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KESS 2 East Research Masters: Application of automated mineralogy in environmental management of abandoned mines; remediation through recovery of battery minerals, Wales

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  Dr D Pirrie  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

This is a funded MbyRes, including a generous stipend and tuition fees, with well-resourced circumstances for a successful scholarship.

Here is an exciting opportunity to help develop a new application of automated mineralogy based on scanning electron microscopy in the management of historical metal mining sites, whilst also exploring for potential battery mineral resources, needed for the transition to a low Carbon future. This project could lead to entirely new approaches in how we manage areas of abandoned metal mines whilst also looking for the resources of the future.

The selected candidate will apply their geological and analytical skills and ambition to develop a workflow using automated scanning electron microscopy with linked energy dispersive spectrometers, to characterise the mineralogy of abandoned mine sites in Wales. Through an integration of field geological sampling and development of key analytical skills the student will develop transferable knowledge and skills in this most exciting and active field of automated mineralogy research.

This Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarship (KESS) project will be held in the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Science (FCES) at the University of South Wales. KESS is a programme funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) awarded by the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO) in the Welsh Government. The project will focus on how we can use automated scanning electron microscopy as part of a workflow of analytical methods to characterise sites contaminated by past mining activity. With changing demands for raw materials, minerals at these sites may now be crucial resources for the future.

The project is backed by The Hafren Scientific Group which consists of Chemostrat Ltd – a geological consultancy, Origin Analytical – a laboratory analysis and services company and Chemostrat Wellsite providing wellsite services and equipment hire. 

Programme of research:

Wales has a rich metal mining history, with the extraction of gold, copper, lead and zinc traceable back to Roman times. There is therefore the potential for this region to play an important future role in the supply of minerals, metals, and materials into the UK’s green energy ecosystem, and to influence the mineral strategy of the UK. Professionals equipped to meet these challenges are becoming rare, in part because technological advances have significantly broadened geological training requirements. The Hafren Group is currently supporting a PhD student at Cardiff University investigating the battery mineral potential of Wales. The results of the study look promising, but one of the key applications which needs to be further developed is the role of automated mineralogy as part of the analytical work-flow.

Associate Professor Duncan Pirrie at University of South Wales is an expert in the field of automated mineralogy. This KESS project will focus on the application of automated mineralogy on mine tailings from sites in Wales to develop mineralogical and textural data on potential battery minerals. The project will also seek to integrate TESCAN mineralogical data with the results from ICP, XRF and RAMAN. The aim is to develop a comprehensive characterisation workflow for old mine sites in Wales. This will include data on elemental concentrations, their mineralogical affinity and the size, shape and liberation potential of these phases. Some of the sites may have an economic potential for battery mineral supply, but all have environmental toxicity and require remediation and stabilisation. Hence the need for a comprehensive characterisation workflow.

Studentship: The studentship will cover the fees for a full-time MbyRes programme and pay a stipend of circa £11.8k p.a. There is also around £3k project support costs available for consumables, travel, minor equipment, training (including the KESS Grad School) and conference attendance.

The position is available from July 2022

To be eligible to hold a KESS studentship, you must:

  • have a home address in East Wales area (details below)* at the time of registration.
  • have the right to take up paid work in the East Wales area* on completion of the scholarship.
  • be classified by the University as ‘home’ or ‘EU’ for tuition fees purposes according to the University’s guidelines.
  • satisfy University of South Wales’s admissions criteria: see below, qualifications and experience and application process
  • *East Wales area covers: Vale of Glamorgan / Cardiff/ Newport/ Monmouthshire/ Powys/ Wrexham/ Flintshire

Qualifications and experience:

  1. Have a degree (2i or higher) in an appropriate Geoscience discipline (Geology, Earth Sciences)
  2. Possess a reasonable understanding of mineralogy and an interest in advanced analytical methods
  3. Be highly self-motivated, with capacity to learn and develop computing and data analysis techniques
  4. Have well-developed and positively collaborative interpersonal skills
  5. Have an ability to deliver technical reports and communicate findings
  6. Be willing to travel and work in both field and laboratory settings

Application Process:

To download an application package, please visit: Participant Application Package

For any queries on eligibility, please contact: KESS Team at Research and Innovation Services, University of South Wales: [Email Address Removed] Tel: 01443 482578

For informal enquiries or further programme information, please contact: Associate Professor Duncan Pirrie ([Email Address Removed]).

Further information at:

Closing date for applications: Sunday 8th May 2022

Funding Notes

Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS) is a pan-Wales higher-level skills initiative led by Bangor University on behalf of the HE sector in Wales. It is part funded by the Welsh Government’s European Social Fund (ESF) programme for East Wales.*East Wales area covers: Vale of Glamorgan / Cardiff/ Newport/ Monmouthshire/ Powys/ Wrexham/ Flintshire


The project is backed by The Hafren Scientific Group which consists of Chemostrat Ltd – a geological consultancy, Origin Analytical – a laboratory analysis and services company and Chemostrat Wellsite providing wellsite services and equipment hire. Chemostrat has operational centres in Welshpool in East Wales, Houston, Calgary and Perth Australia. The analytical capability of the company is important in sectors such as mining, construction materials, environmental assess and clean up, recycling. In July 2019 Hafren acquired X-ray Mineral Services Ltd (XMS; a Welsh company). XMS provides specialised XRD and XRF analysis in the oil and gas sector; services complimentary to those of Hafren. In addition, a significant proportion of revenue is gained from non-oil and gas sectors (mining, quarrying, brick, tile and other industrial sectors) and the acquisition of XMS strengthen Hafren’s diversification drive and a sustainable business profile. With the Group’s investment Hafren has initiated an R&D and commercial strategy in the battery resources sector and the company has been asked to join the European BATCIRCLE initiative (a consortium of European mining, universities and the Geological Survey of Finland to explore, recycle and refine the processing of metals for battery manufacturing. XMS will seek to develop as the leading high-quality analytical service provider for battery resources in Europe and will promote these new analytical strategies internationally. This global strategy battery resource analysis will run in parallel with Hafren’s investment in portable and remote laboratory / wellsite technology for oil and gas and other analytical sectors. This will establish Hafren, and Welsh academics at the heart of battery resource analysis in exploration and processing and feed a series of research and commercial developments.
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