Soil quality assessment and hydrogeochemical modelling during tailings remediation (geochemistry/mineralogy/soil science/engineering)

Tailings are geochemically dynamic materials hosting complex assemblages of minerals, at extremes of pH and salinity. The mineralogical complexity and unusual geochemistry of tailings poses major challenges for accurate geochemical modelling and prediction of weathering behaviour. This project aims to create a high quality soil material from tailings, to remove the need to import soil material during closure of tailings storage facilities. Here, microbial and plant biotechnologies will be tested in tailings at laboratory and field scale, and samples collected periodically to interrogate changes in geochemistry, mineralogy, and physical properties, and thus assess soil quality.


Standard soil science analytical techniques as well as detailed synchrotron (X-ray fluorescence, X-ray diffraction, X-ray near edge absorption spectroscopy) and microscopy (scanning and transmission electron microscopy, CAT) techniques will be used to analyse samples, and coupled with field sensor arrays collecting data on water and energy fluxes. This data will then be used to build a robust hydrogeochemical model to predict performance of the microbial and plant biotechnologies into the future.

Given the need to be close to the Perth-based field site, this position is based at the University of Western Australia (Talitha Santini, Sally Thompson), with co-supervisors at Southern Cross University (Ed Burton) and the University of Queensland (Peter Kopittke).


Research team leader: Associate Professor Talitha Santini

My research interests are centred on soil formation and weathering, geochemistry, mineralogy, and microbiology; in particular, the interactions between abiotic and biotic processes that drive soil development and global biogeochemical cycles.


How to Apply

Check criteria
  • To be accepted into the Doctor of Philosophy, an applicant must demonstrate they have sufficient background experience in independent supervised research to successfully complete, and provide evidence of English language proficiency
  • Requirements specific to this project - The ideal candidate will have a Bachelors or Masters degree in Soil Science, Environmental Science or Environmental Engineering, with previous experience in mining environments.
Submit enquiry to research team leader 
  • Contact the research team leader by submitting an Expression of Interest form via the button below
  • After you have discussed your project with the research team leader, contact [email protected] to proceed with your application


Domestic students

All domestic students may apply for Research Training Program and University Postgraduate Awards (UPA) scholarships

International students

A range of scholarships are available from international organisations and governments. The full list, organised by country, is available on the Future Students website.

In addition, all international students may apply for International Research Training Program scholarships.

Indigenous students
Indigenous students are encouraged to apply for Indigenous Postgraduate Research Supplementary Scholarships.
Forrest Foundation scholarships
All international and Australian students who wish to study towards the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at The University of Western Australia may apply for Forrest Scholarships.

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