Anita PARBHAKAR-FOX

Senior Research Fellow

  • Institution:
    Sustainable Minerals Institute, University of Queensland
  • Scientific competencies:
    Geometallurgy, mine waste characterisation, AMD prediction, secondary prospectivity

Biography

Dr Parbhakar-Fox is a Senior Research Fellow in Geometallurgy and Applied Geochemistry at the W.H Bryan Mining and Geology Research Centre within the Sustainable Minerals Institute. Anita’s research is focussed on mine waste characterisation to improve mine planning and waste management practices where she has worked with mining industry, METS sector and government stakeholders. She has developed new tests and protocols for improving waste characterisation and is also involved in identifying remediation options for abandoned/ historical mine sites. Most recently, Dr Parbhakar-Fox has led industry and government funded projects characterising a range of mine waste materials to evaluate their economic potential- particularly for recovering critical metals.

Abstract

The complexity of mine waste management continues to be one of the greatest challenges the mining industry faces with ‘license to operate’ continuing to rank as the number 1 business risk facing the mining and metals industry [1]. Social media has become a platform for revealing the impact that incomplete mine closure can have on the environment causing global communities to demand that the mining industry commits and contributes to community, government, employees and environment needs beyond the life-of-mine. However, successful mine closure is a challenge for a number of reasons, the most important of which is the poor understanding of the mine waste’s (e.g., waste rock, tailings) chemical and physical properties. If these are not known, then in the long-term, the engineering design to contain the waste will ultimately fail. When considering improved management practices, which meet societal expectations, a new approach is required. The objectives of geometallurgy are two-fold and can be summarized as: i) to improve profitability at a mine; and ii) to minimise risk. Therefore, by applying a geometallurgy characterisation approach (whereby the bulk mineralogical and chemical properties, insitu mineralogy and texture, mineral chemistry and acid-base accounting properties of waste are assessed) the mining industry can more effectively de-risk mine waste and enhance their operations by either i) potentially revealing secondary deposits or; ii) gain an detailed understanding of the waste properties thereby allowing effective rehabilitation strategies to be developed. In Australia, the circular economy is growing with a target set by the Australian Government to generate $26 billion AUD by 2025. Whilst industries like plastics, food and fashion are making significant changes in order to meet this target, the mining industry has been considerably slower to adapt. To address this, new projects have recently started including the Queensland Governments New Economy Metals Initiative, whereby 9 mine waste sites across Queensland, comprising tailings storage facilities, waste rock dumps and heap leach piles, were sampled  and been subject to first-pass geometallurgical characterisation (bulk mineralogy, chemical assay, automated mineralogy, LA-ICPMS). The primary focus of this ongoing study is to examine the tenor and deportment of cobalt, tungsten, indium, germanium and gallium. Adoption of such an approach for examining phosphate mine wastes has potential to identify new sources of REEs which is also being investigated.