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:: ARC Industrial Transformation Training Centre in Waste Handling Advancements in Mining at the University of Tasmania - Industry Partners Sought


The management of legacy mine waste is a costly issue plaguing governments and regulators on a global scale. For example, oxidation of sulphides contained in reactive mine wastes can give rise to acid and metalliferous drainage (AMD) which is exceptionally difficult to manage once generated. Instead of adopting reactive management strategies to manage AMD, holistic characterisation of the waste materials and determining if, there is potential for its rehandling or indeed stabilising it geochemically using other waste materials, could be a more sustainable option aligning to the United Nation Sustainable Development Goals. Another major issue concerned with managing mine waste is the engineering stability of tailings dams and other waste containment structures.

Motivated by this, at the University of Tasmania we are currently in the process of applying for an Australian Research Council (ARC) Industry Transformation Training Centre (ITTC) (www.arc.gov.au/industrial-transformation-training-centres), a 5-year Centre focused on training the next generation of applied geoscientists through a large number of PhD graduates (10) and a smaller number of postdoctoral researchers (3). The focus of the Centre will be on advancing mining waste handling. PhDs and postdocs will work with industry partners (will be required to spend at least 1 year of their candidature/contract at partners sites; can be split between organisations on joint projects) to develop new methods, techniques and protocols for characterising and rehandling mine wastes. The focus will be mineralogy-driven and, in the case of considering circular-economy principles, product-driven.

At the University of Tasmania we have experience working in this area, most recently through CRC ORE and our ARC Industrial Transformation Research Hub for Transforming the Mining Value Chain (TMVC). The geoenvironmental research we have undertaken over the past decade with both mining industry and state government organisations is gaining momentum - therefore, transitioning these activities into a focused Centre is timely. We are extremely passionate about education and changing how mine waste is characterised and managed, as well as exploring new ways to recover precious and critical metals, therefore re-using waste. In this proposed new centre we would like to work with companies that have sites hosting mine waste materials - the management of which will be the focus of site-based studies. We are interested in a diverse suite of wastes including tailings, waste rock and slag. Ideally, we would like to sample a range of waste from different commodities and of different ages. We also hope to examine diverse engineering structures used to contain these materials in order to develop improved modelling tools to predict failures and assist in the design of more robust facilities.

The ARC will provide up to $1 million per annum to fund the PhDs/postdocs; the industry partner organisations contribute towards the research costs (minimum $20K AUD per annum for tier 1, and $70K AUD per annum for tier 2; contact Anita Parbhakar-Fox for more details).

Other research organisations have been invited to collaborate in the Centre including Curtin University, the University of Exeter (UK) and the University of Cape Town. They hold expertise in the fields of mineral processing which compliments the strong mineralogical characterisation focus of UTAS, and both UCT and UTAS have operational wet-geochemical labs (static and kinetic testing). We also intend to collaborate with a range of METS partners and instrument manufacturers to help develop and implement the use of new tools.

If you would like more information or are interested in becoming a partner in this new ITTC in Waste Handling Advancements in Mining please contact Anita Parbhakar-Fox (anitap1@utas.edu.au; final bids must be submitted in November, 2017).




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