Learn with SMI-CMLR

The CMLR provides postgraduate coursework and training programs internationally on topics ranging from policy and legislation through planning and mine waste management through to the multidisciplinary sciences required for rebuilding and monitoring of reconstructed landscapes and ecosystems. Postgraduate research is a core component and strength of the CMLR, with Masters and PhD scholars from all around the world undertaking projects across the breadth of disciplines, commodities, waste streams and sciences. Each research project is uniquely designed and provides students with maximum opportunities to engage with industry and address real world challenges.

CMLR provides opportunities for students wanting to enrol in an Honours, Masters or PhD program. The research topics available address current industry questions across multiple fields and, under the guidance of our academic researchers, students are able to make significant contributions to sustainability in mining.

Postgraduate Studies in Environmental Geochemistry

Potential topics currently available for postgraduate research projects, in the area of environmental geochemistry, are listed below.

For further information, please contact Dr Mansour Edraki
  1. Understanding leaching dynamics to predict contaminant release rates
  2. Source, mobility and bioavailability of heavy metals and metalloids in mine environments
  3. Salinity issues in the coal mining and petroleum industry
  4. Mine related sediments and stream pollution
  5. Acid and metalliferous drainage (hydrology, geochemistry, remediation)
  6. Geochemical cycles of metals and contaminant pathway
  7. Hydro-geochemical modelling as a tool to study mine-related pollution
  8. Natural attenuation of contaminants in abandoned and legacy mine sites
  9. Studies in the application of isotope tracers to identify contaminant sources and pathways


Postgraduate Studies in Landform Stability and Evolution

Potential topics currently available for postgraduate research projects, in the area of landform stability and evolution, are listed below.

For further information, please contact Associate Professor Thomas Baumgartl
  1. Improving runoff simulation with a cellular automata model using remote sensing data
  2. Modelling of the water balance of constructed covers under different climatic conditions
  3. Predicting preferential flow in constructed covers
  4. Modelling evaporation from bare soil using easily measurable data
  5. Designing landscape functions for constructed landforms
  6. Optimisation of water flow and water availability in constructed, vegetated landforms in semi-arid climates
  7. Linking water availability to intensity of oxidation processes
  8. Dynamic change of salinity in soil solutions through wetting and drying
  9. Regaining soil health in mined soils: the role of vegetation and time
  10. Clarifying best practice to rebuild soils in mine rehabilitation
  11. Chronosequence of soil development in directly vegetated tailings
  12. Compaction of rehabilitated soils affect success of revegetation
  13. Economy of rehabilitation

Postgraduate Studies in Soil-Plant Systems

Potential topics currently available for postgraduate research projects, in the area of soil-plant systems, are listed below.

For further information, please contact Associate Professor Longbin Huang

Anthropogenic Soil Formation and Development

  1. Weathering and bioweathering Processes in mine wastes (e.g. red mud, base metal mine tailings) and hydro-geochemical/chemical dynamics in pore water, in relation to remediation inputs and biological responses (including microbes and plants);
  2. Microbe-mineral interactions in transformation and speciation of metals and metalloids in remediated tailings and pore water;
  3. Phylogenetic and metagenomic analysis of evolution of microbial community structure and functions in mine wastes/mined land, in relation to remediation and plant rhizosphere interactions;
  4. Structural development in remediated mine wastes in response to remediation: aggregation;
  5. Development of biogeochemical processes in remediated mine wastes: phosphorus cycling and supply, organic matter decomposition and microbial activities.

Plant Physiological Mechanisms and Physiological Ecology

  1. Foliar absorption of metals by means of XFM;
  2. Metal and metalloid uptake and accumulation in native plants species grown in remediated tailings of base metal mines;
  3. Phosphorus acquisition strategy of native plants grown in natural soil and remediated tailings;
  4. Seasonal nutrient status in key native plants at Mt Isa-Cloncurry regions
  5. Physiological characterization in native plant species grown in reconstructed root zones on tailings: stable isotopic analysis and comparison.

Functional Materials for Mine Waste/ Water Remediation

  1. Biochar adsorption of heavy metals in pore water of mine wastes: relationship between properties and functionality;
  2. Organic matter properties and remediation effects in mine wastes

Postgraduate Studies in Rehabilitation Ecology

Potential topics currently available for postgraduate research projects, in the areas of ecology, and monitoring and mapping, are listed below.

For further information, please contact Associate Professor Peter Erskine

Ecosystem Structure and Function

  1. Seedbank studies - regeneration potential of desirable species and weeds
  2. Seed biology and establishment of plants associated with Brigalow communities
  3. Increasing species diversity in rehabilitation area—manipulating the balance between trees, shrubs, forbs and grasses
  4. Sustainable grazing on rehabilitated sites (intensities, practicalities, native grasses etc.)
  5. Functional analysis of rehabilitated environments—setting criteria and improving ecosystem functions
  6. Plants and metal toxicity: responses and tolerance of Australian native species to heavy metals
    • Growth potential of Australian native plant species on metalliferous mine wastes
    • Phytostabilisation.

Mapping and Monitoring Technologies

  1. Extrapolation of ground plot observation to entire site assessment of mine rehabilitation
  2. Image processing for environmental applications in mine site rehabilitation
  3. Remote sensing for vegetation assessment and classification
  4. Assessing land rehabilitation success: combining aerial image analysis and ground-level vegetation assessment with soil and plant chemical and physical analyses

Research Support Facilities

The Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation has a range of in-house facilities to support research and postgraduate teaching. This includes:

  • Soil and water laboratory
  • Ecology laboratory
  • Sample preparation laboratory
  • Geohydrology laboratory
  • Herbarium
  • Mine site-compliant vehicle fleet
  • Field research equipment

CMLR staff and students also have access to a range of analytical and microscopy services and glasshouse facilities within The University of Queensland, St Lucia campus.

For more information about the CMLR laboratories and facilities, please email cmlrlab@uq.edu.au.

CMLR's Remotely Piloted Aircraft

Determining the Extent of Erosion using Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)

Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technologies, CMLR can determine the extent of erosion and vegetative cover across an entire site, or selected problematic areas.

Outcomes include:
• Collection of RPA imagery with >80% overlap provides enough information for the generation of digital surface models (DSM). These DSM’s can be utilised by rehabilitation managers to measure landform metrics such as slope, elevation and problem areas such as erosion gullies.
• A thematic vegetation coverage map may also be produced to provide spatial distribution of tree, shrub and grass cover and identify areas which are failing or developing well.

Monitoring in this manner is designed to inform management decisions in order to achieve rehabilitation outcomes that are safe, stable, self-sustaining and suited to target closure criteria in the most efficient manner possible.

CMLR Online Herbarium

The online herbarium has been developed with Silver Biology and CMLR, initially enabled as a component of an industry grant. Many projects at CMLR require simple to advanced plant identifications as a fundamental step in researching the rehabilitation of disturbed land and the effects of mining. And a number of locations where we work have limited identification resources available. The aim of the CMLR Herbarium is primarily for plant identification by staff,students  and the general public by providing query-based filtering of specimens and dynamic high-resolution images, see below, as an alternative or complement to traditional forms of plant identification.

The type of specimens aim to be comprehensive site collections for long-term projects, representative collections for some mine sites in NSW and QLD and research-appropriate collection of plant specimens through other regions. A concurrent aim is to provide a demonstration of a low-cost, virtual herbarium highlighting advanced features and capabilities compatible with Australian and global herbarium online initiatives.

Since the inception of CMLR, many researchers have collected specimens across many mine sites in Queensland and NSW and validated many of these with botanists at the Queensland Herbarium and National Herbarium of New South Wales. But without digitisation, the specimens have been kept in the naphthalene-infused boxes and folders, with little chance of seeing the light. With significant advances in the technology of rapidly accessing high-resolution imagery combined with an image database, we’ve been able to digitise our specimen collection with relative ease. Specimen processing and digitisation was undertaken by CMLR staff, summer students and volunteers.

Go to the CMLR Online Herbarium


Peter Erskine


Features of the online herbarium

  • For each specimen in the collection, you can view:
    • label information including plant family, genus and species
    • location on Google Maps
    • research-quality specimen image
  • Specimen data can be viewed and exported to csv or kml files
  • Images can be viewed interactively to high resolution using same ‘tiling’ technology of Google Earth

Additional resources

DIG Bibliographic Database

Managing a Coal Mine Rehabilitation Database: Dig

The Dig bibliographic database was developed to provide industry, government, researchers and other interested parties with reference information relevant to the rehabilitation of land after coal mining.  The database is an online source of annotated reference material including bibliographies of reports, books, journal articles and conference proceedings.

The major benefits of the Dig bibliographic database include:

  • ready access to accumulated past and present reference information;
  • a reduction in the loss of knowledge in the face of high staff turnover rates;
  • the avoidance of costly repetition of past research work or previously trialled rehabilitation approaches and procedures; and
  • the provision of a mechanism to effectively identify genuine gaps in the knowledge base.

Research Focus and Aims

The original aim of the development of the database was to produce a single source of references so that the large body of information on all aspects of coal-mine rehabilitation which has accumulated over several decades can be used for future reference.  In order to enable ongoing use and to maximise the benefit from efforts already invested in their establishment, continual up-dating, maintenance and improvements are necessary.  The overall objective of this ACARP funded program is to maintain a current, state-of-the-art research tool for the benefit of coal producers, environmental staff, government and researchers, and to provide the opportunity to use existing rehabilitation information to the best advantage of the Australian Coal Industry.