Cradle-to-cradle mining: Can we return waste from laterite mines into a self-sustaining soil?

Piles of waste from a gold and silver mine

Tailing piles from a gold and silver mine, image Shutterstiock/Elizabeth A.Cummings

As the mining sector strives to meet the increasing demand for green-technology enabling elements,laterite deposits have become more economically viable sites for mineral extraction.

Synergistic to these resource needs is a societal demand for sustainable, eco-efficient zero-legacy mining.

Laterites offer a fantastic opportunity to showcase the 'cradle-to-cradle' mining concept in which the end of a de-carbonised, eco-efficient laterite mine cycle is a restored environment with functional soils developed from processing waste.

Project aims

Characterise microbial communities, functional gene potential and microbes-mineral interactions from an active Philippine laterite mine using environmental microbiology, sequencing and geochemistry

Conduct a survey of microbes for bioprocessing potential and propose pathways to soil regeneration

Use multi-criteria decision analysis to balance technical, economic, social and environmental aspects to identify options for repurposing mine wastes as a stable landscape supporting a reconstructed ecosystem.

Project objectives

Microbiological and mineralogical survey of mine site and pristine soils.

Mineral and chemical characterisation of survey samples.

Assess taxonomic and metabolic diversity of microbial communities using high throughput DNA sequencing.

Perform bioleach experiments on tailings and wastes.

Propose and test pathways to transform wastes and tailings into functional soils.

Use multi-criteria decision analysis to propose cradle-to-cradle pathways geared to local community needs.

How to apply

Apply for the project on the NHM careers website by sending your CV, covering letter outlining your interest in the PhD position, relevant skills training, experience and qualifications for the research and a statement of how this PhD project fits your career development plans. Please also include two academic references.

How to apply

Apply for this project through the NHM careers website

Application deadline: Midday (12pm GMT) 7 January, 2022

Read more about the Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet Doctoral Training Partnership (SSCP DTP).

Supervisors

The Natural History Museum

Dr Paul Schofield

Dr Anne Jungblut

Imperial College London (ICL)

Dr Pablo Brita-Parada

Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet (SSCP) doctoral training partnership

This is a joint project between The Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet (SSCP) Doctoral Training Partnership at Imperial College London and The Natural History Museum.

Funded by