The conference occurs every four to five years and attracts an international audience. The inaugural conference was held in Melbourne, Australia in 1971 and organized by now retired Laurentian University professor emeritus Reid Keays, who will be an invited speaker at the symposium.
This is the first time the conference will be held in Sudbury, home to one of the most prolific nickel-copper-PGM deposits in the world.
The event is being hosted by Laurentian University, the Ontario Geological Society and the Mineral Exploration Research Centre (MERC), and supported by a variety of professional associations and industry sponsors.
Themed PGEs in the 21st Century: Innovations in Understanding their Origin and Applications to Mineral Exploration and Beneficiation, the symposium is expected to draw between 200 and 300 people.
“It is a specialist meeting,” said conference chair Dr. Michael Lesher, professor and research chair in mineral exploration, Department of Earth Sciences, Laurentian University. “It brings together all of the different groups interested in the platinum group elements, which doesn’t normally happen.”
Field geologists, academics, geochemists, and those interested in the mineralogy and beneficiation of PGEs will be attending, networking and sharing current knowledge about platinum group metals.
Platinum group elements, often referred to as PGEs, are comprised of six elements: platinum, palladium, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium, and osmium. They are not common and in terms of the earth’s crust, are present only in parts per billion levels, according to Lesher.
“They have a wide range of unique characteristics, including high melting points, good electrical conductivity and anti-corrosive properties,” he said. “Although not formally part of the group, gold is often associated with PGEs because it shares similar properties, but it is more abundant.”
Of the PGEs, platinum and palladium are the two most common of the six. They are used in catalytic converters, jewelry, and in some industrial and electronic applications.
There are only four major producers in the world: the Bushveld complex in South Africa, the Stillwater complex in Montana, and nickel producers in Sudbury and Noril’sk, Russia, where platinum and palladium are produced as by-products. However, in Northern Ontario,PGEs are also produced at North American Palladium Ltd.’s Lac des Iles Mine and URSA Major Minerals’ Shakespeare project west of Sudbury.
The four-day conference will feature technical sessions, including a keynote, invited and volunteered oral presentations, dedicated times for poster presentations, core displays from several PGE and Ni-Cu-PGE deposits, a comprehensive range of pre- and post-meeting field trips led by experts, and several workshops.
Day one will focus on deposits that have PGEs as their primary elements with keynote speaker professor Anthony Naldrett, who has literally written “the book on the subject.” On day two, Indiana University professor Edward Ripley will discuss nickel and copper operations such as those in Sudbury and Noril’sk that mine PGEs as by-products. On day three, well-known mineralogist and geochemist Dr. Jean-Pierre Lorand from the Museum of Natural History in Paris, France, will discuss geochemical characteristics of PGEs, including uses in geochronology, isotopic tracing and behaviour during planetary formation and differentiation. Day four will feature a half-day session with Dr. Louis Cabri as keynote, discussing mineralogy, metallurgy and beneficiation of PGE ores.
A free public lecture on The Outlook for Sudbury’s Metals by Dr. Raymond Goldie, vice president and senior mining analyst, Salman Partners, will be given on Tuesday, June 22.
Planned workshops will run before the meeting as an alternative to field trips. Scheduled field trips occur between June 16 and 19 throughout the region. On June 24, afternoon tours of local facilities will include MIRARCO’s Vitual Reality Theatre, the Xstrata Process Support facility and Professor Balz Kamber’s Laser Ablation Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometer Lab, a special facility that detects and maps trace element concentrations of minerals.
A guest program highlighting various activities and sights within Sudbury has been organized for nature enthusiasts.
A reduced registration rate applies for students. More detailed information can be found at www.11ips.laurentian.ca.