First Summer School in Leicester 2016

The inaugural summer school for the SoS Minerals Programme kicked off on Sunday 26 June 2016 bringing together a broad range of PhD students. The week-long event covered a number of topics from fracking to recycling, encouraging analytical, cross-disciplinary, and at times controversial conversation.

Sunday evening saw Professor Bruce Yardley discuss the importance of the work carried out by SoS Minerals, providing some stimulating anecdotes about mineral misclassification, highlighting the importance of a broad understanding of geology to understand when and why these mistakes can be made. This was certainly a central theme to the summer school. The evening meal provided a great relaxed atmosphere for introductions among all the PhD students and event coordinators. A great backdrop for conversations on European politics and critical metals.

A workshop on Earth Resources and the need for critical metals started on Monday morning with Andrew Abbott challenging our conventional understanding of sustainability and responsibility. Car exhausts, recycling plastic and even your morning coffee cup was examined, showing that the logical choice for sustainability is not always the correct one.

Dr Gawen Jenkin followed Andrew with an evocative look at future constraints on mining. Increasingly challenging deposits, lower profit margins, and increased environmental and social responsibility means that many challenges need to be overcome. Innovative methods of extraction and processing, as well as new resources such as deep sea deposits offer potential solutions if used responsibly.

We then had an opportunity to critically examine papers from blogs, scientific journals, and popular science magazines. This allowed us to delve deeper into the question of good science, and communicating our future results to different communities.

Professor John Parnell provided an insightful lecture on the mobilisation of selenium during shale gas extraction. An area that has been neglected in prior fracking research.

We had an opportunity to explore the city of Leicester on Tuesday evening. The persistent rain meant that a majority of the group found shelter in a bar. A great spot to dry off and try a cocktail from the inventive menu. A perfume spray to top off one of the drinks was a particular highlight. Following this, the whole group had a tasty and filling meal at a restaurant called The Taps.

Tony Hartwell of the Knowledge Transfer Network discussed how the SoS Minerals Programme and all the individual research bodies fit into the broader context of European research, noting the importance of bringing together research and industry.

We got to grips with Micromine software during the Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning with some great interactive training. We developed the skills to create a 3D model of a resource, concluding with a business presentation of our fictional deposit and suggestions for future exploration.

We were joined by a number of SoS Minerals Programme investigators on Thursday evening who had the privilege of looking at our posters. Lively and enthusiastic discussion was heard all around as people explained their research and results to members from all the groups.

I would like to thank the TeaSe project and all those involved in organising this year’s SoS Minerals summer school.

Robert Pell, 12 July 2016