Postgraduate Research Positions in Mineralogy,
Geochemistry and Minerals Processing


The University of Adelaide is seeking three Ph.D. candidates in the fields of mineralogy, geochemistry, chemical engineering and one Postdoctoral researcher with expertise in materials science to work within the Australian Research Council Linkage Project "Critical minerals from Complex Ores". This is a newly awarded, multidisciplinary project co-financed by BHP Olympic Dam. The project will involves close collaboration with the minerals industry. Successful applicants will also be expected to interact closely with other PhDs within the projects and with industry project sponsors. They are also expected to become familiar with a wide range of microanalytical instrumentation at the University of Adelaide and external facilities, and to contribute to technique development. They will also be involved in drafting and presentation of reports, and on preparing manuscripts for publication in peer-review scientific journals.

The successful applicants should be in a position to start their research in the first half of 2021. The Adelaide Graduate Centre ( can advise prospective candidates about postgraduate study at the University of Adelaide and the grade and language proficiency requirements for entry into the University of Adelaide graduate programme.


Please contact Prof. Nigel Cook for further information about individual PhD projects, applicant suitability, terms and conditions (; +61 (0)8 8313 1096).

All persons wishing to apply for these postgraduate positions should direct enquiries to the above, and should include curriculum vitae, academic transcripts, contact details for at least two referees, a statement of research interests (with publication list where applicable) and motivation to undertake postgraduate study in Adelaide. The positions, which are open to both Australian and overseas nationals, will remain open until filled.

Project background and requirements (applicable to all three PhD projects)

Critical Minerals are an evolving group of commodities of essential importance to diverse advanced energy technology and defence applications. They include rare earth elements, scandium, cobalt, tellurium, niobium and vanadium, and commonly occur, in low yet potentially interesting concentrations, in large ore systems which are exploited for other, more abundant commodities. The project addresses the distribution of critical minerals in the Olympic Dam mining-processing-smelting-refining operation in South Australia. Large iron-oxide-copper-gold (IOCG) ore systems like Olympic Dam concentrate a wide range of minor and trace metals. Potential future recovery of these elements is dependent on a comprehensive understanding of their distribution and speciation in ore and across processing operations. Our project seeks to establish quantitative distribution models that could underpin future efforts to economically recover one or more of these minor components.

You will be expected to work independently and as part of a larger, interdisciplinary team, carry out research in World-class microscopy and microanalysis laboratories at the University of Adelaide, and in external laboratories and play a leading role in the development of analytical approaches. Candidates will need to demonstrate motivation in the fields of intended research and show a commitment to working within a larger team and to the publication and presentation of results. Applicants should have a strong background in mineralogy, (geo)chemistry, chemical engineering, or materials science. You will be working extensively with Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), Electron Microprobe, Laser-Ablation Inductively-Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry, Dual Beam Focussed Ion Beam - SEM techniques, as well as Transmission Electron Microscopy.

The successful candidates will be expected to publish results in leading academic journals and to present their findings at internal project meetings and at national and international conferences. We also expect the candidate to share our commitment to an interdisciplinary project in which the goals carry both fundamental scientific and practical value.

The University of Adelaide boasts multiple successful major projects in the minerals sector, with an emphasis on innovative industry-relevant research. The strong trans-disciplinary of our research is almost unique among Australian universities.

All three PhD positions are open with immediate effect but must be filled by 1st July 2021.

PhD Scholarships

Although full scholarships are available, all prospective candidates will be expected to apply for competitive Australian and University postgraduate research scholarships. International students are encouraged to apply.

PhD Project 1. Speciation, behaviour and distribution of critical minerals in flotation and leach circuit, with emphasis on potential critical mineral recovery from tailings streams

Following crushing and grinding, flotation of copper minerals is a main processing step at Olympic Dam. You will undertake in-depth mineralogical-geochemical investigation of run-of-mill ores, copper concentrates, flotation tailings and a range of leached concentrates to document and model the distribution of various critical minerals. The emphasis will be on use of existing microanalytical technologies, and development of additional methodologies, coupled with analysis of proprietary company data in order to derive quantitative mineralogical balances for selected elements of interest throughout the flotation-leaching cycle, and develop predictive models for critical mineral behaviour during processing.

PhD Project 2. Phase equilibria during flash smelting of copper concentrates, with implications for slag mineralogy and geochemistry of critical metals

This project is suitable for a candidate with a mineralogy, materials science or chemical engineering background. You will undertake in-depth investigations of the behaviour and partitioning of key critical metals during flash smelting of copper concentrates. Emphasis will be placed on comprehensive characterisation of slags, thermodynamic modelling, and the partitioning of key critical minerals between slags and blister copper. The student will be expected to work independently and play a leading role in the development of analytical approaches to comprehensively characterise complex, fine-intergrown assemblages within the slags and blister copper.

PhD Project 3. Micron- to nanoscale characterisation of anode slimes from the Olympic Dam copper refinery, with emphasis on phase speciation and potential recovery of critical metals

This project is suitable for a candidate with a background in mineralogy, chemical engineering or materials science interested in undertaking work on complex "anthropogenic materials" and understanding element distributions and phase relationships among them. Using World-class microanalytical facilities, you will develop skills for identification and characterisation of sub-micron-scale particles containing tellurium, selenium, precious metals and heavy metals in anode slimes produced during coper refining. The student will be expected to work independently and play a leading role in the development of analytical approaches to comprehensively characterise complex, fine-grained assemblages within the slimes.

Post-Doctoral position

We seek an enthusiastic postdoctoral researcher with a materials science background for a 2-year position commencing in the first half of 2021.

The research with be focused on atomic-scale materials modelling from first principles. The position requires good computing skills and knowledge of UNIX or LINUX operating systems. The postdoc will use the Vienna Ab initio Simulation Package (VASP) to address crystal structures and modularity in minerals that can accommodate anomalous trace element concentrations.

Atomistic models constrained using VASP will be tested against experimental data obtained using high resolution transmission electron microscopy. These models will also be employed in establishing the solubility limits for given trace elements in related compounds and behaviour during phase transition. Targets include crystal structural modifications in iron oxides with high concentrations of uranium and tungsten, as well as phases containing elements such as cobalt and rare earth elements. The postdoc will work within a research team; responsibilities will include mentoring of PhD and honours students.

posted: 18 February 2021     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.