NSERC recognizes McGill innovation

Jim Finch (centre), pictured here with represenatives of some of his research project's industry partners, led a team that was awarded with a special NSERC Synergy Award in September.
James Finch (centre), pictured here with representatives of some of his research project's industry partners, led a team that was recognized with a special NSERC Synergy Award in September.

McGill mining and minerals engineer James Finch and his team honoured with Leo Derikx Award

Canada’s leading mineral processing research group at McGill University, along with Vale Inco, Teck Cominco, COREM, Xstrata Process Support, and SGS Lakefield have won the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s (NSERC) 2008 Leo Derikx Award, a special Synergy Award named after the former director general of research partnerships at NSERC. The presentations were made at a ceremony held in Halifax Sept. 25.

The McGill team, led by mining and minerals engineer James Finch, has collaborated for two decades with the industry to pioneer a series of innovations that significantly improve the recovery of base metals from ore deposits. The award, and associated $200,000 research grant, was given in recognition of this longstanding collaboration.

“The McGill Mineral Processing Group, led by James Finch, is recognized internationally for its excellence and technical innovation,” said Denis Thérien, Vice-Principal (Research and International Relations). “Winning NSERC’s prestigious Synergy Award is recognition of James Finch’s position as an acknowledged leader in the global mining industry.”

Dr. Finch and his team have focused on flotation cells – chemical reactors that permit separation and collection of target minerals from finely milled ore particles. The cells contain large volumes of aerated water, micron-sized mineral particles and various chemicals that help minerals attach to bubbles. The bubble-particle aggregate then floats up to form a froth that preserves the bubble’s integrity until it spills over the top, bursts and releases the target mineral into a trough. The researchers have made breakthroughs in both flotation chemistry and in the physics of gas dispersion used to create bubbles in the flotation cell.

The Synergy Awards for Innovation were launched in 1995 by NSERC to recognize partnerships in research and development between universities and industry. Since their inception, the awards have honoured the most outstanding achievements of university-industry collaboration and Canadian ingenuity.

For more information on James Finch and his team’s work, visit www.nserc.gc.ca/award_e.asp?nav=synergy&lbi=current