June 23, 2022

GDL Newsletter - June 2022

By Dr Mike Hinds (Consultant, LBMA)

This quarter's GDL Newsletter is a brief history lesson on the Assaying and Refining (A&R) Conference, brought to you by Dr Mike Hinds (Consultant, LBMA).

LBMA’s A&R Conference was first held on Tuesday 21 – Wednesday 22, 2005 at the Armourers’ Hall in London. It was an extremely important event for me. This was the first opportunity to meet a group of people who engaged in the same activities that I did for a living: the assaying and refining of precious metals.

The Conference was promoted by Dr Stewart Murray, then CEO of LBMA, who wanted to assist the industry in raising technical standards after LBMA had introduced Proactive Monitoring the previous year, and had started to charge an annual fee for refiners to maintain their Good Delivery listing. Members and accredited refiners could attend free of charge, while others paid a very modest registration fee of £100 plus VAT!

The event provided a forum for the technicians working on the refining and assaying of precious metals to meet and exchange ideas. As many of us began talking, we realised that we faced many of the same technical challenges and found different methods for solving them. The small gathering of around 80 people enthusiastically supported the continuation of the conference on a biennial basis.

Key Initiatives

There were some key initiatives which took shape at some of the Assaying and Refining Conferences.

The development of LBMA’s Certified Reference Materials (CRMs) project began from discussions at the first Conference. A collaboration initiated there between the Rand Refinery, Royal Canadian Mint, and Teck Cominco led to the manufacture and certification of high purity silver reference materials. This project provided a template for LBMA’s CRMs project which followed, and its first CRMs were released in 2008. In 2009, Professor Michael Thompson of Birkbeck College, London, gave a keynote speech with his presentation on proficiency testing that encouraged LBMA to begin a proficiency testing scheme.

Over the years, keynote speakers gave presentations on a range of assaying and refining topics. An illustration of the quality and variety of presentations is illustrated in the table below, which highlights the most recent speakers and topics at the last three A&R conferences:

Year Name Topic
2017 Professor Kim Esbensen Sampling Theory and Practice
2019 Dr. Michael Mooiman Refining in the Precious Metal Sustainability Chain
2021 Professor José-Luis Todolí ICP-OES, A Precious Tool for Trace Determination in Noble Metals

The number of presented papers has grown over the years, from 11 in 2005 to 26 in 2021 – and the quality of the papers continues to improve at each conference, according to the Conference organising committee.

In 2015, a half day workshop and tours were offered to delegates to provide more learning opportunities for those making the journey to London to attend the conference. The tours have included the London Assay Office and the Inspectorate Laboratory located in Witham, Essex. The workshops have focused on topics such as X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometry, Sampling Practices, Features of an Ideal Refinery, and Inductively Coupled Plasma – Optical Emission Spectrometry.

And since June this year, all the presentation slides from past Assaying and Refining Conferences can be found on LBMA’s website, on the Good Delivery dropdown menu as ‘Past Assaying and Refining Conferences’. These papers are a valuable record of shared information on a wide variety of topics relevant to refining and assaying, so do take a look.

Looking Ahead

The next Assaying and Refining Conference will be held on Sunday 12 – Wednesday 15 March, 2023, at the Hilton London Tower Bridge. This in-person conference will also offer a virtual option for participants, similar to the delegate experience at the Sustainability & Responsible Sourcing Summit in March 2022. Further details about the event, including registration, are to follow, but questions can be sent to events@lbma.org.uk.

The theme of the conference is ‘Safety in the Refinery and Laboratory’. The keynote speaker will be Leo Simpson (Project Engineering Manager, Metalor USA), whose talk is entitled: “A Lifecycle Approach to Safety in Refineries - From Design to Continuous Improvement.”

I very much look forward to seeing you there!

Dr Mike Hinds