PhDs and postdocs: the next generation of minerals researchers

SoS MinErals is proud to be supporting the next generation of minerals researchers with 17 PhD studentships and 24 postdoctoral research associates across the programme.

PhD student cohort

SoS MinErals is supporting 17 PhD studentships across the programme in the two key research areas: e-tech in the natural environment and e-tech processes and environment (Goals 1 and 2 in the science and implementation plan 741 KB pdf).

E-techs in the natural environment
REE mobility in carbonatite

Project: SoS RARE

Student name: Delia Cangelosi

Location: University of Leeds

Supervisor(s): Dr David Banks (University of Leeds) and Prof Bruce Yardley (University of Leeds)

Rare earth element mobility during the genesis and evolution of ion adsorption deposits associated with alkali granitoid complexes

Project: SoS RARE

Student name: Eva Marquis

Location: University of Brighton

Supervisor(s): Dr Martin Smith (University of Brighton), Dr Kathryn Goodenough (British Geological Survey), Dr Norman Moles (University of Brighton)

Research summary: Ion adsorption clays are currently the world’s major source of heavy rare earth elements. The purpose of this investigation is to determine the preconditions necessary for the formation of ion adsorption clays that are strongly enriched in rare earth elements. Focusing on a series of alkaline complexes in North West Madagascar, this project will investigate the mobility of REE during the magmatic, hydrothermal and weathering evolution of the complexes. A multitude of techniques, including SEM, XRF, ICP-MS, LA-ICP-MS, and stable and radiogenic isotope analyses, will be used to understand the processes of involved in the concentration of rare earth elements in these unconventional deposits.

Controls on tellurium And selenium enrichment in organic-rich sediments

Project: TeASe

Student name: Joe Armstrong

Location: University of Aberdeen

Supervisor(s): Prof John Parnell (University of Aberdeen) and Dr Stephen Bowden (University of Aberdeen)

Research summary: A detailed geochemical study of organic-rich sedimentary and meta-sedimentary rocks. Specifically focussing on the mechanisms controlling the common enrichment of Tellurium, Selenium and other related trace elements in these lithologies.

Distribution and enrichment of Te and Se in VMS systems

Project: TeASe

Student name: Andrew Martin

Location: Cardiff University

Supervisor(s): Dr Hazel Prichard (Cardiff University) and Dr Iain McDonald (Cardiff University)

Research summary: Distribution and behaviour of Se and Te in Volcanogenic Massive Sulphide (VMS) systems Andrew Martin, Hazel Prichard and Iain McDonald Tellurium and selenium are identified as critical in low carbon energy technologies under the European Union's Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan) (Moss et al., 2013). The use of Te and Se within photovoltaic cells (CdTe and CIGS) underpins their strategic importance within the EU and rest of the World. The criticality of these metals stems from the potential for significant growth in demand due to a transition to low carbon, solar dominated energy production (38 GW in 2010 to 630 GW in 2030- Moss et al., 2013), low crustal abundance 0.002 mg/kg Te and 0.05 mg/kg Se- Perkins, 2011) and their secondary (by-product) nature of production through the refining of copper (approximately 90%, Lu et al., 2015). Global Te production in 2010 was 0.50 Kt, projections by Moss et al. (2013) suggest that by 2030 the EU will consume over 50% of global Te production. It is clear that Te and Se will play a crucial role in the future transition to a low carbon economy; both currently lack recycling potential (Redlinger et al., 2015) and have little potential for substitution within photovoltaics (Lu et al., 2015), they are recovered solely from by-products through the electrolytic refining of copper which will decline in the future as Cu grades globally decrease favouring heap leach methods which are not amenable to Te-Se recovery (Moss et al., 2013). The future economic importance and significance of Te and Se in emerging technologies is paralleled by a poor understanding of the source, mobilisation and concentration of Te and Se within ore deposits. Te and Se have been of little interest in the recent past as production from copper refining has kept pace with global demand, it is evident this will not suffice in the future with demand set to significantly outstrip supply. To mitigate shortages and ensure security of supply research on all aspects of Te and Se is needed. Little is known about the partitioning of Se and especially Te within the magmatic environment (e.g. Liu and Brenan, 2015) with poorly constrained partition coefficients. Te mineral deportment is poorly characterised within the hydrothermal system, mineral affiliations and their impact on ore processing are not well defined. In addition the preferred Te ligand species or indeed the phase in which Te is transported (vapour vs. fluid) are poorly constrained (e.g. Grundler et al., 2013). Analytical capability, high detection limits and lack of acceptable high grade reference material has hindered accurate analysis (e.g. Schirmer et al., 2014). In combination these factors lead to a lack of comprehensive, accurate data which now needs to be implemented to mitigate future risks. To locate and understand the processes that concentrate Te and Se in Cu-rich VMS systems, known to concentrate these critical elements, the classic VMS deposits associated with the Troodos ophiolite have been chosen for study. Troodos is widely accepted to represent a suprasubduction oceanic spreading environment (Gass, 1980) and hosts numerous Cyprus type Cu rich stratabound VMS deposits averaging several millions of tonnes and Cu grades of ˜1-2% (see Adamides, 2011, 2010). This study will utilise recent high-resolution (ICP-MS) soil sample data collected from the whole of the southern part of Cyprus (Cohen et al., 2012) to locate Te and Se in rocks underlying the soil anomalies and so investigate the distribution of Te and Se on a lithology, deposit and mineralogical scale to ascertain the source and mechanism(s) for enrichment of Te and Se. This will allow the development of a genetic model for both Te and Se as a tool in Au exploration and a detailed understanding of mineralogical and geochemical controls of Te-Se distribution on a deposit scale allowing targeted extraction of Te and Se in the future. The aims are to understand the processes that concentrate Te and Se including variation in source composition within the hydrothermal system below the VMS deposits, the concentration of these elements as the VMS forms, the mobility within later off axis waning hydrothermal circulation and the secondary remobilisation of the elements during sea floor weathering. The objectives are to define an association of different types of VMS, e.g. more Cu, Pb, Zn or Au-rich with Te and Se enrichment and to ascertain whether Te and Se are associated with late off axis Au mineralisation. Is heterogeneity a function of preferential enrichment? Deposit genesis or source rock Te-Se composition? To investigate this hypothesis a geochemical map of southern Cyprus will be constructed in early 2016 (January - February) utilising the Cyprus geochemical soil data (kindly provided by the Cyprus Geological Survey) to identify potential targets exhibiting varied concentrations of Te and Se enrichment for further detailed analysis. Existing 'off axis' samples (after Prichard and Maliotis, 1998) will be used to assess the affiliation of Te with Au and if tellurides are associated with late stage, off axis hydrothermal fluids.

Isotopic constraints on the distribution of chalcophile elements in magmatic systems

Project: TeASe

Student name: Callum Reekie

Location: University of Cambridge

Supervisor(s): Dr Helen Williams (University of Cambridge), Prof Marian Holness (University of Cambridge), Prof Colin Macpherson (Durham University), Dr Frances Jenner (The Open University) and Dr Geoff Bromiley (University of Edinburgh)

Research summary: Ph.D. research will aim to develop quantitative models for the stable isotope fractionation of Fe, Zn, Cu, and potentially Se, and chalcophile element behaviour during the differentiation of magmatic systems. Research will initially focus on calc-alkaline rocks of the Skaergaard intrusion, Greenland, and expand to consider major alkaline hydrothermal deposits such as Cripple Creek, Colorado. Experimental petrology will further be employed to examine stable isotope fractionation between sulphide and silicate liquids.

MarineE-tech: Using AUVs to develop multispectral geoacoustic characterization of the seafloor and sub-seafloor

Project: MarineE-tech

Student name: Jane Collins

Location: University of Southampton

Supervisor(s): Dr Bramley Murton (National Oceanography Centre), Dr Mark Vard (University of Southampton), Prof Tim Henstock (National Oceanography Centre), Dr Tim Le Bas (National Oceanography Centre)

Research summary: Using an AUV, this PhD project will acquire acoustic backscatter data at different frequencies and incidence angles from one or more research cruises in the Atlantic.These will be combined with visual ROV ground-truthing to develop a novel and innovative thematic mapping algorithm that differentiates different seafloor types. The student will also use variation in the spectral response from AUV-derived chirp sub-bottom profiles to gather information about the thickness, lithology and roughness of sub-bottom sediment layers and interfaces. The geophysical approach will be augmented by laboratory tests (in the NOC pulse-tube) of collected crust samples to determine their response at different frequencies under controlled conditions.

Geological and oceanographic controls on the variation in concentration of E-tech elements (REE, cobalt and tellurium) in seafloor Fe-Mn crusts

Project: MarineE-tech

Student name: Sarah Howarth

Location: University of Southampton

Supervisor(s): Dr Bramley Murton (National Oceanography Centre), Dr Mark Vard (University of Southampton), Prof Tim Henstock (National Oceanography Centre), Dr Tim Le Bas (National Oceanography Centre)

Research summary: Ferromanganese crusts grow throughout the global ocean by direct precipitation from seawater and consist of thin layers (2 up to 25 cm thick) accumulated on hard substrate rocks over millions of years. Because of their extremely high specific surface area, and very slow growth rates, crusts sorb large quantities of elements from seawater, including those metals, such as REE, cobalt and tellurium, considered critical to high-technology and 'green' energy production. The environment of crust formation on seamounts is highly variable, affecting their composition and thickness at all spatial levels: ocean basin, regional, local, and within individual crusts. Geochemical studies of crusts from different water depths and locations reveal dependence in composition on a variety of factors. For example, we can distinguish between a metal group that is controlled by Mn- and a second group of metals that is closely related to the Fe+ content of the crusts. Both metal groups behave inversely and vary with water depth. In spite of the work already done on ferromanganese crusts, there is a clear need for investigation of the processes that control the origin, distribution, and resource potential of these deposits at local and sub-regional scales.The project focuses on the differences, and their causes, between NE and SW Atlantic crusts.

E-techs processes and environment
Bio-reduction of cobalt bearing manganese minerals

Project: CoG3

Student name: Ed Thomas

Location: University of Manchester

Supervisor(s): Prof John Lloyd (University of Manchester), Dr Burkhard Kaulich (Diamond Light Source), Dr Victoria Coker (University of Manchester)

Research summary: Global cobalt demand is expected to rise in the future as we head towards a green energy economy due to its use in wind turbines, solar fuel cell and electric vehicles. Laterites and Manganese nodules are potentially new sources of Co that can be extracted by microbial processes. Little is known about the natural biogeochemical cycling of cobalt in these environmentally dynamic systems. It is hoped that by studying a suite of microcosms containing potential ores using a range of state of the art microbial and geochemical techniques that we can elucidate information about the natural biogeochemistry of this crucial metal. In particular Scanning transmission X-ray microscopy (beamline I08, DLS) provides, at a scale of 20nm, elemental distributions, metal oxidation states and structural information to help investigate the potential for bio-mining of cobalt with a view to securing a safe, sustainable supply into the future.

Defining mineralogy and its structural evolution and reaction pathways during bio-processing of Co-bearing Fe- and Mn-Oxides

Project: CoG3

Student name: Sul Mulroy

Location: University of Manchester

Supervisor(s): Prof Richard Pattrick (University of Manchester), Prof John Lloyd (University of Manchester), Dr Paul Schofield (Natural History Museum), Dr Victoria Coker (University of Manchester)

Research summary: Significant cobalt resources are held in deposits of iron and manganese oxide minerals such as terrestrial Ni-(Co)-Laterites and deep-sea Polymetallic Nodules. Metal reducing bacteria (e.g. Geobacter sulfurreducens) can reduce Fe and Mn out of oxide minerals leaving remnant Co and other metals in oxide phases. This represents a possible processing or beneficiation treatment for ores with great importance as G.sulf operates at ambient P, T and pH. The products of bio-reduction of Co-bearing iron minerals have potential applications due to their unique magnetic properties, the nature of bio-reduced Mn-phases is yet to be determined but represent materials with potentially useful applications.

Incorporation of Co into synthetic Fe oxyhydroxide systems – Implications for natural systems

Project: CoG3

Student name: Sandra Dressler

Location: Loughborough University

Supervisor(s): Dr Caroline Kirk (Loughborough University), Dr Paul Schofield (Natural History Museum), Dr Rachel Norman ((Natural History Museum), Prof. Richard Herrington (Natural History Museum)

Research summary: The project will focus on synthesising and characterising iron oxyhydroxide phases, such as goethite and ferrihydrite, and the incorporation of cobalt into these systems. The programme of research will investigate the effects of pH, time, cobalt starting reagent, concentration of base and temperature on the phase or phases produced. Additionally, real-time dynamic studies will be carried out to investigate the transformation pathways of the synthesised phases with respect to temperature as well as monitor the stability of phases during washing procedures. A multi-technique approach to characterisation of these phases and their transformations will be carried out using in-house equipment (X-ray diffraction, IR Spectroscopy, Raman Spectroscopy, Thermogravimetric Analysis and Transmission Electron Microscopy) as well as Synchrotron Spectroscopy and Diffraction on beamlines at Diamond Light Source. To complete the time resolved studies, a reaction cell will be developed for use at the X-ray diffraction laboratories housed at the NHM.

Optimisation of biomineral precipitation in chemo-organotrophic systems for metal recovery

Project: CoG3

Student name: John Ferrier

Location: University of Dundee

Supervisor(s): Professor Geoffrey Gadd (University of Dundee)

Research summary:Biologically-induced mineralization is common in microbes. Fungi are capable of precipitating minerals including oxides, carbonates, phosphates and oxalates by differing mechanisms but all dependent on chemoorganotrophic metabolism, and varying nutritional and environmental conditions. Through manipulation of growth conditions, it is possible to promote metal bioprecipitation which provides a means of biorecovery of metals. Further, biominerals can be of nanoscale dimensions in spherical, nanocrystalline, rod and tube-like forms. This provides further applied interest in view of the very high surface area to volume ratio and reactivity of such preparations. There is a dearth of information in this area and this PhD project therefore provides an excellent opportunity to obtain fundamental data and increase understanding of biomineralization in the biogeochemistry of Co and other metals, and applied significance in bioprocessing and production of useful biomineral products.

Geochemical modelling of environmental processes in REE Mining

Project: SoS RARE

Student name: Alex Crawford

Location: University of Leeds

Supervisor(s): Prof Steve Banwart (University of Leeds), Dr Barbara Palumbo-Roe (British Geologoical Survey), Dr Simon Gregory (British Geologoical Survey)

Research summary: My PhD will study the geochemistry of rare earth elements and their solubilisation and mobilisation from easily leachable mining deposits. I will be developing a modelling approach of in situ leaching for industrial application that can be applied to a wide variety of mine sites and engineered leaching conditions.

Laser and X-ray luminescence of REE minerals

Project: SoS RARE

Student name: Nicky Horsburgh

Location: University of St Andrews

Supervisor(s): Dr Adrian Finch (University of St Andrews), Prof. Frances Wall (University of Exeter, Camborne School of Mines), Prof Animesh Jha (University of Leeds)

Research summary: In addition to understanding the fundamentals of REE luminescence, my project will enable the development of applications that exploit the luminescent properties of REE-bearing minerals. As an example to enhance grade and/or target particular REE minerals it may be possible to develop 'smart sorting' so that the luminescent properties of REE-bearing minerals are applied during ore beneficiation.

Responsible sourcing of rare earth elements

Project: SoS RARE

Student name: Robert Pell

Location: University of Exeter (Camborne School of Mines)

Supervisor(s): Prof Frances Wall (University of Exeter,Camborne School of Mines), Dr Kathryn Goodenough (British Geological Survey)

Research summary: Comparing the environmental performance of rare earth production from different geological settings.

Geometallurgy of cobalt recovery at KGHM Polska Miedz S.A.

Project: CoG3

Student name: Paulina Pazik

Location: University of Exeter (Camborne School of Mines)

Supervisor(s): Prof. Hylke Glass (University of Exeter, Camborne School of Mines), Dr. Przemyslaw Kowalczuk (Wroclaw University of Science and Technology, Poland), Dr. Tomasz Chmielewski (Wroclaw University of Science and Technology, Poland)

Research summary: The project aims to add value to the KGHM operations by developing innovative and cost-effective methods to recover cobalt from its ores.The potential presence of cobalt in the ores is well-known, but it is currently not recovered. This project aims to understand the estimation of cobalt resources in a volumetric and mineralogical sense. In terms of mineralogy, this requires a robust characterisation of the ore in terms of the constituent minerals and the associations of cobalt minerals. Analyses will be performed with Qemscan and other advanced analytical techniques using samples selected on the basis of geology. In terms of volumentric analysis, geostatistics will be applied and, if required, developed to estimate the variability of the cobalt fed into the processing plant. Evaluation of geotechnical properties of the ore will also be undertaken – this will help inform an understanding of the downstream behaviour of the cobalt minerals and its associations.With sound understanding of the cobalt-bearing ore in place, the processing of KGHM ores will be analysed. The emphasis will lie on developing a process model which explains the passage of cobalt minerals through the KGHM process. With a firm understanding of the fate of cobalt in the process, the most promising options for recovery of cobalt will be investigated. While cobalt is not recovered with the current flotation process, it is expected that a leaching process will be necessary to extract cobalt. The research will investigate the dimensioning of a suitable leaching process in terms of process parameter. Subsequently, the the sensitivity of the leaching performance to variations in the feed mineralogy and process parameters will be assessed.Finally, the project will assess the economic viability of cobalt recovery in the KGHM copper ore.

Resource efficient, low environmental impact production of rare earths from Songwe, Malawi.

Project: SoS RARE

Student name: Milly Owens

Location: University of Exeter (Camborne School of Mines)

Supervisor(s): Professor Frances Wall (University of Exeter, Camborne School of Mines), Dr Kathryn Hadler (Imperial College London) and Will Dawes

Research summary: I am researching improvements to the recovery of rare earth bearing minerals by carrying out fundamental studies of the mineral properties and flotation process.

Electrochemical separation of Te and Se minerals

Project: TeASe

Student name: Francesca Bevan

Location: University of Leicester

Supervisor(s): Prof Andrew Abbott, Dr Gawen Jenkin, Dr Dan Smith (all University of Leicester)

Research summary: The aim of this project will be to investigate the potential for techniques using Deep Eutectic Solvents to process and purify Te and Se and recover them from otherwise unrecycled materials. I will also assess the potential to scale up to industrial scale and characterise the purity and form of the recovered Se and Te from ores.

Microbial reduction of metalloid oxyanions: significante of geochimica factors

Project: TeASe

Student name: Lara Codognotto

Location: University of Dundee

Supervisor(s): Professor Geoffrey Gadd (University of Dundee)