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BechTech Podcast: Mineral processing and technology with Dave Meadows

Dave Meadows, Bechtel’s manager of technology for the Mining and Metals global business unit, has over 35 years of experience in mineral processing technology. His experience covers a broad range of minerals and metals including copper, gold, bauxite, platinum, uranium, lead-zinc, cobalt, diamonds, and other industrial minerals. Dave’s additional technical expertise include geometallurgy, comminution, concentrator design, plant commissioning, and plant optimization.

Dave joins Jennifer Whitfield to discuss:

  • How an early interest in geology defined his career
  • The importance of energy efficiency in mineral processing
  • Insights into improving water recovery and reducing waste material within the mining operation


Interviewee: Dave Meadows (DM)

Interviewer: Jennifer Whitfield (JW)

JW: Welcome to another episode of our BechTech podcast; a podcast where we highlight technical specialists at Bechtel. I'm Jennifer Whitfield, and today, we're highlighting Dave Meadows, manager of technology in the Mining and Metals global business unit. Dave provides technical leadership and excellence in process technology within our Copper Center of Excellence in Santiago and other centers of excellence within Bechtel. Dave, I'm looking forward to our discussion today. Thanks for joining me.

DM: It's a real privilege to have this discussion with you today. Thank you.

JW: Dave, let's get into it. Can you tell us a bit about your technical specialty and how you've progressed to where you are today?

DM: My technical specialty is mineral processing technology. I studied at Camborne School of Mines in Cornwall, England, and that area of work covers the extraction from the raw materials through to the final processing of metals and minerals. [My specialty covers] the whole array of processing techniques [and producing] final copper concentrate, copper cathode, or gold or A, and then within the mineral processing technology area, some of my specialty areas are geometallurgy and also comminution design and comminution circuits in general.

I've been in the industry now for about 36 years. [I] started off my career after graduating [when] I traveled to Africa, [where I worked at] various mining companies there in gold, diamonds, platinum, and other minerals. [During those] first ten years, I did various international assignments, but I always had that […] strong emphasis on the technical side. [In] 2018, I became a Bechtel Fellow and [moved into] my current position as the manager of technology for Mining and Metals globally.

JW: How did you first develop an interest in your field and what type of training led you to where you are today?

DM: My interest goes back a long time[. I really started] with a large interest in chemistry and [geology]. I would classify myself as a rockhound. When I was very young, I used to go around collecting rocks, studying geology, combining the two together. Then I got introduced to mining engineering [and] mineral processing. As soon as I kind of mixed all that together, I immediately got excited about a career in the minerals industry, and that's kind of where it all started.

JW: That's fascinating. What has been the most rewarding aspect of being a technical specialist?

DM: I believe the most rewarding aspect is to be able to look and work and solve many different problems—to work with very diversified teams, lots of different skill sets pulling it together, and really providing good solid solutions to the customer.

JW: How will new technology in the mineral processing field impact the EPC industry?

DM: [There] are a number of key aspects. One is energy efficiency[…]. We talk about it a lot in mining, and what this really means is […] the ability to process minerals and metals at lower energy inputs. There are a number of […] emerging technologies in the industry now. For example, coarse particle flotation and high pressure grinding rolls. [A number of these] techniques are alternatives within the flow sheet within the metal recovery process, and they have the ability to reduce the overall energy requirements in the process. The other key part which we're going to see shaping our industry and demands and requirements will also be on the ESG side. The environmental side is naturally a very important part of it in mining. The mining industry has kind of had somewhat of a dark side in terms of environmental impacts, and this topic is really at the forefront of all our customers on all of our projects. [the] way we actually recover water in [the mining] process is critical. Improving water recovery, and also the way we dispose [of it], and reducing the amounts of waste material within the mining operation [are] also very important considerations. So these aspects, when they all come together, they're impacting the way projects are built, the way that these projects are constructed.

JW: What would you say your biggest piece of advice is for the next generation, especially those who are aspiring to pursue technical specialties within the EPC industry.

DM: From my side, I would [tell] the up and coming engineers to really take on a variety of tasks and even if you're a technical specialist, consider slightly [broadening] beyond your field of expertise or your area of interests. Take on new assignments, and if you can do the travel assignments and you can get the opportunities to work in different project locations, I would strongly recommend that. I'd also really encourage [time on the ground] in a construction site looking at everything from the early project development [to] the building of the project through to the final handover. But to really get that field experience is extremely valuable. [Also, learning new areas. I] think that's the great thing about our industry. You can just learn so many new things every day. I learn a new point every single day. But working with different people, different backgrounds, different cultures, you can really enrich yourself as an engineer, and it really can help you as well as a technical specialist.

JW: Thanks, Dave. That concludes this episode of Bech Tech. Thank you so much for sharing your background, insights, and advice with us today.

DM: Thanks, a real pleasure today, and once again, it was really great to participate and discuss this with you. Thank you!

JW: To our listeners, we will be back soon with another BechTech podcast so be sure to subscribe to our Insights blog today.

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