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Mining in the Future: Sustaining Humanity in an Acceptable Manner

January 12, 2004 — “Mining in the Future: Sustaining Humanity in an Acceptable Manner,” is the topic of a Friday Jan. 16 lecture at the University of Utah by Robin J. Batterham, chief scientist for the Australian Government and chief technologist for Rio Tinto Limited, the company that owns Kennecott Utah Copper.

Batterham’s lecture is scheduled at 7:30 p.m. in Room 102 of the Engineering and Mines Classroom Bldg. It is the latest Distinguished Lecture sponsored by the university’s College of Mines & Earth Sciences. A 6:30 p.m. reception will precede the lecture, which is open to the public.

Below is abstract of Batterham’s lecture:

Since the 1970s there has been an increasing corporate response on environmental matters. In part this has come from regulation, but it has largely come from stakeholders and the community. Rising expectations have in general been met. We now see a similar trend towards sustainability. At the same time, the importance of mining to the share market has decreased drastically, and with that decrease has come the requirement for the mining sector to show returns similar in manner to other sectors. While rationalization can achieve some progress toward these goals, the long-term requirement is for innovation, as it always has been. This lecture looks to the logical goal of innovation within a sustainable mining framework and targets the removal of the desired metal values with minimal environmental footprint. It is suggested that broad-ranging alliances will be necessary, particularly amongst the research-and-development suppliers, to achieve this goal. Industry will need to take an active role given the recent global restructuring.

About the speaker:

Batterham is chief technologist, Rio Tinto Limited, and serves as chief scientist for the Australian Government. He has had a distinguished career in research and technology, in both the public and private sectors.

After completing his Ph.D. at Melbourne University in 1969, he worked with CSIRO — Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization — progressing to the position of chief of the division of mineral and process engineering in 1985. From 1988, Batterham has held senior positions in Technology Development with CRA Limited, now Rio Tinto Limited. During this time, he developed a processing route for what is now recognized as the world’s largest economic zinc mineralization. Batterham is credited with a major role in the HIsmelt process, a $650 million project to develop a novel direct smelting technology for ironmaking that is adding potential value of about $20 billion.

Batterham, who is a fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, serves as chief scientist for the Australian government. His government appointments include membership in the Australian Research Council, the Advisory Panel of the Australian Institute for Commercialization, the Cooperative Research Centers Committee, and the Science Prizes Committee. He has lectured in higher education institutions in Australia and overseas, has been a member of a number of major reviews of higher education and government research organizations, and has produced nearly 200 papers, publications and patents. He was editor for 12 years of the International Journal of Applied Mathematical Modelling and is a recipient of the Kernot medal from Melbourne University.

According to Rio Tinto’s web site:

“Rio Tinto owns 100 per cent of Kennecott Utah Copper (KUC) which operates the Bingham Canyon mine, Copperton concentrator and Garfield smelter complex near Salt Lake City. Its Bingham Canyon copper mine is one of the largest and longest-running mines in the world, it operates state-of-the-art smelting/refining facilities recognized as the world’s best for environmental protection practice and achievement, employing about 1,400 people. Large scale underground mining is expected to extend the mine’s life by 15 years after open pit reserves are exhausted around 2013. KUC supplies more than 10 percent of United States refined copper requirements and is the third largest copper producer in the U.S. Substantial amounts of gold, silver and molybdenum are produced as by-products. “