Two fully funded PhD opportunities in Earth Sciences

Two PhD scholarships are available to study the Mount Weld carbonatite-hosted Rare Earth Element (REE) deposit, funded by a collaborative research project between the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia (MRIWA), industrial partner Mt Weld Mining Pty Ltd, Murdoch University and Curtin University.

Project background

The ~2.0 Ga Mount Weld carbonatite (MWC) in Western Australia's Eastern Goldfields is host to one of the richest REE ore deposits on Earth. REE are critical metals essential to modern society, used in catalysts, magnets, glasses, functional ceramics and mobile devices. The MWC deposit is a residual-lateritic, carbonatite-associated-type ore deposit. Primary magmatic carbonatite intruded by Proterozoic dolerite dykes is the primary source of REE. Phanerozoic supergene alteration has led to the dissolution of the carbonatite and enrichment of the REE in secondary minerals in ~100 m thick laterite.

Most of the presently exploitable REE-resources are concentrated in the weathered (saprolite) part of carbonatite and consist of varying concentrations of secondary REE-minerals, the net result of multiple stages of mineralization at MWC. Currently, the mechanisms of mobilisation, fractionation, and subsequent sequestration of REE elements are poorly constrained, and will be addressed in this study.

Investigation of the mineral system will involve field work, core logging and sampling for multi-pronged petrological and geochemical analysis using the latest technology. In addition to micro-scale elemental analysis and imaging to determine REE fractionation patterns and mineral reactions, stable (C, O) and radiogenic (Rb-Sr, Sm-Nd, U-Pb) isotope compositions of carbonates and phosphates will be used to determine geochemical signatures discriminating between magmatic, hydrothermal, and meteoric origins of the mineralizing fluids that have operated over time.

The project funding covers PhD stipend, fieldwork, analytical, travel and publication costs.

Selection criteria

We are seeking highly motivated, results-driven PhD candidates capable of working independently and as a part of the team. The candidates should demonstrate excellent communication skills to facilitate publication of research outcomes. Proven ability in dissemination of the scientific results is advantageous, but not essential. Prior experience in mineral characterisation using electron beam techniques and isotope geochemistry will be highly regarded and should be addressed in the application.

The successful applicants are expected to work as part of a cross-institutional, multidisciplinary team in close association with geologists at the Mt Weld mine-site and conduct research using the state-of-the-art analytical facilities at Murdoch University, Curtin University, and partner institutions in Western Australia.

Eligibility criteria (essential)

Applicants must fulfil all eligibility requirements for admission into Higher Degree Research at Murdoch University and Curtin University.

  • The applicants must have a BSc Honours (1st class) or Master (by research) in Earth Sciences (geology, geochemistry, petrology, mineralogy) by the time of appointment.
  • The applicants must meet the University's English language requirements.

How to apply

Applications are invited for two sub-projects:

  1. Supergene alteration of the Mt Weld carbonatite, led by Associate Professor Artur Deditius and Dr Hans Oskierski (Murdoch University; Geochemistry and Mineral Science (GeMS)) (1 PhD position)
  2. Magmatic and hydrothermal processes responsible for the primary REE mineral endowment at Mt Weld, led by Professor Pete Kinny (Curtin University; The Institute for Geoscience Research (TIGeR)) (1 PhD position)

Complete applications should be submitted via e-mail to Associate Professor Artur Deditius (A.Deditius@murdoch.edu.au) (titled: Mt. Weld - supergene), and to Professor Pete Kinny (P.Kinny@curtin.edu.au) (titled: Mt. Weld - magmatic).

The deadline for applications is 3.06.2022 (Western Australia time; GMT+8). Late applications will be considered if the positions have not been filled. It is expected that successful applicants start as soon as possible, considering visas and travel arrangements.

Applications should contain:

  • CV and copies of academic transcripts
  • a one-page statement that addresses the selection criteria and a rationale for the preferred choice of the project
  • contact details of two referees.

Only shortlisted candidates will be invited for an online interview and two successful applicants will be informed about the enrolment processes at Murdoch and Curtin Universities.

We also welcome applications for other critical minerals projects via the Murdoch University Research Training Program Stipends and Curtin University Research Training Program Stipends.

posted: 13 May 2022     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.