UQ SMI Summer 2019 Research Project Description

 

Project title: 

Complex Orebodies Database – Social and Environmental Impacts of Mining

Project duration:

10 weeks

Description:

The project consists in building a database of recent cases where mining projects faced significant social and environmental risks/consequences. There are a number of publicly available datasets compiled by different organisations on different topics (e.g. cases of tailings dam failures, reported human rights abuses, conflicts etc.). The objective is to search and gather this data into one file and organise it. Additional information about the different cases may need to be gathered separately, e.g. spatial location, project stage (pre-production, operating, closed), type of impact etc. The database will serve as a basis for a spatial analysis.

 This project can be for 1 or 2 students depending on the applicants.

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

Students will gain a broad knowledge of the global mining industry, its practices and its complex interaction with the local social and environmental context in which it operates. Working within the Sustainable Minerals Institute and as part of one of SMI’s cross-cutting projects, the students will learn about applied research in mining and collaborate with a dynamic multi-disciplinary research team. The students will also gain skills in data collection.

The results of the project will be used for academic publication to which the students could contribute.

Suitable for:

Preferably 2-4 year students with interest and knowledge in corporate social responsibility and sustainable development.

Knowledge of statistics and data analysis is a plus.

Prior knowledge of mining is a plus.

Proficiency in MS Office.

Primary Supervisor:

Dr Eleonore Lebre

Further info:

For further information, please email Dr Eleaonore Lebre e.lebre@uq.edu.au. Contacts prior application submission are welcome.

Project title: 

Experimental investigation of assumptions underpinning a common ore characterisation procedure in minerals processing 

Project duration:

10 weeks duration.

Description:

Design and operation of existing minerals processing plants typically relies upon characterising the breakage potential of ore samples using the well-known JKMRC Drop Weight Tester (JK-DWT). This device is used to crush ore particles of specific sizes and input energies. Subsequent measurement of the size-distribution of product ore particles permits estimation of two empirical ore breakage properties, known as A and b. These are often assumed proxies for physical properties of the ore, for predicting the amount of size-reduction afforded for a given expenditure of electrical power whilst processing the ore.

One of the underpinning assumptions of this ore characterisation procedure is that the degree of size-reduction is a unique function of the input energy, regardless of the method with which this energy is applied to the ore. This assumption is seemingly incompatible with the theoretical predictions of continuum fracture mechanics, which would imply that momentum exchange is the more appropriate governing variable. Moreover, differing degrees of size-reduction result for identical application of input energy but differing initial momenta.

This experimental project aims to systematically test this hypothesis using the JK-DWT. The project will involve conducting suites of experiments in which the device parameters (drop weight mass and drop height) are varied such that input energies are constant but impact momenta are variable. Thereafter the usual analysis procedure for determining the A and b values will be conducted and the results compared for different mass-height combinations.

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

The applicant will gain knowledge and skills in experimental design, data collection and analysis. It is expected that the results of this project will form part of a peer-reviewed journal article, of which the applicant will be a co-author. Upon conclusion of the project, the applicant will provide a written report on the experiments and results, as well as deliver an oral presentation to their peers and cognate faculty of the Sustainable Minerals Institute’s Production Centres.

The project is ideally suited to undergraduate mining or minerals processing engineering students. The applicant will receive training on how to conduct Industry-standard ore characterisation testwork, as well as how to conduct experiments designed to test specific scientific hypotheses. The applicant will also receive training in risk management and occupational health and safety. The skills gained in this project will be a valuable addition to the curriculum vitae of aspiring minerals processing engineers.

Suitable for:

The project is open to 2-4 year engineering students, particularly mining, minerals processing or chemical engineering students.

Primary Supervisor:

Dr Dion Weatherley 

Further info:

Potential applicants wishing to discuss this project in more detail may contact Dr Dion Weatherley (d.weatherley@uq.edu.au) prior to submission of their application. 

Project title: 

Planning for mining regions 

Project duration:

8 weeks duration.

Description:

The project addresses contemporary social planning challenges in mining regions in Queensland. These regions face complex spatial and time sensitive social issues that are intrinsic to mining development. The focus of this project is how planning efforts can more fully account for this complexity. 

A major limitation is the absence of social data to inform planning efforts. Data transparency is notably low. Challenges and problems linked with data availability, quality and reliability are well recognized. These gaps make understanding of mining regions difficult with serious consequences for their planning. 

The project will first involve reviewing and analysing planning frameworks in mining regions, and second, mapping the data landscape to support planning efforts in these regions. 

The project has been designed for two applicants. One applicant will analyse and assess existing planning models and governance agendas and their contribution towards the regulation of mining development. State, regional and local planning mechanisms as well as variability of approaches to company and government resource towns will be evaluated. The second applicant will focus on data landscape that support planning of a selected mining region in QLD. The goal will be to identify gaps in data availability, transparency and reliability.

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

Applicants will gain advanced skills in analysing and evaluating complex information, adaptive and critical thinking, and collaboration skills via involvement in a dynamic research team. Scholars will also have an opportunity to participate in a publication from their research. A brief report and/or oral presentation will be delivered at the end of their project. 

Suitable for:

This project is open to applications from students with a background in town and regional planning, 3-4 year students, knowledge of GIS software (ArcGIS, QGIS).

Primary Supervisor:

Dr Kamila Svobodova 

Further info:

Please contact Dr Kamila Svobodova for further information k.svobodova@uq.edu.au

It is possible to contact the supervisor prior to submitting an application.

Project title: 

High Voltage Pulse Treatment of Ores 

Project duration:

10 weeks duration. 

Description:

BACKGROUND

Global demand for minerals and metals, particularly copper and gold, has risen and is forecast to continue rising in the decades to come. Indeed, Batterham (2017) quotes that demand in 2050 will be double that in 2015. The quality of deposits of these materials is decreasing, with them tending to be located at greater depths, be hosted in harder rock matrices, be of lower grade and of a more complex, finer grained and disseminated mineralogy. As such, the costs of processing these deposits, to enable extraction of the valuable metals, have increased and will continue to do so unless novel technologies to reduce costs are developed and deployed.

Comminution is especially challenged in the face of likely future ores. Comminution is the process via which the individual minerals are made separable, typically due to the size reduction achieved. Comminution is currently the most energy intensive process used in minerals operations. This will only increase for harder ores, with more disseminated, finer grained, complex mineralogies which will require finer grinding, and thus more energy input, to enable a subsequent separation to occur. High Voltage Pulse (HVP) technology is a selective comminution process designed to decrease the energy required to liberate valuable materials and enable their separation, such that the contained metals can then be extracted.

HVP comminution applies electrical energy directly to ore fragments to achieve selective breakage of particles containing metalliferous mineral grains. In the past 10 years, the SMI-JKMRC has conducted extensive research using HVP electrical comminution technology for the mineral industry and have become the leaders in this field. Three major applications for the mining industry have been identified and explored by the research team to date:

  • Pre‐weakening – HVP generates cracks/microcracks which pre‐weaken ore particles for improved downstream comminution circuit energy efficiency or higher circuit throughput in a particular comminution design;
  • Pre‐concentration – This selectivity allows for early gangue rejection as well as decreasing the economic cut‐off grade, by turning waste into ore;
  • Enhanced Liberation – HPV results in preferential liberation of minerals resulting in improved recovery in the downstream separation processes. HVP can potentially enable alternative separation technologies, such as coarse particle flotation, to be viable.

Research to date has shown HVP has significant potential to address many current and future mineral processing challenges. Nonetheless, barriers remain to industrial uptake of the HVP technology.  Fundamental knowledge gaps, around ore composition and amenability to HVP, and the optimum means of incorporating this technology and the benefits it provides, into mineral processing circuits exist.

High Voltage Pulse Technology is a large and exciting research initiative at the JKMRC. The student intern will work with researchers and undertake various studies and tasks on HVP, including experimental and analysis of results, in order to obtain a better understanding of the responses of ores with different mineralogy to this novel technology.  The intern will gain valuable knowledge about the HVP process as well as learn technical and laboratory skills relevant to the mining industry. 

PROJECT: Ore Amenability Assessment

 The JKMRC has conducted extensive research using high voltage pulse (HVP) electrical comminution technology for the mineral industry. Three major potential applications using the HVP technology have been reported:

 Cracks/microcracks generation to pre-weaken ore particles for improved comminution circuit energy efficiency (Wang, Shi and Manlapig, 2011; Shi et al., 2014);

  • Preferential liberation of minerals which could potentially enable recovery at coarser sizes in the separation processes (Wang, Shi and Manlapig, 2012; Parker et al., 2015).
  • Selective fragmentation of particles containing high conductivity/permittivity minerals followed by size-based separation for ore pre-concentration (Zuo, Shi and Manlapig, 2015; Shi, Zuo and Manlapig, 2015). This technology has the potential to upgrade ore by rejecting waste material prior to processing. Alternatively it can split an ore into different grade components which can be sent to different recovery processes.

 The HVP technology therefore has the potential to be applied to improve ore processability of different mineralised ore.  The objective of this Project is to test the potential of using HVP treatment on a new ore sample and quantify any benefits gained in terms of pre-concentration and pre-weakening.

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

The chosen scholar will gain a variety of experience including:

  • Exposure to the mining industry;
  • Experience in the novel HVP technology which could lead to potential step-change in industry;
  • Experience in experimental work and gain skills in data collection and analysis.

The chosen scholar will be required to produce a report on their project and an oral presentation at the end of their term.

Suitable for:

This project is open to applications from UQ students with:

  • a background in mining or chemical engineering
  • 3rd or 4th year students
Primary Supervisor:

Professor Frank Shi and Dr Christian Antonio. 

Further info:

For further information please contact Dr Christian Antonio c.antonio@uq.edu.au

Project title: 

Interdisciplinary analysis of groundwater management approaches 

Project duration:

10 weeks (negotiable) 

Description:

Effective groundwater management is critical in many parts of Australia, especially under a changing climate. This is even more evident in areas with competing interests for water, such as agriculture, domestic supply, environment and other industries. We have conducted a research project in such an area, the Angas Bremer irrigation district of the Murray-Darling Basin. We collected (i) qualitative data on stakeholder’s knowledge and experience with groundwater-management approaches; and, (ii) water-management related biophysical data for the last 40 years. The project aims to examine the effectiveness of the management approaches since the late 1970s, relating it to water crises such as the Millennium Draught during the early 2000s. The select candidate will (i) conduct GIS analysis on biophysical data (groundwater pumping, surface water pumping, climatic, artificial recharge volumes and groundwater salinities); and, (ii) contribute to manuscript preparation, including literature review, producing Figures and writing efforts.

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

The candidate will benefit from the project by being exposed to high-quality, interdisciplinary applied recharge to groundwater management, and by potentially becoming a co-author in a manuscript to be published in an international journal. This project can be the start of a larger research project, such as Honours or PhD.

Suitable for:

This project is open to students with an interest in water management. Ideal candidates would be 3-4 year Earth, Environmental or Agricultural Sciences, or Engineering students.

Primary Supervisor:

Dr Carlos Miraldo Ordens.

Further info:

For further information please email Dr Carlos Miraldo Ordens c.ordens@uq.edu.au

Students are encouraged to contact Dr Ordens should they have questions about the project.

Project title: 

Hybrid classification

Project duration:
10 weeks duration.
Description:

Hydrocyclones are often described as the workhorse of the mining industry and are used extensively for size separation, but intrinsically classify inefficiently with respect to the sharpness of separation.  Hydrocyclone overflow generally reports to downstream flotation or other separation, and the consequence of excessive coarse particles in the overflow stream is a loss in mineral recovery.  The aim of this project is to address these inefficiencies by using a hybrid classification circuit containing hydrocyclones coupled to screens that scalp coarse particles contained in the hydrocyclone overflow.

The project involves running grinding, hydrocyclone and screening tests, collecting representative samples, sizing and data analysis. 

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

As experiments will be conducted in JKMRC Pilot Plant, scholars will be able to learn how the survey of a grinding/classification circuit is performed, how a representative sample should be collected and data analysed. At the end, scholars should gain knowledge about grinding circuit and importance of classification.

Suitable for:
This project is open to applicants who are willing to learn more about classification and grinding through analysis of data generated through pilot-scale testing.
Primary Supervisor:
Dr Vladimir Jokovic
Further info:
For further information please email Dr Vladimir Jokovic v.jokovic@uq.edu.au