Biogeochemistry of Mine Waste and Hyperaccumulator Plants

Phytoextraction of arsenic and thallium

There are over one million abandoned mines worldwide, and more than 55 000 abandoned mine sites in Australia. This calls for effective approaches to remediate old mineral processing tailings that pose environmental risks. Legacy tailings originating from base metal mining often contain a range of contaminants (such as arsenic, copper, lead, zinc, cadmium and selenium), as well as potentially valuable elements (such as cobalt and thallium).

The release of these contaminants through airborne particles, runoff and seepage from tailings may lead to detrimental effects on ecosystems. An ecofriendly technique to deal with an excess of contaminated tailings is Phytoextraction, which uses hyperaccumulator plants. Highly toxic elements such as arsenic and those that are toxic and at the same time highly valuable such as thallium can be phytoextracted from abandoned mine tailings. This research aims to elucidate the chemical speciation of arsenic and thallium in abandoned mine tailings and the main processes in the rhizosphere that allows for the uptake and accumulation of these elements in hyperaccumulator plants.

Biography

I hold a chemical engineering degree. At an early stage of my career, I was focused on the improvements of the grade and recovery of metals. I  worked in different polymetallic mine companies in a chemical and metallurgical laboratory. 
After witnessing the difficult relationship among mining companies and peasant communities, I decided to study a Masters degree on environmental development. I was recipient of the Aristotle Scholarship at Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru (PUCP), which was granted to top ranking Master's students. 
For my Master's thesis, I received a grant from PUCP to conduct a research on the environmental impacts of abandoned mining tailings. This was awarded due to social and environmental relevance. Following this I was a lecturer in Geomorphology, Ecology, and Environmental Impact Assessment at PUCP. 

Industry

I worked at Antamina Mining Company in the Metallurgical Laboratory, I was in charge of developing mathematical models to add reagents for the copper concentration process. I also conducted research in copper concentration to verify the effects of sulfosalts in its quality. Additionally, I was a practitioner at Doe Run Peru - La Oroya, I conducted research to determine the optimal amount of zinc sulphate and temperature to improve the zinc purification process. I undertook pre-professional training at the chemical laboratory of Pan-American Silver - Quiruvilca Mine Company. 

Collaborations

I have collaborated with the Canadian International Resources and Development Institute  (CIRDI) as a consultant for Education and Research for Integrated Water Resources Management in Peru. Furthermore, I was in charge of the education management of the Diploma in Specialization of Water and Mining offered by the  Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru and The University of British Columbia, Canada.

Funding

The University of Queensland Scholarship for PhD Candidature

Supervisors

Dr Mansour Edraki & Dr Antony van der Ent