter
2 years ago
Alan Carter 2 years ago

As far as the definition goes using the information to maximize the NPV - as far as I know it has not been done anywhere though it would be definitely desirable . As a Mineralogist who has worked at senior levels of mining and mineral processing it has been my experience that all disciplines geologist who are mostly field type , mining engineers and metallurgists do / did not have a common language as geologist will talk in qualitative terms and the others in some quantifiable metrics , so GeoMetallurgy is filling that gap

"Geometallurgy is the integration of geological, mining, metallurgical, environmental and economic information to maximize the Net Present Value (NPV) of an orebody while minimizing technical and operational risk."

Bill Fraser
2 years ago
Bill Fraser 2 years ago

A few years ago a couple of colleagues & myself took a look into the history of geometallurgy. As Brian notes, the concept goes back to Agricola (if not further) and emphasized in the inaugural volume of the journal Economic Geology in 1906. The earliest mention of the word geometallurgy came from Dr A Sutulov in 1971 from the University of Concepcion with the "purpose of geometallurgy is essentially to develop means of recovering mineral values through ecologically accepted means". Quite a broad definition but I'll also avoid the debate around the definition.

Quite a number of "older" geologists and mineral processes have commented to me that geometallurgy is a fancy name for the integration that was often done on sites between various people. The main difference I see is rather than being tacit knowledge tied to individuals modern geomet is trying to be more quantitative and systemic.

Anyway if you are interested I can send you our paper from Geomet 2011 'Geometallurgy - Back to the Future'.

David Kano
2 years ago
David Kano 2 years ago

Yes, there is numerous definition of Geomet (allergy) but I think it should be defined in terms that field people would understand, agree and use. I have just realized that NPV is rather used when developing a mine project but once in operation, that term is not used anymore - or at least, not at the processing plant. Once in operation, it is used to maximize profitability obtained by higher throughput, higher recoveries or combination of both. It might not be technical but that is reality. Operations in Chile and few in Canada are using geomet for that purpose. However, I have always worked with field people and I don't know if the upper management or the mine planners are using NPV once in operation.

Don McKee wrote a publication for CRC Ore that looks at a history of Mine to Mill that might be a useful reference for you. "Understanding Mine to Mill" See the link here.

Bob Mathias
2 years ago
Bob Mathias 2 years ago

I understand the definition of Geometallurgy as " All related studies confined to mineral, mine and metal" e.g., Exploration, ore reserves calculations, grade, dilution, exploitation/depletion, stopping, process mineralogy, characterization of ore , mineral processing and sisters studies, calcine studies and quality assessment of finished metals.

I would suggest you reference some mineralogy text that will help you. Stanton in "Ore Petrology", 1972, lays out out a very good history of "Ore" petrology starting with Agricola (1546), as John Jackson refers to earlier in this post, and finishing in the 20th century. Also Ramdohr, "The Ore Minerals and Their Intergrowths", 1969 might be helpful as this is the "Bible" of ore mineralogy and the basis for many of the identifications and descriptions that are done both optically and by those setting up automated SEM's. Ramdohr felt that this knowledge of ore minerals and their textures, would then be built upon again and that it would be possible to "draw further conclusions that will serve technology and industry".

THANKS for suggesting the link to CRC which is an excellent publication. Acknowledging the contribution of Stanton and Ramdohr , though Stanton `emphasis was more on ore petrology as a tool for deciphering ore genesis, Ramdohr captured the essence of different ore textures , I especially remember the word Durschbegweng used to describe cataclysmic texture coined by him which is found in most of the complex sulfide textures and is a pointer to difficulty of liberation of that particular type of ore

Bill Fraser
2 years ago
Bill Fraser 2 years ago

I have a friend/colleague called Rocqui from Brazil. Sergio probably knows him. He told me of this earlier realization in their domain that resources are never a stand-alone thing. This realization is now well entrenched in their university curricula. All metallurgists, geologists, mining engineers, mining finance evaluators, etc are all groomed from the same pot and only specialize in their last two years of college. Many other institutions do the same albeit to different levels. All this is in a effort to breed the perfect geometallurgist for our resources world.

When eventually we are able to explain it and tell its full story, geometallurgy might have to be renamed!

About references: On page 80 in the SME-book "Recent Advances in Mineral Processing Plant Design" by Malhotra et al. from 2009 (ISBN 978-0-87335-316-8), it is a reference to McQuiston and Bechaud (1968). In their publication "Metallurgical sampling and testing" (in Pfeider, E.P., ed, Surface Mining. New York: The American Inst of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, p 103-121), they apparently coin the term "Geometallurgy". The McQuiston and Bechaud publication should be available on OneMine, but I haven't been able to download it with my AusIMM-membership.

I finally managed to get my hands on the McQuiston and Bechaud publication from 1968. Although they talk a lot about the importance of linking geology with metallurgical perfomance, I haven't been able to find that they use of the term "geometallurgy".

The following is clipped from McQuiston and Bechaud (1968, see above comment for reference): "In contrast to this type of sampling, very little has appeared in the literature on sampling a virgin deposit from the metallurgical point of view. Perhaps it would be more descriptive to designate this point of view as "Geo-metallurgical," since geology is inextricably interwoven with metal­lurgy in gaining an understanding of the complexities of a deposit, eventually leading to a definition of mineable reserves, with the development of a flowsheet and engineering criteria for the planning of a successful and profitable operation"

2 years ago
JohnnyD 2 years ago

The science of linking ore characteristics to its behaviour during mineral processing is obviously not a new one. Without going back to the romans, I would like to draw your attention to the work published by professors of DOCIMASIE in French Mining Schools.
Pierre Berthier (1840), who discovered bauxite, was one of the pioneers. Another one is Rivot who published a book in 1886.
You can find these references in a presentation I made last year to introduce a seminar on Quantitative Mineralogy.

Older textbooks on Applied Mineralogy are also interesting :

Padre Alonso Barba's "El arte de los metales" or Henkel's "Pyrotologia" textbooks are some important landmarks in the understanding of minerals and their link with mineral processing or metallurgy. But the first book that explicitly refers to the expression of Applied Mineralogy is probably the one of C.P. Brard written in 1821 and entitled "Minéralogie Appliquée aux Arts" ou Histoire des minéraux qui sont employés dans l'agriculture, l'économie domestique, la médecine; la fabrication des sels, des combustibles et des métaux; l'architecture et la décoration; la peinture et le dessin; les arts mécaniques; la bijouterie et la joaillerie."

Some references including the Irving (1906), McQuiston & Bechaud (1968), Williams & Richardson (2004), Dobby et al (2006) and others can be found in the SEG Newsletter 73, April 2008, by Hoal.

All these books can be found on Google Books.

Tony Verdeschi
2 years ago
Tony Verdeschi 2 years ago

To my knowledge the first company in Canada (and probably in North America) that developed and employed a methodology anticipating the concept of geometallurgy was Noranda Exploration. Noranda started to systematically apply a geo-metallurgical method back in 1977, following a major mine start-up failure. This method was referred to as “predictive metallurgy” and consisted in mapping a full ore body from a metallurgical point of view, using a semi-quantitative technique of assessing the complexity of mineral interrgrowths (referred to as “middling ratings”). All the major projects of Noranda (base metals and gold) from 1977 on, and some projects of Noranda affiliates were subjected to this approach that involved a multidisciplinary cooperation between at least geologists, metallurgists and mining engineers.

Helena Russell
2 years ago
Helena Russell 2 years ago

I have some other definitions that can clarify some more:

  • "Geometallurgy is the application of material geological and mineralogical characteristics to mineral processing in order to determine the metallurgical properties of those materials. It incorporates the principles of process mineralogy and material characterization as a tool for predictive metallurgy (Henley, 1983; Lane et al., 2008"
  • "Geometallurgy is the study of the drivers of metallurgical response that lie in the geology and mineralogy of the rock that is exploited.” (Steve Williams, Jan 2010)"
  • "Geometallurgy involves the geologically informed selection of a number of test samples to determine metallurgical parameters and the distribution of these parameters through an orebody using an accepted geostatistical technique to support metallurgical process modelling"
  • "Geometallurgy quantifies the variability of the ore deposit in terms of process parameters such as ore hardness, flotation kinetics and leach kinetics and presence of impurities or penalty elements. The data is then applied to the deposit block model or the mine plan, typically through use of geostatistics"
  • "Geometallurgy enable mathematical process models to be used to generate economic parameters such as throughput, grind size, concentrate grade and recovery and return these to the block model".
  • "La Geometalurgia es una disciplina que integra a las ciencias extractivas de minerales, permite identificar y clasificar a los minerales según su comportamiento frente a determinado proceso metalúrgico. Se consigue con ello planificar y dirigir más eficientemente los procesos de valorización de un recurso mineral y su explotación".

Personally, I think geometallurgy has been used from a long time ago, but some day someone, baptized it.

2 years ago
David 2 years ago

I would like to suggest that you search for "geometalurgia" in Spanish, particularly in Chile. By the year 2000 it was in common usage in the Chilean copper industry. I think that the term and practice came out of Chile, or at least the large, continuous low grade deposits of the world.

Metallurgical mapping, variability etc. has always been studied, but geometallurgy as a science only got going when the cost of drilling and testing domains got a lot cheaper than the impact that the testing could have on the domain. For example, if you can only get a couple of meters of intercept from a 300 m drill in a narrow vein mine, and if that sample only represents 2 weeks of production in a small mill, then you are going to take your chances and just push ahead having faith in the structures.

Conversely, if you have a 2 billion tonne copper prophyry, 80,000 t/d mill and a 300 m drill can represent 3 months of mine life, then you are probably going to do more drilling and more testing.

Thus geometallurgy was born. Simpler, faster, cheaper tests followed (SPI, SMC, QemSCAN, etc.). Faster, cheaper and more powerful computers and software joined the game. Miners and geologists started with iso surfaces, geospatial domains and 3D block models. Whittle type software and scheduling software made this information useful.

Please join and login to participate and leave a comment.

BUY Laboratory & Small Plant Process Equipment

We have all the laboratory and plant equipment you need to test or build/operate your plant.

ENTER our Mining Equipment' Store

We Sell EQUIPMENT for all types of Mineral Treatment PROCESSES and Laboratory Testing needs

Have a Mineral Processing QUESTION?

Come in, ask your question

911Metallurgist Community Forums

Talk to other metallurgists and be helped.


We can IMPROVE ALL PLANTS / Mineral Processing Engineering & LABORATORY Ore Testing

911Metallurgy Engineering

Contact us for process engineering, metallurgical investigations, plant optimization, plant troubleshooting, needs. WE “FIX” METALLURGY.