Prediction of Long-term Salt Generation from Coal Spoils

Melinda Hilton specialises in the weathering and leachates of mine waste material.


Coal mine spoil has the potential to contribute significant salt loads to final voids and where there is out of pit placement, to the surface and groundwater receiving environment. An understanding of the processes governing the long-term quasi-steady state salt generation rate and the time to reach this rate is a critical aspect of the planning of spoil management measures/closure provisions, and estimation of final void water quality and post-mining residual risks to surface and groundwater quality. Current models used to provide this information are limited by confidence in the data underpinning salt generation rates and duration.

The research work proposed is to develop estimates of long-term salt generation rates for sampled classes of coal mine spoil piles that can be used in conjunction with water balance models to predict long-term final void salinity levels or the residual risk to receiving surface water or groundwater environments; and a process for improving the precision of estimates and the extension to additional classes of spoil piles.


Melinda holds aBachelor of Environmental Science (Honours) in Geology and Chemistry, University of Canterbury, New Zealand and is the Treasurer of the Southern Queensland Land Rehabilitation Group (SQLRG)


Melinda worked as a petrographer for Australian Laboratory Services (ALS) for 8 years, where she analysed export quality coal and coke for properties such as vtrinite reflectance, macerals composition, and coke fusibility using specialised microscopes.


The funding for the PhD project has been provided by the Australian Coal Industry’s Research Program (ACARP) - C25039 The Prediction of Long Term Salt Generation of Coal Mine Spoil.
Living expenses during her studies were kindly sponsored by the Queensland Resources Council (QRC).


Dr Mansour Edraki, Associate Professor Thomas Baumgartl, and Professor Neil McIntyre