Maelgwyn Mineral Services (MMS) passed a significant anniversary on 31st October 2017. It was on this day in 1997, 20 years previously that the company was incorporated in Wales with the aim of commercialising ideas that the co-founders – Mike Battersby and Dr Rainer Imhof, had in the area of mineral processing. It was a good collaboration of two different minds. Rainer had a background in engineering and R&D with a history of solving industrial problems that led to him being the inventor of many patents. Mike had a degree in Mineral Exploitation from Cardiff University and operational process experience in a range of minerals, together with second degree in Entrepreneurship and Innovation from Swinburne University in Melbourne and then a track record of introducing new technology to the mining industry.
MMS’s first product was the Aachen Reactor (or Aerator as it was initially called). Mike had been thinking about the concept of a method of improving the leaching of gold since the late 1980’s when he was working in the gold extraction industry in Australia. In fact, Rainer had already patented his first design of the forerunner of the Aachen aerator for pneumatic flotation in 1987. Rainer and Mike were then working for the same company and refined the ideas and designs. However, the company they both worked for were not interested in the development and so MMS was formed.
Shortly after the formation, in Wales in 1997, MMS acquired legal ownership of two of Rainer’s other patents relating to pneumatic flotation which allowed the company to also develop flotation technology and particularly pneumatic flotation. From a question Mike asked – “is there anyway we can accelerate the removal of froth from the flotation cell”, Rainer then went away and came up with the concept of the Imhoflot G-Cell.
The G-Cell was granted world-wide patents, MMS won a Smart Wales award for its development and went on to win the top award as the most innovative product to originate from the Smart Wales programme over its 25-year life. More importantly the G-Cell, together with its co pneumatic flotation products – the Imhoflot V-Cell and H-Cell, went on to gain a successful track record in industrial operations worldwide. With the nature of the industry being dominated by a small number of very large multi-national companies market entry was difficult and the initial success of Imhoflot was in niche applications. Particularly in potash, coal flotation and the reverse flotation process for the removal of silicate impurities from iron ore concentrates. Following on from this, the technology has gained an acceptance in the whole range of applications from gold sulphides, base metals, molybdenum and industrial and battery minerals.
Out of the initial use of the Aachen Reactor the company has developed a number of successful processes involved with the extraction of gold. The patented Leachox process, where the Aachen Reactors are combined with ultra-fine grinding has a number of successful applications. As has the Aachen Assisted Leach (AAL) process. For the destruction of cyanide after leaching is complete MMS developed the patented MMS CN-D Process that utilises the Aachen Reactor together with eH and pH modification to reduce weak acid dissociable (WAD) cyanide to levels acceptable by the International Cyanide Code. Further to this Aachen’s have also been retrofitted to other cyanide destruction methods, namely the Air/SO2 process to reduce cyanide levels to extremely low tenors.
All this technology has been particularly successful in African operations where many mines are using the various combinations, under licence from Maelgwyn Mineral Services Africa Pty Ltd to improve their recovery, process and reduce operating costs. Randgold Resources in particular has embraced the MMS technology where it has been installed on all of their operating plants.
MMS is looking forward to the next twenty years. Next on the agenda for commercialisation in 2018 will be the Ro-Star ultra-fine grinding mill. The company has been refining its ideas on the requirements and delivery for ultra-fine grinding for over a decade and the Ro-Star is the culmination of all this work.